About EARS

About EARS: Understanding The Dynamics Of Religion

EARS, the European Academy on Religion and Society, is a European network of Departments and/or Faculties of Theology and/or Religious Studies. The participating universities and their theologians cooperate at different levels, seeking to make their knowledge visible to society and relevant for the public domain. 

A theological perspective
EARS does not focus on theology and religious studies as such, but aims to interpret and to explain societal issues from a theological perspective. Such a perspective should be understood as a focus on issues such as religious normativity, mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, in relationship to secularity, religious attitudes towards gender and identity etc. In this regard, EARS realises that sometimes raising questions is more important than finding answers. Hence, EARS intends to raise the big questions, rephrase and reframe them, and bring them to the fore. 

Background
EARS has a non-confessional background. Although the members mostly have their origins within the Christian tradition, they address religion from a non-confessional and non-denominational standpoint. EARS addresses religion as a sociological, psychological, anthropological and cultural phenomenon. If one wants to understand a society, one needs to look at the religious practices present within that society. EARS looks at the practices of everyday lived religion within the different European societies and seeks to tell the complex story of the dynamics of religion. These dynamics touch on many societal issues. Therefore, understanding them is not only an academic matter, but definitely also a societal one.

Availability of knowledge
The need to understand the complexity of religious developments is increasingly important. This is why EARS, the participating universities and their theologians cooperate at different levels, trying to make knowledge available and applicable to society at large. Within the debate on religion EARS strives to seek the nuance instead of further polarizing the debate. EARS tries to contribute, from its own narrative, to the debate on values, societal cohesion, and the challenges and threats of religion. It wants to act both as a think tank and function as a hub for society. Such an approach will also contribute to other perceptions of the role of theology and religious studies.

Matthias Smallbrugge, President

“Why do I consider EARS to be something very precious and highly relevant? Consider this: theology and religious studies try to understand the dynamics of religion in past and present times. That is why many of our faculties/departments still play an important role in the education of the future clergy. Yet, our society asks us to consider new, unexpected and urgent questions about religion. Dealing with these pressing questions, that in general have very little to do with the traditional confessional outlook of theology, obliges us to look for new ways of contributing to society. Ours is also the task to contribute to the discussions on topics such as gender, artificial intelligence, security, genetic engineering or the crisis of democracy.

All these issues can only be dealt with at a European scale and in all these debates, faculties and departments of theology and religious studies should be far more visible than they actually are. Dealing with societal issues, looking for a new legitimization of our discipline, making our knowledge available to the whole of society and playing a serious role in the debates of the future shape of humanity, that why I think EARS is a crucial network for scholars in the domain of religious studies and theology.”