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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Time to name a movement?

Cragun_RIn this post, Ryan Cragun asks if it is time to give nonreligious movements a name. If so, what might this name be? And how, as an academic, can he avoid the pitfalls of labeling a group from the outside – rather than from within.

In the last five years or so, scholars have begun to think about informal and organized atheist, agnostic, humanist, secularist, nonreligious, and freethought activity as a social movement (Cimino and Smith 2007, 2011; LeDrew 2013; McAnulla 2012; Smith 2013). All the relevant indicators seem to suggest that this is a social movement and I think there is a need for more research in this area to better understand it as a movement.

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“Non-event” report: Why the Sunday Assembly event did not launch in Japan

In this post, Yutaka Osakabe and Isaac Gagné explore what we can learn from the absence of the Sunday Assembly [SA] in Japan, despite some interest in setting it up. What can a lack of interest in a Japanese SA tell us about the SA framework and/or the Japanese relationship to organised religion? 

Sunday Assembly

God-less congregations, also known as members of the Sunday Assembly (SA), have been a recurring topic on this blog. Discussions around the SA have raised a number of meaningful questions over any strict distinction between religion and non-religion. This post, however, takes a slightly different approach, by exploring what difficulties the SA might face when they attempt to expand their movement outside the post-Christendom west. How do the SA attempt to address any challenges they face during expansion and indeed if they are interested in overcoming such difficulties? These questions follow an attempt to participate in a launch event for SA in Japan. As it turned out, the launch was a ‘non-event’. In the face of the usual positive, success story of the SA this ‘non-event’ seemed to offer the possibility of reflection on failure, and some raised new questions about the SA.

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‘She has forgotten her sex’: On the history of women and non-religion

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASuvi Karila discusses the historical roots of the problematic intersection of womanhood and non-religion in the context of the 19th century United States. Karila suggests that the actual experiences of unbeliever women not only in the present, but also in the past, are important to explore to address the issue of how non-religion has been and still is a very much gendered phenomenon.

Time and again studies suggest the same: women are more religious than men (see e.g. Trzebiatowska & Bruce 2012). Men tend to be the public faces of religious communities, but women participate more actively in religious activities, they pray more, and overall, religion plays a larger role in their lives. In addition, women rarely identify as atheists (Mahlamäki 2012: 60-61). Recently, this was seen in a study published by the UCL Institute of Education. The study showed that whereas 54% of British men born in 1970 identify as atheists, the figure among women is only 34% (Voas 2015). For a historian of non-religion, these results sound anything but new. The difference in religiosity between the genders had already been acknowledged by both the religious majority and the non-believers themselves 200 years ago. Here I reflect on the theme of gender and irreligiosity in the context of the 19th century United States, which is also the focus of my on-going PhD dissertation. Continue reading

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