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Religious Energy

about man and god


2nd October 2010 - 5th June 2011



The special exhibition Religious Energy comes at a time when the public perception of religion and faith has undergone a great change. The role of faith in modern society and the relationship between religion and democracy are issues that confront individual believers, the various faith communities, and society as a whole.


The exhibition examines the phenomenon of religion from three perspectives:


– How do religions appear in today’s society, and how do

believers see the society around them?

– What holds religious communities together, and what

are they like on the inside?

– How do the faithful experience their relationships to God,

to gods, or to what they believe in, and what is it like to live

without such relationships?


Today even non-believers feel the energy that religious faith can generate. Religion is making a comeback, both in public life and in politics. How does religion sustain people and help them to live together in peace? And how can it, at the same time, be a cause of violence and global conflicts? Have European societies nothing further to say beyond the prohibition of minarets and burqas? And how secular and enlightened is »the West« really?


A look at history, as well as a look inside present-day religious groups, shows how differently the major world religions are conceived by their members. The faithful, and non-believers too, speak for themselves in many places in the exhibition. Their many different voices in concert create an opportunity for visitors to examine their own convictions, and to take a critical look at current clichés. After all, when we examine the social and personal importance of faith, every spectator is also an active subject.


The exhibition shows that religious notions never really went away from many people’s minds and day-to-day lives, and may take on new importance once more in the 21st century. In a world that is shaped by modern science and technology, but beginning to question the modern faith in progress, it has apparently become more difficult to give pertinent answers to life’s ultimate questions.


The exhibition explores the topic within three large sections:



How does a modern society deal with the diversity of views, including re-

ligious conceptions, of Man and his place in the world? How does society

respond to serious conflicts between different values? Is everything subject

to debate — including God? Other people’s beliefs? Civil liberties?

The first part of the exhibition discusses current debates and conflicts fu -

elled by religion, from head-scarf prohibitions to controversy over cru-

cifixes in classrooms, from ritual slaughtering to blasphemy. Ultimately

this section deals with one question — one answered directly in video

interviews by both believers and non-believers: What kind of society do

we want to live in?



How do religious communities form? How do they define who belongs

and who doesn’t? How do people learn and pass on their beliefs and

traditions? How do congregations handle disputes? How do they expel

members? How strictly do they isolate themselves: Are others unbelie-

vers? Unclean? Or are the boundaries porous, or flexible?

The second section of the exhibition examines how religious communi-

ties form and perpetuate themselves through shared customs and cyclical

rituals, from baptism to mortuary rites, from hiking the Camino de

Santiago to going on the Hajj.


ultimate Questions

How do believers communicate with their God, with their gods, or with

the spiritual world? How does one ask for divine assistance in one’s earthly

life? What language does God speak and understand? How can prayer be re-

conciled with rationalism? And with the practical demands of modern life?

The third section looks not only at current prayer practices, but at the mul-

titude of ways in which people relate to something transcendent, from the

holy books of the major scriptural religions to the ultimate questions of life

that all people face at some time, from magical objects from various eras and

cultures to miracles. In the process, the distinction between believers and

non-believers sometimes appears less sharp than is generally assumed. What

kind of meaning can human life have if it is governed by chance, its future

indeterminate? This question confronts believers and non-believers alike.








Petra Lutz, Deutsches Hygiene-Museum



Kraftwerk Religion [Religious Energy]

Edited by Petra Lutz und Klaus Vogel for the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum

Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2010

ca. 208 p., ca. 100 colour illustrations; 24,90 €

ISBN: 978-3-8353-0764-3

With contributions from Alfred Bodenheimer, Elke Hessel, Sudhir Kakar, Günther Kehrer, Hilal Sezgin und Fulbert Steffensky as well as Interviews with: Margot Käßmann, Necla Kelek, Matisyahu and Andrea Nahles