Why do religious people commit crimes

Press

Conference “Religious Pluralism Further Thought” on March 24, 2017 in Berlin


Dear Sirs and Madames,

Over 80 percent of people worldwide belong - at least nominally - to a religious community. A number that suggests that the theory, according to which a progressive secularization of all areas of life is ultimately pushing back religion, can by all means be refuted.

We should deal with what Horkheimer and Adorno identified as dialectically laid out in the Enlightenment:

Contrary to its intention, the Enlightenment also has a (new) myth inherent in it. The dream of the scientific and technical manageability of the world by the enlightened person is, if it fails, and this is almost inevitably fought again with magic and myth. Heidegger once celebrated this as the “re-enchantment of the world”.

If we take a look around the world that surrounds us, we have to state that it is not uncommon for “the” religions to be the cause of violence and terror. The world religion of Islam is denounced - not just by those who commit horrific crimes on its behalf. This has a significant impact on our society and its cohesion.

1. Religion causes ambivalent socio-political issues: It is not uncommon for “the” religions to be the causes of violence and terror - not without reason: There are many examples in which the use of violence and terror is justified by religion.

At the same time, all world religions claim to be peaceful.

Religion as a subsidiary narrative can be constructive for heterogeneous, plural societies. But religion always has an exclusive character. It includes and it excludes. That is a threat to plurality.

If one looks at the stabilizing functions of religions, one sees that they played an important role as early as the Paleolithic. They helped early humans to understand their own mortality or natural phenomena; at least that is an explanation for the multitude of supernatural beings that have arisen all over the world since the beginning of human history.

For the sociologist of religion Detlef Pollack, this is a form of overcoming contingency: people have always tried "through religion, through magical practices, through religious rites (...) to influence what they cannot control with natural means".

Religions are considered to be moral and ethical sources. For example, charity is a central figure that can be found in every religion and from which the philanthropic principles of coexistence and cooperation are derived.

Religious rites can provide stability, create meaning, orientation and hope. From a sociological perspective, religions are so-called “ligatures” par excellence.

According to Ralf Dahrendorf, their social bonding strength forms the basis for “deep cultural ties that enable people to find their way through the world of options”.

Religious authorities can act as social order factors, for example in conflict situations: The free-democratic state needs these statements and sources, even if they can no longer claim the authority to interpret supramundane matters.

2. The free-democratic state also needs these requests to speak because it lives from conditions that it cannot create itself: I quote the constitutional lawyer Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde:

“On the one hand, it can only exist as a free state if the freedom it grants its citizens is regulated from within, based on the moral substance of the individual and the homogeneity of society. On the other hand, he cannot seek to guarantee these internal regulatory forces on his own, that is, by means of legal compulsion and authoritative command, without giving up his freedom. ”That is the famous Böckenförde dilemma.

An order of freedom therefore presupposes that its citizens shape freedom responsibly. This requires fundamental common values ​​and orientations. Quite a few people see religions as an important basis for value orientations.

However, there is inevitably a tension here. Because “[t] he unconditionality is at least in the cradle of the monotheistic religions. Whoever takes them seriously has his (or her) morals and is not satisfied with living according to these moral rules - he (or she) wants others to do the same. He (or she) tries to impose these ideas on others. ”The Austrian journalist and author Robert Misik rightly noted this in 2013 in his article in the magazine“ Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte ”of the Federal Agency for Civic Education on the subject of“ Religion and Modernity ”.

Religion, at least a monotheistic one, is based on a claim to exclusivity, which can have an exclusive effect on people of different or non-believers.

It is based on a claim to truth which, depending on the dogmatics of interpretation, is withdrawn from social negotiation processes. This inviolability of the dogmatic core of religion can set narrow limits to individual development, as well as control, coercion and even violence.

Frieder Otto Wolf, President of the Humanist Academy of Germany, drew a precise line to approach the question of where religion is inviolable because it is subject to Article 4 of the Basic Law.

The bond that constitutes a religion must be respected as such, even by those who do not accept it themselves, but under one important condition:

“That the religion in question completely refrains from using voluntary forms of its spread to other people as subjects of freedom of belief. (…) In summary, this means that religion or worldview cannot be inviolable as such. Human dignity is inviolable. ”He pleads for intervention in cases in which violence is used or free development is prevented due to social pressure.

As you can see, ladies and gentlemen, the dangers to the pluralistic society that can arise from religions are just as real and varied as the positive influencing factors.


The philosopher Winfried Hinsch states that religious beliefs “[must] meet compatibility conditions in order to be able to make a justified claim to equal consideration in a liberal democracy.” Hinsch continues: “First, they must be compatible with the general conditions of one thing peaceful and prosperous coexistence in a pluralistic society based on mutual respect. And insofar as they imply statements about empirical reality, they must, secondly, be compatible with well-established contemporary scientific methods and findings. "

The constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion gives confessions and thus lifestyles room to maneuver, but also sets limits.

And exactly where, in the sense of Kant’s categorical imperative, you have to guarantee the leeway of others in order to credibly claim them for yourself. In post-secular societies, which Jürgen Habermas defines as societies that reflect their own secularist prejudices within the framework of their liberal self-definition, this even comes to a head.

3. The state's withdrawal from the dispute over religious truth happened gradually, but at the same time it made religious freedom and religious peace possible. Religion and churches must therefore recognize the worldliness and religious neutrality of the modern state, also for their own sake.

The sociologist of religion Jose Casanova recently described the tasks of the secular state in the Jewish Museum as follows: Firstly, the state is not a critic of religion, i.e. no religion may be excluded from the public. Second, he has to maintain a neutral distance and respect for all world views. There is no other way, because the state has no theological competence to decide questions of religious truth. Thirdly, the state has the task of protecting minorities and - despite the majority principle in representative democracies - not leaving them to the dictates of the majority.

To summarize, this means: The absolute claim of religions must be domesticated by the constitution and constitutional law. The religious "sounding board" of our societies is more diverse than ever: those who believe differently have the same claim as those who do not or no longer believe - according to constitutional theory. Time and again it has been shown that this claim cannot be implemented without conflict in reality.

For example, the scope and immunity of church labor law are repeatedly discussed. Because according to the so-called “Third Way”, the working conditions are not determined by collective agreements, but according to the church's own regulations.

This means, among other things, that the religious communities and their charitable and educational institutions are excluded from the scope of the state works constitution and staff representation law.

A recent example is the conflict over the recognition of Muslim associations as corporations under public law.

In addition to the question of the compatibility of democratic and religious norms within the Muslim associations, the issue of equality between Christian and Muslim actors was also involved.

Another - and probably the best known - case of conflict is the so-called "headscarf dispute", ie the discussion about wearing religiously based headgear in civil service. In addition to the question of the positive religious freedom of the headscarf wearer, it was also about maintaining state neutrality and the negative religious freedom of those to whom she appears as a state representative.

4. If we were just about the tasks of the state, it is also important to make religions responsible.

Religions themselves are challenged to re-pose the heresy question against this background.

It is about nothing more and nothing less than the constitutional domestication of the exclusivity claim of revealed religions in the global age. At the same time, however, subsidiary religious practice is recognized.

That means: Heresy is not only legitimate, it is perfectly fine!

A radical questioning of all religious norms and truths must be possible in a democracy, even if this concerns concerns of social minorities. It is even necessary if these norms and truths lay claim to wanting to be inscribed in social structures and institutions. The right to freedom of expression is a fundamental right to be respected. However, one that justifies state intervention rather than preventing it.

But there are also rules for questioning religions that must be observed:

It must never come to the point that criticism of religion turns into defamation or is instrumentalized as a technique of domination. That means criticism must be concrete, factual and informed. If the claim is to want to lead disputes about social grievances that are associated with religion, the criticism must also allow room for counter-criticism and be open to this. That means taking normative claims of the discourse partners seriously.

It is also necessary to oppose the trend towards the essentialization of religions. It is neither appropriate nor objectively possible to speak generally of “the Muslims”, “the Christians”, “the Jews”. We all know, but we have to remind ourselves and our fellow human beings again and again that the real lives of even religious people rarely exactly match the dogmas and guidelines of their respective religions.

5. Ladies and gentlemen, at the beginning of my presentation I stated that the theory of religion being pushed back from all areas of life seems to be refuted. Religions are and will remain deeply rooted in society in various ways.

Therefore, the prerequisite for understanding religions and forms of the religious is the knowledge of their embedding in the respective societies.

The enlightenment required for this is inconceivable without education, without political at all. As Immanuel Kant said: “Enlightenment is the exit of man from his self-inflicted immaturity. Minority is the inability to use one's intellect without the guidance of another. "

It is important for the Federal Agency for Civic Education to treat all citizens in accordance with the Basic Law and thus independently of their religious and ideological beliefs.

As a state institution, we are in a special tension when our work specifically deals with religion and religiosity. The guiding principle is: Do not offer any interpretation models for religious norms, but - if at all - convey the variety of interpretive claims.

Here I would like to go along with the President of the Federal Constitutional Court, Andreas Vosskuhle. Because for the Federal Agency for Civic Education - as for the state as such - it is a question of not taking a negative distance from religious and ideological confessions, but of being open to them and offering space for development. All of this, of course, without identifying with them.

Thank you for your attention!

- The spoken word is valid -