Original Research - Special Collection: Major Theorists of Religion

On the border between religion and superstition: Schleiermacher on religion

Jaco Beyers
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 2 | a6613 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i2.6613 | © 2021 Jaco Beyers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 March 2021 | Published: 13 July 2021

About the author(s)

Jaco Beyers, Department of Religion Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


The ideas of Friedrich Schleiermacher contributes hugely to the understanding of the concept of religion. Many scholars have published on the significance of Schleiermacher for theology, philosophy and hermeneutics. In response to the Enlightenment thought, Schleiermacher constructed a reappraisal of what religion is. His emphasis on intuition and feeling, steered away from the rational interpretation of religion which placed human cognition at the centre of religion. For Schleiermacher religion should indicate a self-transcendence and a feeling of dependence. In the current era of technocracy, human knowledge and experience is reduced to that which is accessible via technology. Whether technology becomes the medium or object of veneration, surely vary from context to context. Schleiermacher provides direction under the current paradigm, to search for meaning where the human spirit connects with a meaningful other. In order to address this endeavour, this research makes use of a literature study. The goal of this article is to identify the border between superstition and religion by attempting to illuminate the boundaries of religion. It is, according to David Chidester, precisely at the boundaries where religion is best understood.

Contribution: The article highlights the importance of the theories created by Schleiermacher and how it applies within a current context where a distinction between religion and superstition is necessary. The research addresses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, numbers 10 (reducing inequalities), 11 (sustainable communities) and 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).


religion; religion studies; Schleiermacher; knowledge; transcendence; technology; feeling; intuition; dependence


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