The relationship between ‘religion’ and ‘nonreligion’ is often commonly assumed to be one of division or separation. In today’s blog post Anna Strhan discusses how ideas about celebrating ‘life’ and ‘reason’ among both religious and nonreligious communities also highlights lines of connection and affinity.
In his 1909 essay ‘Bridge and Door’, Georg Simmel describes the human being ‘as the connecting creature who must always separate and cannot connect without separating … And the human being is likewise the bordering creature who has no border’ (1994: 174). We make sense of the world through our capacity to connect and to separate things, and Simmel argues that this guides all human activity, shaping our physical, symbolic, emotional and imagined spaces and leaving material marks in the world around us. Exploring the nature of human modes of connection and separation is fundamental to sociology, and is perhaps particularly pertinent in studying ‘nonreligion’ and its relations with ‘religion,’ as it is indexed in the very act of naming this a field of study. In my writing ‘non-religion’, what modes of uniting and disuniting shape my instinct to hyphenate the word (or not)? As the prefix ‘non’ carves out a space of separation from religion, it also draws attention to the doubled nature of lines of division: ‘the separation of objects, people or places is always shadowed by the idea – the “fantasy” or the danger – of their connection’ (Tonkiss 2005: 31). Continue reading
In the latest post to the Nonreligion and Secularity’s special launch series’ Richard Cimino and Christopher Smith consider whether the idea of ‘secular spirituality’ is really a plausible one.
Is there such a thing as a secular spirituality? A recent study found an interest in spirituality amidst a continuing secular drift in the UK. The survey (2013), sponsored by the Christian think tank Theos, found that 77 percent of the British believe in some things that could not be explained by science and other means, and that only a quarter of those surveyed thought spiritual forces had no influence on the Earth. In other words, the study suggests that even many non-religious people don’t want to be categorized as strict materialists. Continue reading
Most interest in nonreligion and secularity is focused on the West and its dominant cultures; it is argued, in fact, that such concepts have limited meaning in any other settings. In today’s launch series article, James Cox challenges this view, arguing that much can be learned by taking nonreligion as the starting point in research with other populations — Australian Aboriginals, in the case of his own work.
The category ‘Nonreligion’ is frequently associated with debates over the secularisation process in the West or it has been linked to controversies surrounding the ‘new atheism’ and cognitive approaches within the sciences of religion. Often overlooked in this field of study are indigenous populations. Continue reading
In the first post of Nonreligion and Secularity’s special launch series the Guardian’s Andrew Brown reflects on the assumptions underlying public and media treatments of religion and the secular.
C.S. Lewis writes somewhere of his experience as a subaltern in the trenches that ‘everyone’ who had censored the letters of the other ranks knew about their attitude to sex. The point I want to take up is not about sex. It is about the things that ‘everyone’ knows. Only from the outside can these be seen as beliefs, just as it is only from the outside that ‘everyone’ is understood as a very exclusive category indeed – one which normally excludes the people whose letters are being censored, or, in English upper middle class usage, the servants, the locals and readers of the Daily Mail Continue reading
The UK Home Office’s recent decision to grant asylum to a young Afghan man on the grounds of his atheism has been the subject of significant media interest and debate. In this blog post NSRN director Stacey Gutkowski considers some of the wider cultural narratives contained within coverage of this case.
Last week the case of a 23 year old Afghan man who was granted asylum in the United Kingdom received significant attention in the British and some English-language international press. He first claimed asylum in the UK in 2007 at the age of 16 on the grounds of being an unaccompanied minor, having fled violence against his family. This claim was rejected but he was granted discretionary leave to remain until 2013 (Dugan 2014). Over the intervening years living in the UK – a country in which 65% of the population identify as having little or no religious orientation (Siegers 2010) – he gradually came to identify as an atheist. Continue reading
Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus in Sociology, was a pioneer in the social scientific study of irreligion but after the 1971 publication of his groundbreaking book, Toward a Sociology of Irreligion, he — and sociology — moved in other directions. On the republication of this classic work, Campbell reflects on the rise and fall — and rise again — of the project he originally conceived of over four decades ago.
[The] opening sentence of Toward A Sociology of Irreligion reads “No tradition for the sociological study of irreligion as yet exists and this book as been written in the hope that it will stimulate the development of just such a tradition”. Looking back, I am not sure that I did actually have that much hope, when those lines were written in 1970, that this would come to pass. After all I was a junior academic, only having completed my PhD three years earlier, and hence had no particularly good reason to believe that anyone would take much notice of my work, although I did imagine – perhaps naively – that such an important topic would not continue to be ignored by academics for much longer; even though I was not so vain as to imagine that my own contribution to the field would, in itself, kick-start such a development. How wrong could one be? Continue reading
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