“Trial of Faith” – On Religion and Growth

Konferenz "Ihr aber glaubet" - Über Religion und Wachstumsglauben


International conference by the Federal Cultural Foundation

The financial crises of the past years have revealed once again the irrational aspect of our modern, capitalistic economic system. At the heart of this system is a deep-seated belief in accumulation – notions and expectations of endless growth in capital, knowledge and technical abilities. This line of thinking has become the target of a rising wave of growth criticism. However, very few have taken issue with the relationship between belief in growth and religion. And this, despite the fact that many have heralded the “return” of religion, or even the advent of a “post-secular age” (Jürgen Habermas). What role do religions play in our modern, consumption-, growth- and competition-based societies, and what role could they play?

Do religions inhibit or promote thinking and action with regard to growth parameters? Has our present-day belief in growth arisen from the underpinnings of religion? Could religions be breeding ground of global economic and democratic crises? Or could they rather serve as a means to overcome them?

International, interdisciplinary and interdenominational Conference

The social, national and economic systems established in Europe since early modernity, and their expansion throughout the world due to colonialism, share very close historical ties to the three monotheistic world religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For this reason, the international, interdisciplinary and interdenominational conference limited itself to addressing issues related to these three religions. It explored their current significance from two perspectives – as effective institutions of cultural heritage and as experts in matters of faith.

To what extent do discussions and discourse on growth-thinking draw on religious patterns? Do we first have to examine the legacy of religion in order to better understand and change the current situation? If the belief in growth springs from religious roots, aren’t we completely at the mercy of its influence as long as we fail to recognise and critically address the role of religion in this process? And can religious-cultural practices possibly help us find a “third way“ which surmounts the dilemmas facing growth-based society?

The conference not only examined growth and growth-thinking as an economic principle, but also the idea of growth as it applies to terms like progress and mission, to procreation and nature, time and knowledge. In a post-secular society – as some have argued – faith-related assumptions and principles are particularly effective in functional areas which claim to adhere exclusively to “rational” criteria (and thus reject their constitutive content of faith).

Should we perhaps no longer regard religion, but rather science and economy as the today’s guardians of arcane knowledge which require a critique of faith?

It is impossible to directly grasp such multifaceted, complex relationships like those between the monotheistic religions and growth-thinking. They are neither one-sided nor causal, they cannot be explicitly localised nor defined. Therefore, the conference approached the relationship between the religions and growth-thinking from different angles and various perspectives. The two-and-a-half-day conference included various formats – lectures, moderated discussions, workshops and readings – thematically arranged in a way that encourages discussion between competing positions. Economists faced off with theologians, sociologists with artists, politicians with activists, literary scholars with economists. It sought to address and initiate discussion outside of disciplinary boundaries and lines of faith.

The conference began on Friday, 12 June 2015 with the lecture “The Divine Economy” by Tomáš Sedláček at the Kölnischer Kunstverein.

With: Tomáš Sedláček, Marcia Pally, Philip Roscoe, Josef Ackermann, Elisa Klapheck, Hamideh Mohagheghi, Philipp Stoellger, Reiner Klingholz, Milad Karimi, Barbara Muraca, Saskia Wendel, Thomas Macho, Martin Kämpchen, Hans Joas, Petra Bahr, Niko Paech, Anat Feinberg, Hans Christoph Binswanger, Armen Avanessian, Thomas Baltrock, Ulrich Lilie, Christian Lehnert, Christian Felber u.a.

Campus "Trial of Faith"

A one-day “campus” for junior researchers, students and activists served as a lead-up to the conference. Selected groups were invited to conduct research on the central themes of the conference from their personal perspectives over a period of several months. They had the opportunity to present and discuss their findings at the campus. The “Trial of Faith” campus was made possible in cooperation with the Schauspiel Köln.

The international conference “Trial of Faith” – On Religion and Growth was an event by the Federal Cultural Foundation.

Concept & direction: Dirk Pilz
Idea: Friederike Tappe-Hornbostel
Research associate and campus supervision: Alexander Klose
Production & consultation: sauerbrey I raabe . büro für kulturelle angelegenheiten

Hashtag: #ihraberglaubet
Website: www.ihraberglaubet.de (external link, opens in a new window)


Under the supervision of Christian Rakow, editor of nachtkritik.de, students from the University of the Arts (UdK) in Berlin commented on the conference in a blog and on social media.

Blog about the Conference (external link, opens in a new window)

"Trial of Faith" on Facebook (external link, opens in a new window)

"Trial of Faith" on Twitter (external link, opens in a new window)

Magazine #24 highlights the topic "Religion"

In an interview by Jacqueline Boysen, the economist and philosopher Birger Priddat discusses to what extent principles of religious faith and capitalistic doctrine are interrelated. In an essay Marcia Pally, the cultural studies scholar takes issue with Europe's critical view of religion and explains why she finds it "naive". Both experts participated the international conference "Trial of Faith".

Magazine #24 (external link, opens in a new window)

Workshop programme

The conference was accompanied by parallel workshops on the following topics:


What is growth?

What does the business sector believe in?

What use is dialogue between religions?

What do Muslims believe in?

What do Jews believe in?

What do Christians believe in?


To view the complete programme, please visit the website:

www.ihraberglaubet.de (external link, opens in a new window)


Friederike Tappe-Hornbostel
Leitung Kommunikation

Kulturstiftung des Bundes

Franckeplatz 2

06110 Halle an der Saale

Tel.: +49 (0)345 2997 120

Fax: +49 (0)345 2997 300

E-Mail to Friederike Tappe-Hornbostel
Leitung Kommunikation