Is metaphysics part of Christianity

Christianity - There is no culture without religion

Column: gray area. Not many people in Germany still believe in the metaphysical statements of Christianity. But that is not an indication of its disappearance: With its rites, images and stories, religion creates that cultural identity with which many still identify

After all, 40 percent of people in Germany still go to church at Christmas / picture alliance

Author info

Alexander Grau has a doctorate in philosophy and works as a freelance culture and science journalist. Among other things, he published “Hypermoral. The new lust for indignation ”and“ cultural pessimism. A plea ". Most recently he published" Political Kitsch. A German Specialty "by Claudius.

How to contact Alexander Grau:

Religion is inevitable. Therefore there is no human culture without it. Because religion creates collective identity, it legitimizes social order and conveys meaning. Even in Germany - officially one of the most religiously unmusical regions of the world - religion never really disappeared, but rather its transformation into a cultural Christianity. And that's not a loss. Because it is ultimately the religious traditions and their cultural influence that give people identity, support and orientation.

Anyone who sees this as an alienation from actual religiosity is subject to a mistake in perspective. Religions are first and foremost a large narrative that creates meaning and organizes it by means of symbols and rituals. They do not get their meaning and their practical relevance through their alleged reference to transcendence, but through the way in which this is culturally staged: through liturgies, images and signs, through a specific aesthetic, a way of life.

No de-Christianization

That is the simple reason why religions are difficult to be compatible with. Because what leads to religious conflicts is not so much the alleged transcendence - it hardly differs on closer inspection - it is life worlds shaped by religions. If the dispute between the great world religions were solely about their statements regarding the supernatural, then, despite all the theological subtleties, one could probably reach a certain consensus very quickly. But as I said: That's not what it's about. What gives religions their identity and forms faith communities is their culture, their art, their customs and mentalities, which they have developed over centuries and which even give those who can no longer believe in the transcendental narrative or want to believe in the transcendental narrative.

It is therefore not an expression of a comprehensive de-Christianization when, as the Institute for Demoscopy in Allensbach found in its most recent survey, fewer and fewer people in Germany believe in the supposed core statements of Christianity. For what Christianity makes Christianity for people is ultimately not the metaphysical statements regarding the supernatural. Above all, it is an unmanageable sum of cultural traditions: the festivals and celebrations, the songs, images and symbols, the taste of Christmas stollen and Spekulatius.

The Christian tradition is not trivial

Therefore it is not a contradiction if fewer and fewer people can identify with individual beliefs, but at the same time - and this is also shown by the Allensbach study - feel a strong sense of belonging to the Christian cultural tradition. 56 percent of those questioned do not believe that Christian symbols should disappear from the public eye. The introduction of an Islamic holiday is rejected by 85 percent. After all, 40 percent of people go to church at Christmas. Three quarters of all Germans celebrate Christmas with a Christmas tree and presents.

Anyone who claims that Germany is a de-Christianized country and that its Christian tradition is irrelevant and no longer up-to-date is misunderstanding religion as parroting formulas of belief. This is in the interest of all those who, for whatever reason, want to level the differences between the religions and reinterpret them as varieties of a basically universal spirituality or ethics.

Religions as anchors of identity

But human practice shows - and the Allensbach study confirms this - that religions are anchors of identity, fed by the need for belonging and a cultural home. At Christmas in particular, it becomes clear how strong this cultural influence is even in a society that has little knowledge of metaphysics and all too often sacrifices contemplation for consumption.

Therefore, whoever - like some church representatives in this country - reduces Christianity in the name of a transreligious ecumenism to the belief in a God supposedly common to all religions, is ready to sacrifice precisely that in religious tradition that means most to people. The overcrowded churches at Christmas are an impressive reminder of this.

wolfgang spremberg | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 9:36 am

I am also a cultural Christian. I have problems when people invoke the alleged will of God / the gods and thus exercise power and influence.

Sepp Kneip | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 9:40 am

Religion is culture. Christianity belongs to the West like water in Lake Constance. Even if the Institute for Demoscopy, which is based on Lake Constance, finds that the majority of people no longer believe in the core statements of Christianity, it is indispensable for the cultural identity of our continent. But this does not seem to fit those who have succumbed to the red / green ideas, because they want to destroy this identity.

The loss of the deeper Christian faith is a phenomenon that is partly supported by the churches. If even our upper bishops no longer want to identify with the insignia of Christianity, such as the cross, that is simply not understandable. Then the lake dries up and a desert arises, which is then populated by the already courted Islam. It remains to be seen whether this can still be averted. Maybe Sebastian Kurz initiated the turning point.

Hans Georg Feldheim | Mon, January 15, 2018 - 7:49 pm

In reply to Christianity is Australian culture by Sepp Kneip

everyone comes to Switzerland once and take a look at the magnificent buildings of the most diverse communities. There are the large buildings of the free evangelical congregations, then the great facilities of the Pentecostal congregations, the 7 days of Adventists, the early Christian congregations, the facilities of the Calvary Chapell etc, etc,
if all of these congregations would share a building and donate the money that would be left to Africa, many hungry people could be helped.
But unfortunately every exclusive common needs its magnificent building.

Peter Pasht | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 9:41 am

Regarding the thesis in the article, many people do not believe in the metaphysical statements of religion, but most of them are not atheists. "Religion" is not an invention of the modern age, such phenomena were already known 200,000 years ago. What is the longing for religion? Rather, it is probably a search for an affective norm for the order of the perception of the world, which is causally undeveloped. This also includes the human life in between, where the actions of individuals are only known ethically and normatively. Why is he doing this? Religion, then, is an ethical normative system, one of many, for the formation of an affective model of reality, both materially and spiritually. "God" is not only a normative of the "soul" but he is also master of the material world, he created it. Science, however, refutes the latter, from which one apparently also concludes that the spiritual God does not exist. However, this is not the case.

Gerd Steimer | Sun, December 24, 2017 - 7:29 pm

In reply to Metaphysics of Religion by Peter Pascht

Religions / God / gods are human inventions, on the one hand to explain what one cannot understand, on the other hand because of the desire / longing that life cannot be everything and that after death comes the great nothing. There is not the slightest hint of a supernatural figure, let alone evidence.
A good half of the population is atheistic = one does not believe in a higher power.
The Christian values ​​vaunted in this way are all, and all of them, to be found in humanism too, there is no need for a mysticism around them, the Kantian imperative covers everything

Peter Pasht | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 9:48 am

Fabulously formulated and argued, objectively correct in terms of content, with many facets and detailed arguments. Unfortunately this view cannot be accepted by any "believer", because it exposes religion from its metaphysical garb.

Gerd Steimer | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 9:52 am

The basic precepts (do not kill, do not steal etc.) are also humanistic basic precepts and have nothing to do with religion at first. The "god's gene" with a supernatural explanation of natural events, with the longing for a meaning and purpose, has existed since early human history. Usually it was used by "leaders" for their own purposes. I lack this gene, I've been an atheist since I can remember, have the Kantian imperative as the only commandment (you don't need more) and like to celebrate Christmas because it's nice, nothing more.
The downside of religions, no one, no Hitler, no Stalin, has ever killed as many people as they were killed within the framework of religions. Only with the principles of humanism, without religion, would the world be fairer and more peaceful. You can celebrate parties without.

Gerd Steimer | Wed, December 27, 2017 - 11:46 am

In reply to The religion of the radical… by Lucas Schult

the victims of communism cannot be ascribed to Athesimus, let alone humanism, on the contrary, they have nothing to do with each other. That would be just as wrong as the metaphor "milk drinkers are murderers" because every murderer has drunk milk at some point. The millions and millions of victims of the religions (certainly considerably more than those of communism) can, in contrast, be directly attributed to the religions without detour, not to mention the destruction of entire cultures by missionaries.

Werner Peters | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 10:02 am

Full agreement with the comment! What is often mixed up in the discussion is the declining membership in the two large churches on the one hand and the - alleged - withdrawal from the Christian faith (see Bertelsmann study). The first is more a consequence of the current management staff and the strategic orientation of our two church princes mainly on gender issues, which I consider rather embarrassing. Because of these two clowns at the top, many leave the church, but that doesn't mean they are unchristian.

Peter Pasht | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 10:05 am

"Religion creates collective identity, it legitimizes social order and conveys meaning" You could actually have ended the article, because this sentence captures in its conciseness the immense meaning that has been lost in our culture today, under false pietism and intellectual ignorance . This sentence alone justifies not letting the institution "church" go to pieces, albeit not in its obscure medieval form, but in the awareness of this enlightened meaning, as a normative instrument of an orderly and peaceful coexistence. Religion has the potential to create social peace, but unfortunately also unrest. It depends on the people what they make of it.

Thomas Stefan | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 10:11 am

I have the impression that Mr Grau turns the connection between religion and culture upside down when he says that culture shapes the identity of a religion, but not its concept of transcendence.
The context seems to me to be the other way round: A creative religiously inspired minority therefore has a specific idea of ​​what is true, good and beautiful, i.e. a transcendent idea from which it creates culture. If this idea is lost, the culture will gradually lose its meaning and no longer cultivated and no longer passed on.

Monika Schulte | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 10:17 am

A cultural Christianity without any metaphysical reference is a feel-good Christianity without reference to God. Religion is based on the search for the immortal, but culture is ephemeral and the "hold" that such a culture gives people is based on an identification with "false gods". If not God but culture becomes a hold, this is a weak hold, where God once was, has now become an ego. Metaphysically / mystically, however, it should be the other way around: Where it or God was, I should become. Such an I will only be surrender to God / transformation and transcending. To believe in culture means to believe in meaningless fairy tales.

Willi Mathes | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 10:25 am

So far, so good Dr. Gray,

However, a strict separation of religion and politics is required!
Religion is and remains a private matter in order to prevent discrimination against people of different or unbelievers.

MfG and happy holidays!

Karin Zeitz | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 10:41 am

in Europe has inevitably occurred through Christianity. Only the churches and the princely courts could afford to promote art, culture and education in the pre-capitalist period. This has resulted in a rich artistic heritage with reference to God that no European would want to be without. The New Testament 10 commandments as the basic values ​​of humanism are also recognized in Europe as a maxim for action, regardless of what spiritual inclinations someone may have. This is where real conflicts arise with differently socialized population groups.

Andreas Kyriacou | Mon, December 25, 2017 - 9:36 am

In reply to The cultural imprint by Karin Zeitz

Where can one read these New Testament Ten Commandments, which are supposed to form the basis of humanism? The Old Testament, which begins with the prohibition to think “You should have no other gods” and end with the equation of woman with ox and house as the man’s property, cannot be meant in any case.

Manfred Steffan | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 10:52 am

there is something else: there is more Christianity in our secularized values ​​(values ​​are a matter of faith and cannot be objectively proven) than the critics of Christianity want to admit. Other religions notice this, we are blind to the business: Islam understands our conceptions of human rights as Christianity in disguise.

Jürgen Winzig | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 10:58 am

it may be that religion creates a culture. But I have the impression that religion often creates demarcation, exclusion and violence. As far as our (!) Culture is concerned, the Enlightenment after the French Revolution was far more causal for the development of modern structures
as the stake of the Christian occidental rule of the church. By the way, what is often forgotten with the hype that has been going on for some time about everything that has to do with religion, i.e. belief in any metaphysical beings: The vast majority of our population is likely to be made up of atheists or church members put together. Personally, at least this constant focus on the religious annoys me.

Lucas Schult | Mon, December 25, 2017 - 11:50 am

In reply to Religion and Culture by Jürgen Winzig

Perhaps think about the extent to which the French revolutions ended in other cultures with other religions, or whether they took place at all.

A merry Christmas

Heinrich Niklaus | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 11:19 am

The thesis that there is “no culture without religion” is hardly comprehensible. The relationship between these spheres of value seems at least unclear (Opielka).

With the secularization a political disempowerment of religion took place. At the moment religions seem to be on the rise again ("Rache Gottes" Kepel).

And when I look at the rise of Islam in Germany, Gilles Kepel seems to be right. It seems we urgently need a new education!

Jacqueline Gafner | Mon, December 25, 2017 - 9:17 am

In reply to New Enlightenment! by Heinrich Niklaus

With secularization, it was not religion that was disempowered, but the church as an institution, whose so-called spiritual dignitaries also claimed secular power for themselves for centuries. So it is - hopefully - over once and for all in the so-called Occident, because what it is like when it is different can still be seen today in those states of the so-called Orient where the "priests" still do that in worldly matters Have the say.

Rolf B. Greven | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 11:46 am

I think it is a good description of the state of our Christian faith. In addition to the sentence that Christianity is a "... unmanageable sum of cultural traditions ...", I would like to mention one factor in particular, namely basic Christian values ​​in the sense of the 10 commandments.As a dropout from a church community, I can say that this is extraordinarily formative, so that even as a non-member of a church religious community one continues to remain a Christian in spirit.
In the course of the Enlightenment, these commandments shaped the legal principles of a civilized society.

wolfgang spremberg | Sun, December 24, 2017 - 12:22 pm

In reply to What I think is a good one ... by Rolf B. Greven

Imagine that Christians really live the content of their religion. Don't just be a Christian. Without violence, Inquisition, Reconquista etc ..... Without power, without pomp, without wealth ..... instead poor, pacifist, right cheek, left cheek, charity ...... Would Christianity then exist? Would Europe and America, for example, then be "Christian"?

Michaela Diederichs | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 12:58 pm

This article is simply wonderful. Thank you Mr. Grau and you too, have a peaceful, merry Christmas.

Torsten Knecht | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 1:43 pm

... by Max Weber shows how the Christian religion has been messed up for the capitalist economy.

Religion as tradition, customs, festivals, etc. are one thing. The other is the institutionalization of faith by the church in order to generate income (church tax) and to secure its power. Similarly, it is not surprising that the church in D. is the largest landowner. The state authority eludes your exact assets. The church's own jurisdiction is also a great custom.

Why does the Christian religion need church bosses and a hierarchical rule or order? The so-called "C" parties use the "c" as a custom or habit, but are by no means "c" in the sense of the word.

Rene Goeckel | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 1:55 pm

That may be true. However, this is just a statement of a fact that says nothing about the quality. There is also no culture without murder and manslaughter. And now?

The article is insubstantial, is nothing more than religious propaganda and is therefore indecent. In whose interest are you writing this, Mr. Grau?

Hans-Jürgen Lamberty | Sun, December 24, 2017 - 3:37 pm

In reply to No culture without religion by Rene Goeckel

The overemphasis on the religious (in politics, media, organizations, etc.) in Germany has been getting on my nerves not only since yesterday. For example, if there was a real separation of church and state, we would have a lot less problems.

Dorothee Sehrt-Irrek | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 13:59

I'll go with you d'accord, Mr Grau.
I only have to consider that the proximity of the transcendence is a deceptive one because what goes over is sometimes blatantly different.
That's why I'm really happy about fairy tales or modern epics like "Lord of the Rings" at Christmas.
However, I always try to think ahead as a peace-loving EU.
For the past, however, I would weight it similarly.
I'm not really sorry that I admire Europe and probably some things that are very difficult to recognize as meaningful (too old).
Tolkien wrote a European saga wherever it came from.
From him I could probably read "On the Marble Cliffs" again, but bearing in mind that it had a devastating effect.
The downright stoic one? I want acceptance of death for his own people to be more secular, whatever comes next.
In any case, Mozart wanted to live, not just die.
Happy Holiday

Sam Walther | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 2:13 pm

"Man" needs a paradigm in which he can find himself again; where else should he find support or refuge?
Cultural symbolism instead of metaphysical awareness !?
If you see a religion's contribution to culture in this, then it is difficult to contradict. In any case, peace did not bring this view into the world.
Personally, I would like more "metaphysical". Because only there is it possible to truly overcome boundaries and differences. Cultural characteristics, on the other hand, need to be preserved, but also protected, delimited and defended.
"Since Copernicus, humans have rolled from the center to the X"
Friedrich Nietzsche
Wish you a Merry Christmas ...

Dorothee Sehrt-Irrek | Tue, January 2, 2018 - 3:28 pm

In reply to I agree with you ... by Sam Walther

However, the idea of ​​a center is irrelevant when considering the genealogy.
So the earth is not the center, whereas the sun is fading, like the moon, the "parents" star?
But for me the earth is the most pronounced moment in the universe or has someone tried to talk to the sun?
I find it remarkable how adults fall in awe of the universe, but annoy their colleagues, let's say.
So yes, life on earth is the most ingenious and precious that we could devote ourselves to.
It doesn't all have to happen in Germany.
This thought does NOT mean that you are free to use it at all.
So I have very little understanding for the Settler Games, but for a diplomatically successful UN.
Igniting, covert influence is, in my opinion, a crime against humanity in view of the actually open secret of life.
So the earth moves around the sun, right, but "IT" moves.

beatrix dean | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 2:53 p.m.

Religion just conveys moral and ethical values! That is definitely important for our coexistence!

We are what we are and how we are the result of a Christian education, in the Christian culture, in the Christian West.

Whether many people here like it or not!

Reiner Jornitz | Sat, December 23, 2017 - 3:51 pm

Dear Mr. Kraus, you are right in your opinion on the position of the churches. The churches have greatly differed mentally from their believers
away. The cross is laid in Jerusalem, the Catholic and Protestant Churches become extremely political and interfere in refugee policy against their believers. Martin Luther would wallow in his grave. You no longer represent any values ​​and are no role model. The compulsory payment of church taxes do the rest. Most people believe in God, including me - I even saw death before me - religion gives cohesion, values, hope, a bill, identity. If we didn't have these paradigms, our society would be at an end: I wish you and the editorial team a Merry Christmas, good health in our uncertain future. You and your colleagues continue to write honestly and keep your high level mfg R. Jornitz