Religion at Play: A Manifesto

By André Droogers

A critique of institutional power in modern religion, seeing religious belief as the playful exploration of possibilities that resists petrification.

ISBN: 9780718893965


  • Is a powerful position a guarantee that a religion will continue?
  • Does God take sides in religious power struggles?
  • Can God survive religious exclusivity and diversity?
  • Is God migrating from “out there” to “in here”?
  • Is religion sustainable in the long run?

In seeking answers to these questions, this book explores the possibilities afforded by playful religion. Religion has playful origins, but this aspect is forgotten as soon as institutional power becomes self-serving instead of subservient. Power changes the very essence of religion. Virtually all religions are distorted versions of a playful original. Institutionalisation is religion’s curse, not its blessing. Apparent success hides the failure of religion to be faithful to its original intent. This book helps to find the way back from bordering to inclusivity and openness.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationLPOD

About the Author

André Droogers ( is Emeritus Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. His other books include Play and Power in Religion: Collected Essays (2012) and (with Anton van Harskamp) Methods for the Study of Religious Change: From Religious Studies to Worldview Studies (2014).



Introduction: Bordering

1. Exploring Religion
2. The Handicapped Human Animal
3. Explaining Religion
4. Powerful Religion
5. Playful Religion
6. Weighty Questions Reconsidered

Conclusion: De-bordering

Notes to Poems
General Index


Endorsements and Reviews

Religion at Play is a work of love, a passionate call for us to let imagination and openness guide religious experience. Visionary and movingly written, the book affirms people’s capacity to thwart power and to make religious experience a vibrant element in more just world-making projects.
João Biehl, author of Vita

In this book, a distinguished anthropologist of religion re-examines the relationship between power and play, asking whether the ‘ludic’ makes the human animal lucid or ludicrous? Whatever we conclude, this generous and deeply personal essay is full of wisdom.
Grace Davie, author of Religion in Britain since 1945

Religion at Play combines creatively experiences in various continents in which he lived and rigorous scholarly research. A shift of perspective from a powerful to a playful religion is advocated. Thus, it also invites each reader to playfully venture that very same shift in relation to his or her assumptions regarding religion and life.
Walter Altmann, author of Luther and Liberation