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Subproject C2

Between Online Religion and Religion Online:
Constellations for Ritual Transfer on the Internet

Department and Research Field: Religious Studies

Subproject Management

Prof. Dr. Gregor Ahn

Institute for Religious Studies
Akademiestr. 4-8
69117 Heidelberg
Phone: +49 (0) 6221 - 54 76 21
Fax: +49 (0) 6221 - 54 76 24

>> Website Subproject C2


Simone Heidbrink M.A.
Nadja Miczek M.A.
resigned Aug. 31, 2010

Project Program

The first funding phase concentrated on group-specific and individual-religious forms of rituals in a segment of western esotericism (Wicca and Solitaire witches) and helped to determine the limitations of the traditional notion of the term "ritual". Central theme of the second phase will be forms of high ritual variance in so far unexplored constellations of individual Christian religiosity.


Our approach will consistently tie in with the discovery of the interdependency between patchwork and individual religiosity and forms of substantial ritual changes. Only by considering the emic perspective, one can analyze the "standard" case with its interdependency of ritual variance and constancy. We will therefore examine the individual-religious constellations that also occur in the surroundings of Christianity.


Where adherence to Christianity or Christian groups overlaps with individual-religious synthesis, we can observe massive innovation impulses as a distinctive mark. Those impulses range from the integration of non-Christian ritual traditions to the "design" of completely new rituals.


When looking at the history of Christianity according to Gladigow's concept of "European History of Religion" (1995), we can diagnose, even in the area of recent Christian rituals, a much larger variance than traditional theological interpretations have so far indicated. No other medium documents this process better than the internet. Thousands of websites express the religious beliefs and viewpoints of members of mainstream churches and smaller denominations. Those smaller denominations are set up in competition to the churches and are segregate by the latter as "sects".


There are three dissertation projects treating closely related topics. The first one studies rituals of individual redemption processes that diverge from traditional church rituals and appear on the websites of so-called online churches and individuals who define themselves as Christians. The second dissertation project examines "alternative worship", a global reform movement within Christianity. From a variety of traditions, "alternative worship" developed its own new ritual practices and now propagates them on the internet. By conducting an anthropological field study, the third project contrastively researches Puja ceremonies that have been imported to Europe and then given a Christian cast. The internet has accelerated this process.


The overall aim of our research is to demonstrate that ritual variance is an essential part of ritualistics. This is even true for a religion like Christianity promoting such a strong traditional self-image. Our work is further supported by other dissertation and Master's thesis projects.

Main Topics

C2.1: Rituals of individual processes of redemption (Researcher: Nadja Miczek, M. A.)
C2.2: Ritual innovations of the reform movement "alternative worship" (Researcher: Simone Heidbrink, M. A.)
C2.3: Puja ceremonies with a Christian cast. Processes of the acquisition of rituals in India and ritual transfer to Europe (Researcher: Johannes Quack, M. A.)