The Idea of the Third International Religious Studies Congress
The Third International Religious Studies Congress: Religions and Religiosity in the Contemporary World, Toruń, September 12-15, 2011 is concerned with a new stage of development in Polish religious studies and tries to expose innovative paths of inquiry in the subject matter. Religious studies is a constitutive part of both Polish science and a great, worldwide movement in research on religion. New practices and phenomena which are connected with different levels of social life, especially with the global one, are defined and structured by religion which is nowadays meaningfully pluralistic and plays diverse roles in the society. There are also processes, events and facts which are located on the lower levels or in the narrower spheres of social life and they are even more interesting although they seem to be less objective. Religious studies is devoted to the classical idea of humanities that religion should be scrutinized as a special subject matter constituted by peculiarly human experience. But at the same time religious studies is a branch of social science and as such conducts survey and yields important, detailed empirical data.
This Congress makes room for each of these approaches and for any important interest in religion (the only one condition is to fulfill elementary methodological requirements of religious studies). Its purpose is to connect classical religious studies with different perspectives of the history of religion. It opens the space for debates and reconsiders questions about theoretical or methodological status of religious studies under the circumstances of “cultural wars”, which are a common feature of postmodern world.
The Third Congress is a continuation of two former meetings which took place in Tyczyn – Rzeszów eight years ago (The First Congress) and in Poznań four years ago (The Second Congress). The goal of those conferences was to identify and criticize new paradigms in the research on religions. An important role of religious studies as practical knowledge about processes of social transformation was confirmed during those Congresses. Results of inquiry also affirmed that religious studies occupies a central place within cultural studies. For, religions are living cultures and as such they prove the importance of the study on them. Paradoxically, the best reason for conducting studies of religion currently is provided by research on religions typical of extinct social formations, which are still the source of meaning and life of nowadays cultures and religions.
The Congress is titled Religions and Religiosity in the Contemporary World. It is a praise of skeptical approach to prejudices and precipitate generalizations of the role played by religion in the historical processes with regard to any levels of human reality. We highly expect that this Congress as well as other similar conferences dedicated to the issues of religious studies will provide a scientifically ordered data about the presence of religion in the contemporary culture. We will take this challenge during Plenary Sessions and Sectional Meetings. Increasingly changing world stimulates new religious movement and at the same time engages other branches of science into research on religion. Currently religious studies is closely related to such disciplines as communicology, cognitive science, advanced cultural studies, sociology of culture, international studies, musicology or political science. They also draw information and methods from natural, technical and formal science. The aim of this Congress is to use all of those connections and intellectual possibilities. On the other hand, religious studies are also inspired by dynamic social or cultural movements, pop-cultural interpretations of religion, deep psychological structures and ever-present longing for the sacred. The Congress will try to take advantage of those resources of the modern, changing and globalizing world.
The Third International Religious Studies Congress exploits both organizational and scientific possibilities of Polish religious studies. It connects members of The Polish Society for the Study of Religions with other institutions and organizations, such as universities or journals, which have similar scientific interest.
I would like to express my gratitude to the institutions and persons, especially from Nicolaus Copernicus University and municipal authorities of Toruń, who have kindly agreed to host the Polish society of religious studies with a care and benevolence.
Chairman of the Program Committee
Professor Andrzej Wójtowicz