Transformations of Religions in Times of Crises: Spiritual Alienation and Rethinking of Ethics


organised by 

                    CESAR (Central European Symposium for the Academic Study of Religion)

hosted by

                     the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of Pardubice, Czech Republic, 1st – 3rd September 2022



Through the centuries, human societies have faced various crises such as wars, famines, natural disasters, or political and economic breakdowns. Despite reactions emerging within societies can be of different origins, most of them touch basic dimensions framing society’s foundations. Among them, one of the most significant is the sphere of religion and spirituality.

In such troubled times, the legitimacy of religious worldviews is questioned. This tension has the capacity to exhibit double dynamic of spiritual alienation and unification. While crises have the capability to trigger a collapse of former value-systems and religious narratives in search for new and alternative ones, they can also result in various kinds of reviving processes and spiritual activities, thus countering the development of alienation. Well-established religions remind their warnings and prospects in hope of connecting with those who seek solace. New distinguished spiritual personalities share their ideas and offers of salvation. Multiple conspiracy-beliefs share their perspectives with the broader secular public reacting to all the above by either approval or denial.

During this double process of transformation of belief systems, tensions resulting in debates on human behaviour and co-existence in the world emerge among societal sub-groups. In other words, questions of ethics and morals gain a crucial importance. How to understand others and ourselves? How shall we go about relationships among individuals and communities? Should we be thinking in terms of a shared humanity or rather in that of societies fragmented into particular unrelated groups? What kinds of behaviour can be observed as results of these standpoints? To name just a few.

Shall these rather general problems be seen from the Study of religion perspective, following questions arise: How different religious groups perceive each other in times of crises? Do they favour ideas concerning shared core among religions or rather emphasise each one’s uniqueness? What reactions can be observed among these groups? In this process, tensions between religious and secular domains about human behaviour and co-existence in the world grow stronger. Religious communities’ question scientific reliability, while at the same time scientific approaches discredit religious narratives and imperatives. However, countering this, a cooperation of religious and secular spheres can be observed as well.

These and similar problems are not of course limited to the contemporary era alone but stretch across history. To name just few examples, one can think of destructions of important religious places such as the Jewish First and the Second Temples, the Christian Church of Holy Sepulchre or north Indian Nalanda monastic university causing immense turns in specific cultural settings. A spread of plagues in mediaeval Europe affected religious milieus of the time by new challenges for the church to overcome such as a question of role of lay-women in parishes or how to answer flagellant movements. Contemporary COVID-19 pandemic provokes a comparison of human reactions to challenges imposed by the current pandemic and the medieval ones while today the situation is accelerated by vital spread of information via social media. Political upheavals are often linked with turbulent religious changes as observable in Spanish history with the collapse of Cordoba caliphate and subsequent Reconquista period, in modern Sri Lanka where Tamils and Singhalese use Hindu and Buddhist motives to defend their stands and in China whose strong communist regime discredits any traditional communities whether Tibetan, Uyghur or others.

The conference aims to open a symposium where topics concerning transformations of religions during times of crises are discussed with a special focus on religions’ responses to the dynamics of spiritual alienation and unification, which often results in rethinking of ethics.

We welcome papers from PhD students as well as from advanced MA and early career researchers that focus on but are not limited to questions such as:

            How do different religions or spiritualities interact with each other in times of crisis?
            How is religion transformed during the times of crisis from a historical perspective?
            How religious narratives can change our perception of the world, by a process of either uniting or alienating?
            What kinds of behaviours can be observed in religious communities in times of spiritual alienation or crises?
            How spiritual alienation affects both social and religious systems around the world?
            What kinds of behaviours are called for by significant spiritual/religious personalities in troubled times?
            How secular society views the role of religiosity in times of crises?
            Can we observe religious or spiritual dimensions in more secular reactions to the crises?
            Are scientific/secular recommendations and activities perceived as ethical by religious communities in times of crises?
            Et vice versa, do scientific/secular communities perceive religious recommendations and activities as ethical in times of crises?
            What is a role of social media and how do they affect the double dynamic of spiritual alienation and unification?



Date of the event: 1st – 3rd September 2022.

Venue: Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of Pardubice, Czech Republic (building and room: TBA)


Organizing Committee 

            Oleksii Rudenko | CEU
            František Válek | CUNI
            Krisztina Bodzásné Csényi-Nagy | ELTE
            Dominik Čisárik | UNIBA
            Vilém Skopal | UPCE
            Tancredi Marrone | MUNI
            Márk Nemes | SZEGED



Keynote Speakers 

          prof. Máté-Tóth András

The founder and the head of the Department of the Study of Religion, University of Szeged. The research interest of prof. Máté-Tóth lies in inquiring into problems related to the mutual interactions between religious and social turns in Central and Eastern Europe while, at the same time, he endeavours in building a theoretical understanding of contemporary religious processes.

You can visit prof. Máté-Tóth’s profile here.


          doc. Hugo Strandberg

Associate professor at the Åbo Akademi University, Finland. Docent Strandberg’s research interest lies in philosophy of religion, existential philosophy, critical theory, and phenomenology. Between 2018-2021 docent Strandberg was a member of the Centre for Ethics, University of Pardubice. Among his most recent publications belong books Forgiveness and Moral Understanding, Palgrave Macmillan, 2021 and Self-Knowledge and Self-Deception, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

For more info visit docent Strandberg’s profile here.



Selected papers will have the opportunity to be published in a thematic volume of the peer-reviewed open access journal Axis Mundi (2023) published by the Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovak Republic. Those who are interested in this possibility are called to send full texts of their presentations together with the registration (see below).


Informal first-day workshop 

On the first day, an informal workshop will take place outside of the university buildings. The topic of the workshop will be announced after the application deadline when topic-wise selected authors will be asked about any interest in participating in the workshop. In case of agreement, authors will be called for full texts of their papers (see below).


Submitting full texts

Those who wish to publish their papers in Axis Mundi journal should sent full texts of their papers in advance to facilitate the review process. Also, those who wish to participate on the first-day informal workshop shall do the same to enable organisers to distribute the texts among other participants in order to stimulate enriching debates. It is expected that the full texts shall be drafts of the work and, therefore, subsequent alterations based on both debates during the conference and comments by organisers are anticipated.

Format details: Title, name of the author(s), abstract (up to 300 words), 5 – 10 keywords, text (up to 36 000 characters including spaces), citations shall follow The Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition. For further information, consult submission guideline of Axis Mundi journal.


Conference format: The organizers reserve all rights to hold the event in hybrid / fully online format, in case of any unforeseen difficulties in the upcoming months. In the occurrence of such changes, the organizers will inform the speakers and all participants in time.

If the conference will be held in person, the organizers request all participants to be informed about the current epidemiological rules and regulations and follow them strictly during the whole span of the event.

If you have any questions or request further information, feel free to contact the organizers:


Conference programme