German Sociologist of Religion: to Imagine a Future Without Religion Is Like Imagining It Without Dance or Sex

Imagining a world without religion or “the sacred” is like imagining a world without dance, music, sex, or other enchanting and transcendent experiences.

Religion is not dead. Throughout the 20th century, most sociologists assumed otherwise. While both Max Weber and Émile Durkheim, two of sociology’s founding fathers, were fascinated by the relationship between religion and society, they agreed that religion would fade as society modernized. Their sociological heirs inherited their disinterest in religion.

Peter Birkelund Andersen has been in Kristeligt Dagblad recently for his work on Danish values. But to understand the sociologist’s values, you must go back to childhood.

When Peter Birkelund Andersen visited India and the USA in the 1980s, he saw extreme poverty in both places, but it enraged him the most that poverty persisted in the USA despite its wealth. So, when you have money, do the most for the community, says Peter Birkelund Andersen, a sociologist of religion at the University of Copenhagen.

That way of thinking, he claims, dates back to his youth as a scout, which he relished.

In school, I didn’t feel comfortable socially, so I became a scout. Scouting was not a competitive sport. We had to do nearly everything. We went on camping trips, it was great.

Margit Warburg, professor of religious sociology at the University of Copenhagen, has known Peter Birkelund Andersen all his life.

“He’s a scout.” “He always rides a bicycle and wears a helmet,” Margit Warburg says. Peter Birkelund Andersen grew up with his father, a zoologist, as director of the Copenhagen Zoo. When Peter Birkelund Andersen was two, his father became director. His father’s position allowed him to do things most kids only dream of.

“I was allowed to stay late in the garden with the night shift. “I could cycle around after the garden closed and before the children’s zoo opened,” he says.

Peter Birkelund Andersen’s mother was a geologist, so he naturally gravitated towards science. But his parents pushed him to look elsewhere and to study history. When Peter Birkelund Andersen was 18 years old, he enrolled at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Sociology of Religion. He was one of the reasons Peter Birkelund Andersen went to India for the first time in 1982. He’s been back so many times he’s lost count. He still feels Arild Hvidtfeldt’s influence today.

“His broad historical approach appeals to me greatly. He is one of those who has gotten so embedded in me that it excites me to examine human behavior. “This is also why I am involved in the Danish Value Survey,” says Peter Birkelund Andersen.

He deals with religion on a daily basis but considers himself religiously neutral. But he admires the social commitment of the church. For Peter Birkelund Andersen, it sounds like a Good Samaritan who isn’t concerned about his own gain. The researcher’s time as a scout influenced him in many ways.

Peter Birkelund Andersen is now married to a former scout. He travels with his wife when he isn’t with her. He enjoys visiting Northern Europe and the Nordic countries, but also visits Copenhagen to find “atmospheric places.”

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