This introductory article for this special issue of the Journal of Empirical Theology, sketches the political and societal context in which the Swiss National Research Programme on “Religion, State, and Society” was developed and gives a general overview of this research programme. First, it introduces recent developments in Switzerland’s religious landscape and illustrates their relevance for the development of a broad state-funded research programme on religion. The authors reflect on Switzerland’s understanding of religious neutrality which has been both questioned and reactivated due to increased religious plurality in Switzerland. While interdisciplinary approaches open new possibilities for research on religion, theology seems to be perceived as manifesting an ‘ecclesiastical captivity’. Consequently, theology clearly plays a secondary role in interdisciplinary research programmes. The impending marginalisation of theology, even in the realm of its main research competence, is forcing theological disciplines to position themselves in a new way.
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