Religious Studies are profoundly dedicated to the study of cultures and the humanities in all their systematic and historical complexity. In Potsdam, our focus is on the Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). These are taught neither from a confessional nor from an irreligious angle. Our aim is to make the internal perspectives of these religions plausible for an “outsider”, because unlike the attendance at Protestant or Catholic faculties, the majority of our students are not affiliated with any religion.
Our topics in teaching and research range from antiquity to the modern era and explore complex aspects of religion: religion in relation to history, politics, philosophy, literature and art. We start from religious traditions (teachings and forms of life), historic coherences (history of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewry, emergence of Christianity, history of church and of the heretics, history of Islam, religious disputations in the Middle Ages and the modern era, historic forms of tolerance). We then venture into religious-philosophical questions (concepts of God, proofs of God, religion and reason, diversity of worlds, function of evil) and ethical challenges (ecological justice, gender difference, consumerism and asceticism). Contemporary religious studies try to combine an understanding of the inherent logic of religion with a critical perspective on it. To achieve this, four paths are pursued: historical contextualization, phenomenological comparison, sociological observation and interpretive understanding. The distinguishing feature of our department is that teaching and research are structured around the three religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam with their different currents and mutual relations. At the same time, students learn how religions influence societies, for example through domination and resistance, and/or through otherness and assimilation. Later, students will be able to apply the knowledge they have acquired in all those areas in which require an understanding of religion(s) both in an historical and contemporary context, and they will be able to sort out religious challenges.
Further, Potsdam is the only location besides Bremen, where religious studies departments are centrally responsible for training LER schoolteachers (Lebensgestaltung – Ethik – Religionskunde / Conduct of Life – Ethics – Study of Religion) who are not attached to any religious confession.