Event Report: Rethinking Boundaries in the Study of Religion and Politics

400480_321189627925542_1317679353_n(1)Nathan Alexander attended the recent postgraduate conference,  Rethinking Boundaries in the Study of Religion and Politics held at the University of Aberdeen. Here he outlines his experiences and gives some commentary on the papers pertinent to the research network. 

The ‘Rethinking Boundaries in the Study of Religion and Politics’ postgraduate conference, held at the University of Aberdeen on the 11th and 12th of September, sought to interrogate the various categories that scholars of religion work with. The conference was interdisciplinary and spanned a range of topics (from Christian Scientists to the Muslim Brotherhood), but there was plenty that would have specifically interested scholars of atheism or other forms of irreligion. There was a panel devoted to atheism, a paper about the Sunday Assembly in London, and a keynote address by Abby Day, a sociologist of belief and non-belief.

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Sticks and Stones: The Use of Anti-Secular Discourse in Britain

In this post, Steven Kettell discusses a
rise of a strident anti-secular discourse in Britain. Intolorent secularist discourse is inherently anti-religious and wants to drive religion from the public space. Anti-secularist discourses, on the other hand have seen a rise in the promotion of religion in ‘public’ spaces. Kettell explores the motives and agendas of these discourses.

The past decade has seen the rise of a strident anti-secular discourse in Britain. Based on the idea that a militant, aggressive and intolerant form of secularism is trying to marginalise faith and drive it out of the public square, anti-secular rhetoric has found growing popularity among political as well as religious figures (particularly those associated with the Christian faith) aiming to promote a greater role for faith in the public realm. The interests and motives behind the new anti-secularism, however, are substantively divergent, and the prospects of success are slim.

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Event Report: Atheism research at the 2015 IAPR World Congress

In this post, Thomas Coleman discusses the conference the International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR) 2015 World Congress (17th-20th August 2015). Coleman takes us on a tour of the conference, through panels of interest to him on topics of atheism, disbelief and nonreligious mystical, or transcendent, experience.


Straddling the continents of Europe and Asia, the country of Turkey serves as both a literal and metaphorical bridge between not only the East and West, but also the secular and religious. And while the interplay between these porous categories is present the world over, this dialectic is particularly salient in Turkey. Religiosity flows through the streets and the Muslim call for prayer echoing off red clay tiled roofs is testament to this (and indeed cannot be ignored when rousing one from their hotel bed at 5am in the morning). Continue reading

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Event Report: American Psychological Association Annual Conference

Jason A. Cantone presented research on the psychology of discrimination at the annual American Psychological Association convention, held in Toronto, CA, on August 6-9, 2015. In the following, he summarizes some of the research that other psychological scholars presented on nonreligion and secularity.

Under the cloud of recent revelations that officials within the American Psychological Association (APA) colluded with Department of Defense officials to fashion ethical deadlines that did not constrain U.S. programs using enhanced interrogation (Hoffman, et.al., 2015), APA held their annual convention from August 6-9, 2015 in Toronto, Canada.

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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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