Alternative religiosity and its consequences at the end of life


Life and death are a central topic for religions and religiosity. This study examines the conceptions, distribution and consequences of alternative religious ideas and practices with regard to dealing with dying in Switzerland.

Project description (completed research project)

In Switzerland, with the far-reaching changes in the religious landscape, the importance of alternative religious concepts and practices is increasing steadily. This study examines these alternative concepts with regard to shaping and handling the end of life. Characteristic of alternative religiosity is often the reference to the individual, world affirmation, scepticism towards the concept of a personal God and religious institutions, and reference to spirituality rather than religion.


Focusing on three case studies, the study will examine alternative religious/spiritual ideas regarding their significance for the actions of institutions, affected persons and nursing staff. The focus will be on the phase of life when physicians, nursing staff and patient believe that the patient will soon die. Experiences, needs and problems in dealing with the end of life will be investigated using interview and the conceptions which frame these practices will be examined through an analysis of foundational texts. The study thus aims to cast light on not only needs but also implementation problems on the background theories.


The study will produce knowledge about the consequences that have to be expected in medicine’s/nursing’s dealing with the end of life owing to changes in the religious context. In addition, solution-oriented strategies will be drafted for dealing with problem areas in health practice influenced by alternative religiosity and in orthodox medicine.

Original title

Spirituality and end of life. The consequences of alternative religiousness in palliative care

Project leader

  • Prof. Dr. Dorothea Lüddeckens, Religionswissenschaftliches Seminar, Universität Zürich
  • Dr. phil. Rafael Walthert, Religionswissenschaftliches Seminar, Universität Zürich
  • Prof. Dr. Helmut Zander, Lehrstuhl für Vergleichende Religionsgeschichte und Interreligiösen Dialog, Theologische Fakultät, Universität Freiburg



Further information on this content


Prof. Dr. Dorothea Lüddeckens Universität Zürich
Religionswissenschaftliches Seminar
Kirchgasse 9 8001 Zürich +41 44 634 47 19

Products of the project