Eating can ward off anxiety
Modern psychology distinguishes between two basic phenomena of fear. On the one hand, she describes fear as an emotion that is triggered due to a real danger and only occurs momentarily. On the other hand, she describes fear as a basic condition that makes every life situation perceived as a threat. In both cases, fear affects people not only physically but also psychologically - from life-inhibiting symptoms to life-destroying pathologies.
What is now often overlooked due to the negative connotations of fear is the fact that fear is essential for human existence. In fear, people not only find an inherent warning element, so to speak, that they can weigh and differentiate between risks and opportunities. Fear can also mobilize forces that help ward off danger, move people to flee or retreat, and develop preventive measures and supporting mechanisms against realities and scenarios of fear and implement them in a way that is useful to life - for themselves as well as for others. Striking examples of this can be found in the broad spectrum of forces shaping society who want to name the realities and scenarios of fear and offer and implement solution strategies. How seductive the politicizing and polarizing game with fear can be is shown by worrying power developments - also in Europe.
Do not lead me into temptation
It is thanks to sensitive diagnoses of the times, such as those of the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, who died in 2017, that fear can be seen as the sign of our time and that in this context the meaning of religion should not be negatively answered from the outset, but should be taken up critically. Religious fundamentalism such as the radicalization of religious followers is a global and interfaith phenomenon. Every religion today - viewed internally and externally - is confronted with fear-laden and fear-spreading tendencies to assert beliefs. Even if the causes and connections are complex, it can be said without simplification: The greatest temptation of religion lies in its inhumane instrumentalization as a productive fear machine.
For every theologian the question inevitably arises as to how the importance of religion as a whole and that of one's own religion in particular for individual and social life can be reflected and brought into discussion in a way that guides the action. And this without falling into the danger of a theological “discounter mentality” that seeks to solve the complex and uncertain problem and question contexts of today's realities with a greatly simplified and banal optimism for salvation. The avowed atheist Zygmunt Bauman sees the fact that religion is to be considered meaningful and important both individually and socially today in the "inadequacy of man" as he unfolds it in one of his last books. For him, religion proves to be an indispensable point of reference for the inner restlessness of late modern people, which carries it and keeps them sensitive not to succumb to inhuman seductions in and with their everyday borderline experiences that praise the supposed "good life" and also make it tangible and discarded Either functionalize the life of the “stepchildren of happiness” of late modern societies for the ego of their own do-gooders or accept them as an occasional side effect.
Critical spirit needed
Even if Bauman's diagnoses are strongly apocalyptic and shaped by the downfall of humanity (and God), they provide important starting points for a Christian theology that takes the dimensions of fear in the context of religion seriously. So it will have to be an essential task to help develop a sensitivity critical of religion in one's own as well as in other religions, which critically exposes any inhuman purpose and self-portrayal of religion - be this openly or latently tangible. From here, however, she will argue differently than Bauman has to. Because the "reason and source" of their critique of religion does not bind them to a principle, but to the reality of a God who, in the size and breadth of his humanity, "is always different" than the apparent unambiguity in the religious approach to inadequacy and fear suggests.
Our expert Salvatore Loiero is Professor of Pastoral Theology, Religious Education and Homiletics at the Faculty of Theology. The qualified practical theologian is currently researching current issues relating to human mobility and migration.
See Zygmunt Bauman, Data, Drones Discipline: A Conversation about Volatile Surveillance Zygmunt Bauman and David Lyon, Berlin 2013. See Zygmunt Bauman / Stanislaw Obirek, On the World and Ourselves, Cambridge 2015.
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