7. Jahrgang 2007/Heft 2

Marlene Kurz, Thomas Winkelbauer (Hrsg.)

Wiener Zeitschrift zur Geschichte der Neuzeit 2/07
168 Seiten
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  • Jörg Deventer: Konversionen zwischen den christlichen Konfessionen im frühneuzeitlichen Europa
  • Claire Norton: Conversion to Islam in the Ottoman Empire
  • Maria Diemling: Grenzgängertum: Übertritte vom Judentum zum Christentum in Wien, 1500–2000
  • Alexander Jakusch: Identitätssuche, Lebensreform und Zivilisationsabkehr. Konversion zum Buddhismus in Deutschland zwischen 1888 und 1918
  • Stefan Schima: Glaubenswechsel in Österreich in der staatlichen Gesetzgebung von Joseph II. bis heute


  • Thomas Fröschl: Politischer Glaube und Konversion
  • Marlene Kurz: Die Bekehrung zum Islam – eine politische Bekehrung?

Neu gelesen

  • Rudolf Leeb: Kurt Aland, Über den Glaubenswechsel in der Geschichte des Christentums (1961)


  • Ulrike Krampl: Nicolas Brucker (Hg.), La conversion. Expérience spirituelle, expression littéraire
  • Kim Siebenhüner: D. Bruce Hindmarsh, The Evangelical Conversion Narrative. Spiritual Autobiography in Early Modern England
  • Jean-Marie Le Gall: Keith P. Luria, Sacred Boundaries. Religious Coexistence and Conflict in Early Modern France
  • Michael David Finnegan: Michael Brown/Charles Ivar McGrath/Thomas Power (Hg.), Converts and Conversion in Ireland, 1650–1850
  • Gerald Stourzh: Anna L. Staudacher, Jüdisch-protestantische Konvertiten in Wien 1782–1914
  • Edith Saurer: Maria Wojtczak, Aus zwei Glaubenswelten. Bekenntnisse konvertierter Autorinnen (1850–1918)
  • Thomas Bauer: Sebastian C.H. Kim, In Search of Identity. Debates on Religious Conversion in India


  • Anton Tantner: Europäische Adressbüros in der Frühen Neuzeit


Glaubenswechsel oder Konversion, d.h. der freiwillige Übertritt von einer Religionsgemeinschaft zu einer anderen, die Hinwendung eines Individuums oder einer Gruppe zu einem neuen System der religiösen Selbst- und Weltdeutung, ist ein komplexer und vielschichtiger Prozess des Wandels.

Das vorliegende Heft widmet sich diesem scheinbar überzeitlichen und transkulturellen Phänomen exemplarisch, mit unterschiedlichen Fragestellungen, aber jedenfalls mit dem Ziel der historischen Verortung und Kontextualisierung der jeweils untersuchten Glaubenswechsel.

Berücksichtigt werden Konversionen zwischen den christlichen Konfessionen, zwischen Christentum und Islam, Christentum und Judentum und Christentum und Buddhismus von der Frühen Neuzeit bis heute sowie Bekehrungen zu und von politischen („säkularen“) Religionen im 20. Jahrhundert.


Jörg Deventer: Conversions between the Christian confessions in early modern Europe

The religious split in the course of the Reformation and the social, political and cultural effects of the formation of different faiths played a crucial role in the long-term transformation of the society of pre-modern Europe. In a period when church and state cooperated to impose religious conformity, however, religious conversion was far from being an anomaly, but rather a widespread phenomenon. Drawing attention to the period between the end of the Council of Trent and the early eighteenth century, and focusing on different regions and localities in Western and East Central European countries, this article offers an overview of the social spectrum and the mentoring of the converts.
Second it investigates the strategies and practices of persuasion and violence as used by the secular and ecclesiastical authorities as well as the missionaries to promote individual and mass conversions. It is argued that the study of religious conversion could suggest considerable revisions in the way we look at the mechanics and dynamics of early modern confessional formation, as well as the appropriation and relevance of confessional identity.

Claire Norton: Conversion to Islam in the Ottoman Empire

This article provides an overview of religious conversion in the early modern Ottoman Empire through an examination of a variety of sources including captivity and travel narratives, and state documents including petitions and imperial registers. It explores the interconnected institutional, societal and personal factors that led individuals to change their belief system and in doing so, often enter a new community and life. Focusing on conversion as a broadly social rather than spiritual process it considers the motivational role of economic, socio-psychological and coercive criteria, particularly the role that vocational, social and family networks and acculturation played in facilitating conversion.

Maria Diemling: Crossing Borders: Jewish conversions to Christianity in Vienna, 1500–2000

Heinrich Heine, himself a (somewhat reluctant) convert to Protestantism, coined the often repeated bonmot that the certificate of baptism served as the entrance ticket to European culture, a qualification equally accepted by Jews and Christians as the main reason for the baptism of Jews in the modern era. While there is no doubt that for some Jews the conversion to one of the Christian churches was an act of convenience and even opportunism which opened up opportunities hitherto unavailable to them, the reality of Jewish conversions has been much more complex. Focusing on Vienna and spanning the period from the early 16th to the late 20th century, this article discusses the social and historical context in which Jews opted for Christianity and demonstrates how diverse the causes for leaving the Jewish fold and accepting baptism were. Reasons included sincere religious conviction, the wish to marry, antisemitism, the ultimate expression of acculturation, the desperate attempt to survive, a seemingly easy way to make money, dissatisfaction with Judaism, family problems, or even forced baptism. However, this very private and often life-changing decision was ultimately linked to the limitations, pressures and expectations of the Christian majority culture.

Alexander Jakusch: Search for identity, “Lebensreform” and rejection of civilization. Conversion to Buddhism in Germany, 1888–1918

Furthered by philosophy, philology and theosophy, which transported Buddhist scriptures and ideas from Asia to German-speaking Europe, from 1888 until 1918 a German Buddhist movement began to develop. At that time the dominant approach towards Buddhist teaching was rational-cognitive. This also characterizes the process of conversion which in most cases was based on literary acquisition. Mainly members of the middle classes and the educated classes turned to Buddhism to gain a reasonable worldview, which enabled them to take part in the critique of contemporary civilization. In this context identity-related reasons played an important role as a motivation for turning to the new alternative religion. But the overlap of aspects of contemporary alternative culture with parts of Buddhist teaching was also a reason for conversion.

Stefan Schima: Religious conversion in Austria in legislation from Joseph II until the present

With respect to the reign of Joseph II (1780–1790), during which tolerance was granted to the members of protestant and Greek-orthodox communities and parts of the Jewish population, it is meaningful to speak of an Austrian “Übertrittsrecht”, which deals with the conversion from one religious community to another. The analysis of the development of “Übertrittsrecht” during the periods of Austrian History reflects different patterns of government. The “tolerance” granted by Joseph II had not much in common with the actual meaning of this term. After the period of “Vormärz”, during which the situation of religious minorities deteriorated, the liberation of the year 1848 had as a consequence a legal situation which was similar to the current one. In 1868 it became possible to leave a Church without simultaneous conversion into another religious community. For the first time it was possible to have non-denominational status. The legal conditions for leaving a religious community were aggravated during the time of “Ständestaat”, while the Nazi-regime made such proceedings easier. The Second Austrian Republic is marked by equal treatment of recognized religious communities and beyond that by eliminating the difference between the treatment of religious and non religious philosophies of life.

Thomas Fröschl: Secular Faith and Religious Conversion

The impact of Christianity’s religious and cultural influence has for centuries deeply influenced the terms and wording of the European languages, and religious education has created a familiar world of pictures and allusions, a world of a shared system of communication. People who grew up in this cultural tradition and who rejected religious ways of life nevertheless continued to use an already familiar and shared language of the Christian tradition. Therefore, if intellectuals were considered a “secular clergy”, its implication was understood, and thus a religious terminology was successfully applied in many areas outside a strictly “theological” context, in particular in politics. Many intellectuals
and philosophers who described their paths to joining a political party (Socialism, Marxism, Communism) could do this in terms of a religious conversion – and then even the Communist Party could become a “church”, and former members of the party were called “heretics”. This essay argues that analogies exist in the terminology used to describe religious conversations in the same way as political conversations. Yet as Hans Blumenberg has convincingly demonstrated, to use familiar words and meanings from a religious language inherited from a Christian tradition does not necessarily imply a secularization of a theological terminology, because it is not a transformation but simply an analogy.

Marlene Kurz: Conversion to Islam – a Political Conversion?

Modern fundamentalist interpretations of Islam convey the impression that the the Islamic community was necessarily a religious and a political community; accordingly, a conversion to Islam is necessarily seen as a political conversion. However, a thorough and critical analysis of the history of Islam clearly demonstrates that soon after the death of the Prophet religious and political power became separate spheres in most Islamic states. Nevertheless, the importance of the community remains crucial in Islam, and the interconnectedness of political and religious authority was always close in the minds of many Muslims. And yet, as some Suras of the Qur’an reveal, the practice of the Islamic past and the opinions of traditional and modern scholars of Islam do not inevitably lead to an interpretation of the Muslim community of believers as a political community.