Playing Many Religion-Games: a Wittgensteinian Approach to Multiple Religious Belonging

  • 1 Quaker Study Centre, , Birmingham, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland


Using resources from Ludwig Wittgenstein and George Lindbeck, this paper develops a new conceptual tool for the understanding of religious identity: the ‘religion-game’. Although related to Wittgenstein’s language-games and drawing on Lindbeck‘s cultural-linguistic model of religion, this conceptual tool produces new results when applied to examples of multiple religious belonging. Drawing on the existing literature about the practice of multiple religious participation in Western countries, two realistic examples are developed at length and it is shown that the concept of a religion-game can help people to express their religious belonging in more positive ways. In particular, the many everyday choices made by people with more than one religious affiliation are clarified as choices to participate in some religion-games but not others. This de-emphasises the role of identity, often assumed to be singular, in religious belonging and enables an emphasis on behaviour which both fits with the turn towards ‘lived religion’ and permits a vivid and accurate account of the experience of at least two common paths to multiple religious belonging.

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Open Theology is an international Open Access, peer-reviewed academic journal that welcomes contributions written in English addressing religion in its various forms and aspects: historical, theological, sociological, psychological, and other.