Since the 1970s, social scientists increasingly have cast human emotions in the arenas of culturally or linguistically constructed expression. A wide spectrum of theoretical terminology has been employed, including “constructionism” and “constructivist.” This essay reviews constructionist theories that bear on the study of religion and emotion. It analyzes constructionist theories as both determinist and relativist. It focuses on the recent historical ethnographic work of an important anthropologist of emotion, William M. Reddy. It also examines how religious emotions get constructed and what forms serve to give them expression. Generally, religious ritual is a form that can function in such a way so that the emotional lows of loss and grief are made less low. Conversely, ritual can heighten the feelings of joy and happiness at times of celebration. The construction of ritual form reflects specific religious traditions, yet cultures also share more broadly emotional forms for handling death, birth, marriage, and personal formation.
Desire and love have always been important themes in Christianity, but there is no self-evident meaning for either of these concepts. This chapter examines some important contributions in the history of theology to the understanding of each, and offers some steps towards a constructive theology that regards desire as an integrative part of love. If the problem with the dominant tradition during antiquity and the Middle Ages was that it separated eros from a legitimate sexuality, the problem of modern Christianity is that it has reduced desire to sexuality. It is not helpful to separate agape from eros, as this implies a theology for which important aspects of human longing fall outside its frame. An account of love that avoids narcissism and an economy of the same includes desire; a love without desire lacks the motor that moves us forward towards the other.
W. S. F. Pickering
Emile Durkheim founded his sociology enterprise on the equation that in order to understand social phenomena, the social must be explained in terms of the social. This becomes practically explicit in his study of suicide, where the tendency to suicide among particular groups is “explained” by other social facts, by reference to those who are unmarried, widowed, of a particular religious persuasion, and so on. The discomfiture in according a significant place to psychology within sociology is derived from Durkheim's acclaimed standpoint of being first and foremost a Cartesian. Durkheim held that all knowledge of experience is mentally mediated and is derived through the notion of representation. Peppered throughout much of Durkheim's study of religion are the terms “force” and “power.” This article examines the area of religion where, in Durkheim's thought, references to the emotional are assuredly to be found. It also discusses his views on delirium, religious experience, and effervescence.
Two names often grouped together in the study of religion are Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1884) and Rudolf Otto (1869–1937). Central to their understanding of religion is the idea that religious experience, characterized in terms of feeling, lies at the heart of all genuine religion. In his book On Religion, Schleiermacher speaks of religion as a “sense and taste for the Infinite.” In The Christian Faith, Schleiermacher grounds religion in the immediate self-consciousness and the “feeling of absolute dependence.” Influenced by Schleiermacher, Otto also grounds religion in an original experience of what he calls “the numinous,” which can only be grasped through states of feeling. This article discusses the views of Otto and Schleiermacher on religion as feeling. It examines how both men conceived of feeling, the reasons they believed religion had to be understood in its terms, and the common threads linking their perspectives. It also considers Schleiermacher's interpretation of religious feeling as transcendental experience.
This essay explores the intersection of religion and emotion in the thought of Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855). Emotions—or, more generally, affectivity—play a central role in Kierkegaard's analyses of human existence. Coming after German idealism and Romanticism, and giving extraordinary new life to the heritage of pietism, Kierkegaard finds in the affective life of human beings the key disclosures concerning our being-in-the-world. In addition, Kierkegaardian “religion” takes shape in terms of certain affects and virtues that emerge in face of such existential disclosures. This essay examines how Kierkegaard frames the problem of emotion in terms of his understanding of selfhood. In particular, it looks at the way Kierkegaard's phenomenology challenges an understanding that links emotions to judgments (whether cognitive or evaluative). The latter understanding, an inheritance of Aristotle, depends on a classical ontology that privileges determination, measure, presence, and intentionality. For the “classical” tradition, emotions offer thematic content about the world, guide moral reasoning and decision-making, predispose one toward certain virtues or vices, and can be altered by a resolution toward right thinking.
This chapter traces the academic development of postmodern theology and gender studies, from the feminist theologies of the 1960s–1980s through the ‘linguistic turn’ to the emergence of the concept of ‘intersectionality’. Beattie argues that gender theory restores to theology the forgotten wisdom of its own tradition with regard to language and the interpretation of scripture. However, she cautions against the Manichaean seductions of postmodernism, arguing that the theology of gender must be rooted in the goodness of creation, including the human created male and female in the image of God. Analysing differences between Protestant and Catholic theologies in terms of grace and sacramentality, and with reference to Christian mysticism, she argues for a contemplative, sacramental theology of gender that is open to the divine mystery, animated by desire while remaining attentive to the distorting effects of sin on desire, and actively expressed in love of neighbour and of creation.
This article explores the key methodological approaches evident in theologies of sexuality since theological reflection upon sexuality emerged as a distinctive discipline in the latter part of the twentieth century. It charts the movement from a radical valorization of sexuality by conservative, liberal, and gay and lesbian theologians to a fundamental questioning and rejection of the very notion of sexuality. It argues that there is a need for Christian theologians to stop focusing on sexuality as such and turn their attention to right ordering of desire as part of the project of Christian discipleship.
William James's 1884 theory of emotion is perhaps the most well known of all his psychological ideas, particularly as it forms a key historical landmark in the history of the concept. His notion of “religious emotion” is perhaps one of the most important in shaping the subject in the twentieth century. The complex history of James's theory of emotion begins when he and the Danish physician Karl Georg Lange established a post-Darwinian, organic theory of emotions, in what became known as the James-Lange theory. This view of emotion went against the grain of contemporary theories of emotion in the new psychology, particularly that put forward by Wilhelm Wundt, who argued for a theory of “apperception”—the process by which a state of mind (the affect or emotion) produces bodily effects. This article examines James's theory of emotion and religious emotion, focusing on his views about mind and body. It also discusses three theories of emotion, namely, organic theory, cognitive theory, and social theory. Finally, it considers pluralism, mystical emotions, metaphysical emotions, and the reflex circuit of emotion.