Religion – Spiritualität – Weltanschauung: Eine religionswissenschaftliche Standortbestimmung

The question of finding meaning and satisfaction in life, the role of "spiritual" experiences, and the individual's personal relationship with religious images, practices, and communities are central themes in the area of life and social counselling. Orientations informed by comprehensive religious interpretations are intensively involved in the personal development of emotional security and social stability. Especially through experiences of crisis, when dealing with illness, death, grief, or in transitional phases where life-changing decisions are pending, conscious as well as latently present value configurations emerge in an individual that can be openly addressed, reflected upon, and/or questioned in the course of consultation.

Life and social consultants often face the challenge of supporting their clients in questions surrounding these themes as well as pointing out options for action without, however, manipulatively transferring their own system of meaning during the process. On the other hand, the central methods of life and social counselling— the philosophical dialogue as well as the principles of psychological counselling—are themselves based on concrete images of humanity, notions of transcendence, and placements of "spirituality." In order to remain compatible for secular-humanistic as well as confessionally-oriented and non-confessional religious persons, these notions and assumptions need to be reflected. To be able to capture the individual ideological entrenchment of clients within the diversity of contemporary ways of life and interpretative frames has increasingly become a necessary skill in the work of life and social counselling. The holistic perception of the clients involves an understanding of their respective horizons of meaning and their integration into a given tradition, community, or cultural context.

Meanwhile, however, the range of choice in regard to worldviews and religious orientations in Austria and other Western societies has become so diverse that no single expert can possibly overview the complete market of contemporary religious culture in detail. Furthermore, the illumination of the field from various perspectives is imperative if its intricacy is to be properly recognised. The adequate understanding of those orientations thus requires a basic vocabulary for consensually marking out the field of discourse. Notions such as "religion," "spirituality," and "worldview" must be discussed in their complexity and their mutual interlacing in order to enable a theory-driven practical expertise with respect to the pertinent sphere of activity of life and social consultants.

Religious Studies is the academic discipline that focuses on the historical, systematic, and empirical research of religious conceptions, practices, and community-formations. It draws on a broad spectrum of methods to extensively investigate forms of religious expressions with their historical, cultural, and sociological characteristics. The compendium resulting from this project pursues a multi-perspective approach, integrating state of the art theories, methodologies, and tools from Religious Studies. It is supposed to give life and social consultants an accurate description of basic terms of Religious Studies and should serve as a reliable reference source and point of departure for further methodological and content-related reflections.