The Triangle of Sadness and the Death of Spirituality
Despite the many challenges secularization theory has faced in recent years quantitative secularization research is thriving and defenders of this research paradigm note important progress over the past 20 years. Although the different theories and hypotheses related to the secularization paradigm are quite sophisticated, they nevertheless include the general and very basic assumption that “religion” is declining. Those describing to an alternative paradigm, however, insist on another kind of religious change, a so-called spiritual turn instead of a religious decline. Recent empirical research relates to so- called secular transition theories versus individual spiritualization theories. Both paradigms have broadly influenced the conceptualization of the study of contemporary religion. In the meanwhile it is quite usual to talk about some progress in circumscribing this research field, from research on mainly institutionalized religion to inclusion of a broader field of spirituality and eventually inclusion of a substantiated secularity with its many forms of nonreligion. This lecture will discuss conceptual problems related to this religious -spiritual- secular triangle. It will be argued that a perspective- imbalance and a related emic/etic confusion prevent this triangle form offering an adequate framework for describing, analyzing and explaining the “messy reality” related to individual religion in a contemporary society , for example in the Netherlands. In addition, I will argue that the “death” of spirituality as an etic concept is necessary to accommodate a hermeneutics of the spiritual from emic perspectives.
About the speaker
Ulrike Popp-Baier earned her Ph.D. (psychology, philosophy, history of German literature) at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (in Germany). She has been Privatdozentin for psychology at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, honorary professor of psychology of religion at Utrecht University (2005-2009) and an associate professor of psychology of religion at the University of Amsterdam (1993-2023). Her research interests include theoretical psychology, methodological issues in the social scientific study of religion, psychology of religion and qualitative research in the social sciences.