Event Report: Old religion and new spirituality 26th-29th May 2015


In this post, Atko Remmel discusses the conference ‘Old religion and new spirituality: continuity and changes in the background of secularization’. held at the University of Tartu, Estonia (26th-29th  May 2015). The event was organized by the research group of religious studies of the Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory (Estonia) and the faculty of Theology of the University of Tartu. The conference also featured two panels on nonreligion and atheism. Continue reading

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Event Report: Women negotiating secularism & multiculturalism through civil society organisations

Alison Halford Blog PicutreIn this post Alision Halford gives details of the workshop, ‘Women negotiating secularism & multiculturalism through civil society organisations’, held at the University of Coventry this year. The conference drew an international audience, covering topics as diverse as FGM and Hindu Nationalism. In the post, Halford summaries some key questions raised by the speakers, adding her own reflections on the need to challenge normative frameworks of essentialist/secular beliefs.

Coventry may be a city that Larkin described as a place where ‘nothing happens’ [i] but at the second of three workshops hosted by the University of Coventry in June 2015 and funded by the International Society for the Sociology of Religion and run by an organising team consisting of Prof. Mia Lovheim (Uppsala University), Dr Terhi Utriainen (University of Helsinki) and Drs Teresa Toldy and Alberta Giorgi (Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra) [ii] that all changed.  As the host Dr Kristin Aune contended  we could use this convention to develop a dynamic and innovative dialogue on the lived experiences of secular, nonreligious and religious women. As recent events have demonstrated, religious identities and norms are becoming increasingly visible, causing us to question how women’s groups, feminists and activists respond to their perceived challenges to gender equality. But how we can find consensus between secular feminists and religious women? Are there responses that make it possible to secure both gender equality and religious freedom without sacrificing either?

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Japan’s First Psychotherapies: Between ‘Religion’ and ‘Therapy’


In this post, Christopher Harding discusses the historical negotiation between Buddhism and Psychotherapeutic frameworks, in Japan. The gives a fascinating insight into a moment in which secular and ‘religious’ frameworks come up against one another. This includes negotiating concepts such as the autonomous individual, or the ‘self’, in relation to a moral or spiritual life. The post will benefit NSRN readers interested in the questions of definitions, and the boundaries between religious and secular models.

[Psycho]analysis of character is in a way a religion since through this process the person becomes free of all worldly worries. In olden days it was only a few well-known Buddhist monks who were able to achieve this state of mind. But today a person can achieve [it] using scientific method and reason. It is possible to attain the condition known in Japanese as gedatsu [liberation from earthly desires and woes] by removing virtually all the complexes which dwell in one’s unconscious by means of the method of psychoanalytic abreaction.[i]

So wrote Yabe Yaekichi, one of the founder members of the Tokyo Psychoanalytical Society. He was broadly representative of a religious modernism in early twentieth century Japan that asked whether some of the ideas and practices associated with Buddhism, Shinto and Confucianism might usefully be updated via the latest scientific approaches to the mind. Some of Japan’s Buddhist sects were particularly keen on this idea, striving to present Buddhism not as the force for common superstition and backwardness that its critics claimed but rather as a trial-and-error tradition that in the era of modern Western science had finally come of age. Continue reading

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Religious Nones in Canada: A Qualitative Exploration

In this post Joel Thiessen discusses his research with religious nones in the Canadian context. The post includes a discussion of the perceived benefits of such a position, and how his research participants describe finding meaning and purpose in their lives. 

religious nones


This November marks the release of my book, The Meaning of Sunday: The Practice of Belief in a Secular Age, based on face-to-face interviews with three groups of Canadians: active religious affiliates (identify with a Christian group and attend religious services nearly every week), marginal religious affiliates (identify with a Christian group and attend religious services mainly for religious holidays and rites of passage), and religious nones (do not identify with any religion and never attend religious services). Continue reading

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What Religion is your Baby?

KSissons photo

In this post Katherine Sissons reflects on the Census 2011. She discusses the statistically significant relationship between gender and reliosity in female and male babies and young children (aged 0-4). What impact might this have for understanding the ‘nones’ and the way that the gender balance of adult religiosity and non-religiosity has on the next generation?

The 2001 Census for England and Wales was only the second census in Great Britain to include a question about religion (the first was in 1851). Analysing the data from the 2001 Census, sociologists found that baby girls were more likely than baby boys to be ‘Christian’(Voas & McAndrew 2012). Does this pattern persist in the 2011 Census? Continue reading

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Reflections on Socrel 2015 – Foundations and Futures

In this post Katie Aston summarises just some of the presentations delivered at the katie2015 Socrel conference, which may be of interest to researchers in the field the Nonreligion and Secularity.

Established in 1975, the Sociology of Religion Study Goup (Socrel) celebrated its 40th year with a conference held from 7th-9th July, hosted by Kingston University.  The theme – “Foundations and Futures” provided opportunities to reflect on the achievements of the study group and to look forward to the future of the group and the discipline.  2015 conference (7th-9th July, hosted by Kingston University).

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Event Report: Dispatches from Baylor’s End of Religion Symposium 


In this post Paul McClure reports on the End of Religion Symposium. He outlines contributions from Rodney Stark, Phillip Jenkins, Jeff Levin, Bryon Johnson and J. Gordon Melton who contributed to the symposium from multiple disciplinary perspectives. McClure, however, notes the absence of work on “spiritual, but not religious” (SBNRs) phenomena. 

A cohort of researchers from the Institute for Studies in Religion (ISR) at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, recently hosted a symposium entitled “The End of Religion? An Essential Corrective to the Secularization Myth.”[1] True to the symposium’s title, the panel of experts—featuring Rodney Stark, Philip Jenkins, Jeff Levin, Byron Johnson, and J. Gordon Melton—questioned many assumptions of the traditional secularization hypothesis. In their view, too much fuss has been made about recent upticks in Nones, despite the Pew Forum’s recent release of yet another report confirming their numerical expansion in the United States.[2] These findings, according to the symposium speakers, while profitable in the American context, miss the fact that religion is alive, well, and moving furiously throughout many parts of the world. Continue reading

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Review: Atheists in America (2014), edited by Melanie E. Brewster

Hannah S

In this post Hannah Scheidt  reviews Melanie E. Brewster’s  edited volume Atheists in America. Scheidt focuses on the ways in which Brewster’s deals with the issue of ‘coming out’ as an atheist and he focus on ‘New Atheist’ phenomenon.

Melanie Brewster’s edited volume Atheists in America brings together twenty-seven short personal narratives about being and becoming atheist in contemporary America. Gathered from a national call for submissions, the contributions represent a diverse sample in terms of age, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, geographical region, and (former) religion. The narratives are organized into eight chapters. Chapters devoted to leaving faith or “deconversion,” navigating romantic relationships, family life and parenting, workplace dynamics, and aging collect narratives that reflect on the “atheist experience” throughout the stages of life. Chapters on cultural context, LGBTQ issues, and the search for community highlight both shared experiences as well as rich diversity in the lives and identities of American atheists today.

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Meaning and Purpose in Non-Religious Societies

In this blog post, Gleb Tsipursky asks questions about ‘meaning’ and purpose in the lives of the nonreligious. Often religion is associated with ‘big questions’. However, his research with nonreligious and secular populations suggests these questions are more than simply religious ones. 


Why should we as scholars of secularism and nonreligion care about meaning and purpose? After all, meaning and purpose fall squarely within the realm of the kind of big life questions that are traditionally addressed by religion. Yet there has been much new research, in fields as diverse as psychology and history, which has addressed meaning and purpose in nonreligious and secular contexts. Continue reading

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It’s not all about Islam: misreading secular politics in the Middle East

In this post Stacey Gutkowski discuss western secular politic habitus and it’s affect when intervening in, and understanding, recent uprisings in the Middle East and the rise of Islamic State. This post was originally published on Open Democracy 25 April 2015.

Much western, particularly French, media coverage of the January attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices and the kosher supermarket in Paris fell prey to an old orientalist trope of the ‘War on Terror’: that Western secular culture is innately peaceful, rational and tolerant, while Islam is distinctly ambiguous on these matters. Continue reading

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