The Public Significance of Religion


This book reflects on the idea that religion represents a force in the public realms of society. The empirical evidence reveals a regained relevance for and commitment to religion re-emerging in secularized countries, but also that it does so in a new form: unexpected, foreign, and maybe even dangerous. If religion regains public significance in social debates, what are its characteristics in terms of topics and interests, actors and parties? How is this experienced and evaluated by different groups in society? What are the motives of religious groups and churches to re-enter the public domain and are they effective?
What is the importance of religious groups claiming participation (consulting, steering, and dominating) in public debates? How do different religious and nonreligious groups evaluate the impact of religion on the public environment, and under which conditions can it be regarded to be functional or dysfunctional? Scholars who address these questions do so from a theological or a religious studies’ perspective. They reflect on the phrase ‘public significance’ of a religion in its political, cultural, and typical religious dimension. The book points out what tendencies can be observed when different religions profile themselves competitively in public debate, and to what extent ethnic and national identities intervene in this interreligious interaction.


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Prof. Dr. Leslie J. Francis, PhD (1976), ScD (1997) in Religious Education, University of Cambridge, DD (2001) in theology, University of Oxford, is Professor of Religions and Education at Warwick University. He has published extensively on practical Theology, religious education, psychology of religion, and empirical theology.
Hans-Georg Ziebertz, PhD, Dr. Habil. in Theology (1990), University of Nijmegen, and Social Sciences/ Pedagogy (1993), University of Tübingen, is Professor of Practical Theology and Religious Education at the University of Würzburg. He has published extensively on empirical theology, religious education, and gender and intercultural identity.



Chapter One Dispute about the Public Significance of Religion: An Opening Reflection.
Hans-Georg Ziebertz

Chapter Two Conservative Christianity in the USA: Interpretive and Normative Perspectives
Richard R. Osmer

Chapter Three Religious Capital and Public Accountability: Challenges to EmpiricalTheology
Hans Schilderman

Chapter Four A Sociological Perspective on the Public Significance of Religion: From Secularisation to ‘Publicisation’
David Herbert

Chapter Five Framing the Gods:The Public Significance of Religion from a Cultural Point of View
R. Ruard Ganzevoort

Chapter Six Separation of Church and State and Freedom of Religion: Left to the Gods? An Empirical Study among Dutch Young People
Johannes A. van der Ven

Chapter Seven Varieties of Religious Solidarity
Hans Schilderman

Chapter Eight Church, Public and Bioethics: Religion’s Construction of Public Significance through the Bioethical Discourse
Ulla Schmidt

Chapter Nine Factors Predicting Engagement with Society among Anglicans in England
Andrew Village

Chapter Ten Maintaining a Public Ministry in Rural England:Work-related Psychological Health and Psychological Type among Anglican Clergy Serving in Multi-church Benefices
Christine E. Brewster, Leslie J. Francis, and Mandy Robbins

Chapter Eleven The Changing Public Face of the Church of England: The Changing Experiences of Clergywomen
Mandy Robbins

Chapter Twelve The Public Significance of Religion and the Changing Context of Family Life in Britain 1983–2005. An Examination of Marriage, Cohabitation and Divorce
Emyr Williams and Leslie J. Francis

Chapter Thirteen Interpreting God’s Activity in the Public Square: Accessing the OrdinaryTheology of Personal Prayer
Tania ap Sion

Chapter Fourteen How Christian Students in Tamil NaduThink about Power Driven Religious Conflicts: A Meaning System Approach
Chris A.M. Hermans, Francis-Vincent Anthony, Carl Sterkens and William van der Veld

Chapter Fifteen Cross-religious Participation in Rituals and Interpretation of Religious Pluralism: A Comparative Study among Christian, Muslimand Hindu Students in Tamil Nadu, India
Francis-Vincent Anthony, Chris A.M. Hermans, and Carl Sterkens

Chapter Sixteen Plurality in Unity. A Comparative, Quantitative Study Analyzing How Catholic Teachers of Religion from Five European Countries Perceive Other Religions
Ulrich Riegel

Chapter Seventeen A Public Issue Still Denied: Religion in German Preschool Education
Friedrich Schweitzer

Chapter Eighteen The Significance of Religion for Adolescents—Conception of and First Results from the VROID-MHAP-Study
Christoph Kappler, Sabine Zehnder, Aristide Peng, Taylor Christl and Christoph Morgenthaler

Name index
Subject Index