Why is Implicit Religion Implicit?


  • David Hay Aberdeen University




Geertz, Max Stirner, individualism, relational consciousness


To say that certain expressions of religion are ‘implicit’ is to suggest that there are good reasons why they cannot be made ‘explicit’. This paper accepts that religions are socially constructed systems of symbols (Geertz), but emphasises that they are also responses to the experience of a relationship with a transcendent presence. Qualitative and quantitative empirical data are presented to demonstrate that such experience is extremely commonplace in Britain. Yet public reference to this biologically built-in awareness is often the cause of embarrassment and fear of ridicule. The origins of this taboo are traced back to the damage done to relational consciousness by the possessive individualism that emerged in Europe during the seventeenth century. The rise of individualism is associated with interlinked changes in religious, philosophical, political and economic beliefs that continue to dominate Western economic and political life. During the nineteenth century the Young Hegelian Max Stirner demonstrated (and applauded) how the assumptions of individualism lead logically to an extreme form of atheism. However, since individualism is a social construct, it can potentially be deconstructed. Hence, in principle, religion need not continue to be as implicit as it currently is in many people’s lives.



How to Cite

Hay, D. (2003). Why is Implicit Religion Implicit?. Implicit Religion, 6(1), 17–40. https://doi.org/10.1558/imre.v6i1.17