Christopher R. Cotter is co-founder, co-editor-in-chief, and co-host of the RSP podcast, and CEO of The Religious Studies Project Association (SCIO). He is Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Chris completed his doctorate in Religious Studies at Lancaster University in 2016. His thesis–Religion-Related Discourse: A Critical Approach to Non-Religion in Edinburgh’s Southside–focused upon the discourses on ‘religion’ in the Southside of Edinburgh, the concepts of ‘non-religion’ and ‘the secular’, and the ensuing critical and theoretical implications for Religious Studies. His previous degrees at the University of Edinburgh focused upon ‘New Atheism’ and alternative typologies of ‘non-religion’. His wider interests include New Religious Movements, qualitative methods, discourse analysis, spatial approaches, critical theory, and Religious Studies as a discipline.
He is co-editor of Social Identities between the Sacred and the Secular (Ashgate, 2013), After World Religions: Reconstructing Religious Studies (Routledge, 2016), and New Atheism: Critical Perspectives and Contemporary Debates (Springer, 2017). He is also Co-Director at the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network and Honorary Treasurer of the British Association for the Study of Religions. See his personal blog, or academia.edu page for a full CV.
What myths do non-religious people use in their climate and environmental activism? What does the study of everyday stories bring to the study of 'religion' and 'non-religion'? Find out in this interview with Dr. Tim Stacey by RSP Co-Founder Christopher R. Cotter.
10 years in the making! Celebrate our decade of scholarship with this special episode, "Thanks for listening!"
Who will be the weakest link in our 2020 MidYear Special?!
This month's Discourse! - with Chris Cotter, Ray Kim, and Theo Wildcroft - kicks off with a festive twist on our now-traditional focus upon Covid-19 to discuss recent relaxations in restrictions in the UK, halal vaccinations, and much more.
Can discourse analysis help scholars avoid the pitfalls of studying non-religion? In his new book, RSP Co-Founder Christopher R. Cotter argues it can. Speaking with co-host Breann Fallon, this interview highlights the challenges of studying non-religion while celebrating the promise of new methodologies.
How can the field address its whiteness and the legacy of its colonial origins? In this final episode of our 2019/2020 season Christopher Cotter speaks with Malory Nye about decolonizing Religious Studies.
In April’s episode of Discourse!, Chris Cotter, Chris Silver and Susannah Finver place the current global situation relating to coronavirus front and centre in their discussion.
In this episode, Christopher Cotter discusses Near Death Experiences with Jens Schlieter. How does one study reports of such experiences from a critical study of religion perspective? How are such reports related to modern societal developments such as ‘secularization’, individualization, or advances in medical science?
Chris Cotter and Beth Singler discuss the intersections between religion and Artificial Intelligence from slavery and pain to machines taking over religious functions and practices.
Vivian Asimos, Chris Cotter, Time Hutchings and Suzanne Owen discuss the intersections of Media and the Study of Religion.
For our eighth(!) annual special, Only Sixty Seconds returns! This time, Chris Cotter is your host, as David G. Robertson returns to defend his 2018 crown against Bettina Schmidt, Douglas Davies and Theo Wildcroft. We may not have avoided repetition, but I do not hesitate in promising you no deviation from hilarity!
In this podcast, Chris Cotter is joined by Dr Stacey Gutkowski to discuss what it means to be a ‘secular Jewish Israeli millennial’.
Chris Cotter is joined by Susannah Crockford and Sierra Lawson in this month's edition of discourse, discussing college football politics in Alabama, Donald Trump's new 'spiritual adviser', a Day of the Dead/Dia de Muertos memorializing migrants who have died at the US border, Armistice/Remembrance/Veterans day rituals, and the recent controversy surrounding QR codes at the AAR-SBL.
This panel, recorded at the EASR conference 2019 at the University of Tartu, is intended for PhD students and early career scholars who want to learn more about the publishing world.
Vivian Asimos and Theodora Wildcroft took the opportunity to ask the delegates of BASR 2019 what inspired them about the conference theme, their opinion about major trends in the discipline, and how they were personally feeling about REF 2021.
Listeners to the Religious Studies Project, particularly in a European context, might be quite familiar with the sight of a former church building that has now turned derelict, or is being used for a purposes that perhaps it wasn’t intended for, or is being rejuvenated by another ‘religious’ community, another Christian community, or put to some other use. Chris is joined today by Daan Beekers to discuss spatial contestations and conversions, particularly looking at (former) church buildings in the Dutch context.
Given the way in which many introductory courses present the history of early Islam and pre-Islamic Arabia, we may be tempted to think that the historical facts were well established and the narrative uncontested. However, this is far from the case. What evidence do we actually have from this period, and how may it challenge the conventional narratives that have become canonised in sacred and academic histories? What misconceptions might be challenged by modern epigraphic work, or the application of Social Identity theories to ancient texts? And why might this matter for contemporary Islam, contemporary Islamic Studies, and the critical study of religion more broadly? Joining Chris to discuss these questions, is Dr Ilkka Lindstedt of the University of Helsinki.
Any casual user of social media can’t have missed the increasing number of adverts for dozens of ‘mindfulness’ apps. Perhaps you have encountered the term in the workplace or in a healthcare setting? It seems that, in the contemporary West, mindfulness is everywhere. But what is it? How popular is it? What is its connection to particular forms of Buddhism? Can it ever be considered wholly secular or is it necessarily religious? And why does this matter, and for whom? Today, Chris is joined by Ville Husgafvel of the University of Helsinki to discuss these important questions surrounding an increasingly pervasive phenomenon that has received little engagement from the critical religious studies community.
This special edition of #Discourse was recorded at the University of Helsinki in mid-February, with Chris and Study of Religion students Joel Ritala, Jarno Sandberg, Anton Stranden and Martta Tenhu. Topics covered include conspiracy theories, the entanglement of 'religion' in education and festive celebrations in Finland and the UK, the first amendment of the United States constitution, and a controversial conversion in the Netherlands.
Chris and Atko Remmel discuss Estonia, a context in which notions and debates on religion, atheism, and indifference are interrelated in complex ways with the history of nationalism, and two foreign religious-secular regimes: German Lutheran and Soviet Atheism.
Today, Chris is joined by Marcus Moberg and Sofia Sjö to discuss the fascinating “Young Adults and Religion in a Global Perspective” project, which has been addressing this dearth on a massive scale. In this interview, we discuss the logistics and some of the emerging findings of a project which has involved utilizing a number of innovative research methods – including the Faith Q-Sort
Welcome to the second issue of “Discourse”, where our editors and guests take a critical look at how the category “religion” is being used in the media, the public sphere, and the academic field. This episode, Chris (Cotter) is joined by Chris (Silver) and Theo Wildcroft, both long-time friends and contributors to the RSP, for a cross-Atlantic discussion. After the inevitable discussion of US identity conflicts and terrorism, and ugly manifestation of the KKK in Northern Ireland, discussion moved on to the accepted protocols of trick or treating, and the use of patisserie in debates on LGBT human rights vs religious freedom. Can’t access this episode? Subscribe at https://www.patreon.com/projectrs
Ever since the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015, the ‘refugee’ in Germany has been constructed in a variety of ways that are implicated in specific co-constitutive notions of the ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ that exert symbolic power by naturalizing certain notions of the religious and thereby the secular while excluding others and feeding back into the subject formation (or subjectivation) of people classified as ‘refugees’. In this process certain positions are produced as hegemonic while others are classified as not acceptable (e.g., “radical”, “not European” or “anti-humanist”).
Given that popular cultural representations are more likely to shape public perceptions about what the study of religion is and who does it than either direct experience in the classroom or statistics about graduation rates and job placements, we hope that you will agree that we should try to understand what these perceptions are. In this podcast, Chris speaks with Professors Brian Collins and Kristen Tobey about this fascinating and important topic.
Is, as Sherry Ortner once asked, Female to Nature as Male is to Culture? Where does this discourse come from? How does this gendering of nature intersect with contemporary forms of ecospirituality? And religion more generally? Why does it matter? And for whom? Joining Chris today to discuss these questions and more, is Dr Susannah Crockford of Ghent University.
Why attend conferences? What is the point? What else could we do instead that might be a better use of our time? And how did we find having a fully-functional podcast studio set up at this conference? These are just a few of the issues that crop up in this lively roundtable discussion, facilitated by the inestimable Moritz Klenk.
Welcome to "Discourse", where our editors and guests take a critical look at how the category "religion" is being used in the media, the public sphere, and the academic field. This episode, David and Chris are joined by RSP Associate Editor Breann Fallon from Sydney, Australia, to discuss new Aussy Prime Minister ScoMo's Pentacostalism, an Abductee Democratic candidate in Miami, Scottish Nationalism as "religion-like", and more.
In the first of our summer "Editors' Picks", Chris Cotter flags up an important interview, in which Jack Tsonis "demonstrates how the term 'Axial Age' shares much in common with the notion of 'World Religions' in that both - to quote the subtitle to Tomoko Masuzawa's seminal work - preserve 'European universalism [...] in the language of pluralism'."
"Religions are belief systems", "Religions are intrinsically violent", "Religion is Bullshit"... these are just some of the pervasive cliches that we might hear from time to time in the English-speaking world about our central topic of discussion on the RSP, 'religion'.
In this wide-ranging interview, Chris and Professor Fuentes discuss the themes of the lecture series, the intersections of research on human evolution, ethnoprimatology, and human nature, with the study of religion more generally, the Planet of the Apes films, and more. Along the way,...
With the rise of reactionary politics across the globe, it is arguably increasingly important for the academic community to give consideration to the prospects of developing and strengthening solidarity across apparent religious, political and economic differences. In this podcast, Chris speaks to Dr Timothy Stacey (University of Ottawa) about his forthcoming book, Myth and Solidarity in the Modern World:
A panel on the public impact and engagement of Religious Studies/Study of Religion/s led by committee members of the British Association for the Study of Religions, including Dr Stephen Gregg (Wolverhampton), Dr Christopher Cotter (Edinburgh), Dr Suzanne Owen (Leeds Trinity), Dr David Robertson (The Open University) and Dr Steven Sutcliffe (Edinburgh). Issues discussed include why RS continues to be a "muted voice" ...
In this podcast, we check in with the state of the field, discuss developments beyond the Anglophone "West", some of the many exciting projects being worked on under the "Understanding Unbelief" banner, the utility and pitfalls of the terminology of "unbelief", and some of the critical issues surrounding the reification of survey categories.
The Religious Studies Project have launched a Patreon campaign - Chris and David explain why. Be part of the solution, not the problem...
Sexual ethics and Islam? How might one begin to study such a vast and "problematic" topic? What are some of the most prescient issues that recur in this contested field? And what is the broader significance of this discussion for Religious Studies in general?
We spend a lot of time on the Religious Studies Project discussing Religious Studies as a discipline or field of study, what it means to study 'religion' with or without quotation marks, and what exactly it is that the critical, scholarly study of societal discourses surrounding 'religion' might have to offer. However, ...
This roundtable, in association with the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, considers the impact of recent technological advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics on religion, religious conceptions of the world, and the human. It draws attention to how such advances push religion beyond how it has been commonly defined and considered.
What is the relationship between 'religion', 'spirituality', 'addiction' and 'addiction recovery'? What are we meaning by 'addiction'? Is it socially constructed? Why are we even talking about a relationship between these concepts?
"The Unverifiable Truth-claim", recorded at BASR 2016, hosted by David Robertson, and featuring Christopher Cotter, Katie Aston, Jonathan Tuckett, and Krittika Bhatta... Bhatta... Bhattacharjee! Plus a special appearance by RSP Managing Editor, Thomas Coleman!
In this longer-than-usual episode, Chris and David provide an interlinking narrative between Grace Davie, Joe Webster, Carole Cusack, Jonathan Jong, Paul-Francois Tremlett, Linda Woodhead and Kim Knott, reflecting on current or future developments in the sociology of religion which challenge the ubiquity of the secularization thesis, ...
Discussion starts with the entanglement of the concepts 'religion' and 'secularism', a brief discussion of the problems associated with the World Religions Paradigm, and then moves to the pedagogical merits and challenges of teaching 'secularism/s' within a World Religions model. We hope you enjoy this experiment!
We discuss what we mean by 'radicalisation', and what its connections to socialisation, terrorism, and 'religion' might be. We take on the methodological question of how one might go about researching such a contested topic, and look specifically at some of Matthew's findings relating to the causes of radicalisation, and the neo-Durkheimian 'sacred'.
We begin this interview by asking what is ‘youth’? How do sociologists define it? What are some of the current trends in sociological research on youth? What, if anything, is distinctive about youth experience? Discussion then turns to ‘religion and youth’, focusing on why scholars might be interested in it, ...
In this interview, we discuss the broad topic of diversity, contrast this with concepts of 'difference', and ask what on Steven Vertovec might mean by the concept of 'super-diversity' (2007). We then ask why scholars might be interested in situations of 'religious diversity',...
'Religion' and 'Feminism' are two concepts that have a complex relationship in the popular imaginary. But what do academics mean by these two concepts? And how can we study their interrelationship? What can we say about 'religion and feminism', about the academic study of 'religion and feminism', ...
Area 51, Ancient Aliens, endemic child abuse at the BBC, and Reptilians,... This interview begins with David's own journey to this research field, before considering some basic questions such as "what is a conspiracy theory?"
Today we are joined by Dr Dominic Corrywright of Oxford Brookes University in the UK, to discuss current developments in higher education pedagogy, the challenges and opportunities that these present for Religious Studies, and some practical examples from Dominic’s own experience.
Fourteen contestants. One tetchy quizmaster. Three microphones. Numerous cases of wine. One glamorous assistant. Many bruised egos. A boisterous studio audience. A splash of irreverence. Dozens of questions. Four years of podcasts! A rapidly diminishing reservoir of academic credibility. And far, far too many in-jokes...
It is unfortunate fact that in popular ‘Western’ imagination, the land of India is frequently orientalised, and naively conceptualized as ‘the quintessential land of religion, spirituality, and miracles.’ Although we would certainly not want to completely invert this stereotype by substituting one unnuanced and inaccurate construct for another, ...
The interview explores S. Brent Plate's personal research journey into this relatively young field, charting the history of the field in the process. Discussion then turns to the key terms involved... what are we meaning by "religion and film"? The relationship of established "world religions" to cinema? Religion/s on Film? Documentaries?
in this interview, we discuss Jenny Butler's work on Paganism in Ireland, the impact of that particular context upon the Paganism/s she has researched - particularly in terms of language, mythology, and the natural landscape - and also some of the issues associated with the academic study of Paganism in general.
In what sense can a country be “Christian”? Today on the Religious Studies Project, we welcome back Professor Linda Woodhead to discuss and interrogate the question "Is Britain Still a Christian Country?", the topic of her recent Croall Lectures at the University of Edinburgh.
‘Africa’. ‘Christianity’. ‘The West’. Three seemingly simple terms with clear referents. Three categories which – perhaps unsurprisingly, to regular listeners of the RSP – have been, and continue to be, associated with and invoked in support of myriad competing agendas, truth claims, ideologies, and more.
In this interview with Chris, Altglas discusses the complex genealogy of 'bricolage', tracing a movement from forms of cultural warfare to 'playful, postmodern bricoleurs' - what many might be tempted to dub 'pick and mix spirituality'. However, as Altglas goes on to demonstrate,...
Discussion focuses upon the history of the 'postsecular', potential definitions, disciplinary and geographical differences, and ultimately suggests that ‘postsecularity’ is effectively dressing up ‘secularity’ in obfuscating clothing.In his 2011 Presidential Address to the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Milwaukee,
The idea for this roundtable was that it would follow on directly from this week's interview on religion and literature, but expand the discussion to cover a variety of points relating to narrative, autobiography and (auto)ethnography in the study of religion. Featuring Dr Wendy Dossett, Prof. Elaine Graham, Dr Dawn Llewellyn, Ethan Quillen, and Dr Alana Vincent.
In this broad-ranging interview, O’Mahony eruditely demonstrates what geography can bring to the academic study of ‘religion’ and presents Ireland as a fascinating context within which to examine processes of boundary-making between the contested constructs of ‘religion’ and the ‘secular’.
The Emerging Church Movement (ECM) is notoriously difficult to define. What are scholars of ‘religion’ to do with a trend seemingly emerging both within and without many contemporary manifestations of (Western) Christianity, that is both anti-institutional and ecumenical, aims to avoid hierarchies and power structures, embraces creativity,...
In the year 2000, English-speaking scholars interested in ‘religion’ were introduced (in translation) to one of the most important texts in the sociology of religion in recent years, Danièle Hervieu-Léger’s “Religion as a Chain of Memory”. This book placed the study of ‘religion and memory’ firmly on the academic agenda,
Over the past two-and-a-half years, the RSP Team have become increasingly aware that the podcasts and other resources that we disseminate are being used in a variety of interesting, innovative and unexpected ways in the teaching of Religious Studies, both by ‘students’ and their ‘teachers’, and at all levels of education.
A while back a few of us gathered for what became the first of a 'successful' bout of roundtables conducted by a cadre of 'amazing people' with differing and 'unique' opinions. In that first ‘test’ for the ones that would follow, six of us gathered together to discuss the ‘future of religious studies.’
What is the least well known book of the Bible? How many people in the UK listed their ‘religion’ as ‘Jedi Knight’ on the UK 2011 Census? What is Professor Jim Cox’s drink of choice? To find out, you need do nothing more than hit ‘Play’ and enjoy this forty minutes of pure, unadulterated, top quality Religious Studies entertainment.
"...a vital tradition of the study of religion is the Durkheimian intellectual tradition. Generally dismissed by many in the study of religion because of its supposedly narrow "sociological" bent, the school of scholarship represented by Émile Durkheim, Henri Hubert, Marcel Mauss, Louis Dumont, Roger Caillois, Georges Bataille and others is, ...
"Pretty much unprepared for the sensory feast of a Santo Daime ritual, I was visually struck by the colourful ‘uniforms’ and brightly decorated ceremonial space. The strongly rhythmical and fervently sung ‘hymns’ also made an impact, as did the powerful smell and bitter taste of the religious sacrament which practitioners call ‘Daime’.
Almost twenty years ago, Grace Davie observed that despite plenty of studies into the ‘exotic edges’ of religion, ‘the picture in the middle remains remarkably blurred’. Seeking to address this imbalance and engage with the ‘beliefs of ordinary British people in everyday life’, Abby Day's recent book, ...
"Given its rich and variable nature, authority itself is challenging to define and study... Studies focused on religious authority online have been few, compared to studies centered on religious community and identity. Despite interest and acknowledgement of the concept, there is a lack of definitional clarity over authority online, and no comprehensive theory of religious authority..."
"It is a truth generally acknowledged that religions have been the earliest and perhaps the chief progenitors of cultural products in human societies..." Clearly there is no shortage of data for scholars wishing to delve into this broad topic. But what do we actually mean by ‘cultural product’? How can we claim that ‘religion’ is producing these things in any meaningful way?
A very special episode of the podcast this week, to mark the beginning of our annual summer hiatus. For the past year, I (David) have kept a file where all the little amusing bits that didn't make it into the weekly episodes got put. Sometimes, this was because of restraints of time, but more often they were simply too 'scandalous'. I broadcast them here with that proviso.
What exactly does Material Religion bring to Religious Studies? Is it a potentially revolutionary phenomenon, or merely a passing fad? How might one apply the theoretical perspectives and methodologies developed in this growing field to some of the defining debates of our subject area? To discuss these issues, and reflect on the conference in general,...
Buildings dominate our skylines, they shape the nature, size, sound and smell of events within their walls, they provide a connection to the recent and distant past, and they serve as a physical, material instantiation of any number of contextual discourses. But what about the relationship between 'religion' and these (generally) human-made structures?
It goes without saying that ‘religion’ is a topic that frequently finds itself in the media spotlight. Whether we are talking about the recent Boston Marathon bombings, the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, the Arab Spring, or the recent critique of the UK government’s welfare policy levelled by four major British churches, the ways in which the media negotiates, ...
What would you think if I told you I had just come back from a holiday in Aya Napa? How about Santiago de Compostella or Glastonbury? How about Mecca? When does travel become pilgrimage, and what are the spiritual factors behind our holiday choices? In this week’s interview, Alex Norman and David Robertson discuss the history and modern relevance of journeys undertaken for spiritual benefit and transformation.
The study of religion in the media is an interdisciplinary field which has been of interest for scholars in media studies, religious studies and sociology among others. In this interview, Christopher Cotter and Teemu Taira discuss the relevance of study of religion in the media from the religious studies point of view as well as the media discourse on religion – the ways in which media covers religion, functions as defining what counts as religion and negotiates its social location.
What do we mean by globalization? What does this concept have to say to the study of religion? How have religions been agents in the globalization process? What theoretical and methodological issues arise when trying to answer such questions? All of these questions and more are tackled in an interview which touches on post-colonialism, secularization theory, theodicy, ...
In this interview, Professor Pratt outlines a model for understanding the nature of the ‘persistence’ of religion, paying particular attention to three interwoven dimensions: narrative, ethical, and metaphysical. He also discusses, in the light of this model, the contemporary ‘problem’ of exclusivism and extremism which arguably arise from the lack of an adequate conceptual mechanism for coping with religious diversity.
Can Mormonism be described as a New Religious Movement? Is there a unified phenomenon which can be classified as Mormonism? Is Mormonism to be considered as a form of Christianity? This week, Chris is joined by Ryan Cragun – Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Tampa, Florida – to discuss not only these conceptual issues,...
Can Steve Sutcliffe talk about “habitus” for a full 60 seconds without deviation, hesitation or repetition? How much does David Wilson know about “Postmodernism”? Mr David Robertson is your host (ably assisted by Mr Chris Cotter) for this special festive episode of the Religious Studies Pro Recorded live in Edinburgh on December 20th, 2012.
How we can position the study of non-religion within the discipline of Religious Studies? Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Those of you who have been listening to the Religious Studies Project for some time will be somewhat familiar with the emerging sub-field of ‘non-religion’ studies. Perhaps you have listened to our podcast with Lois Lee, ...
An 'emergency broadcast' from the Religious Studies Project... featuring George Chryssides, Bettina Schmidt, Teemu Taira, Beth Singler, Christopher Cotter, and David Robertson. What did the 2011 census data actually say, and how did the press report it? Why does it matter, and how can we use the data more constructively?
When we were contacted earlier this year by a couple of publishers asking if we’d be interested in reviewing books, we immediately thought “Yes – but how?” We’re not a journal, and didn’t want to do the traditional journal review, but we do love books, and especially talking about them. So when Chris suggested we could combine several reviews into a roundtable format, ...
Is there something particular about religion which makes it a more potent ‘violence enabling mechanism’ than other factors? Are some religions more likely to inspire violence than others? And why should scholars even care? In this interview, Chris discusses these issues and more with Professor Brian Victoria, who, in addition to his scholarly credentials, is a fully ordained Zen Buddhist priest.
"Reframing understandings of (non)religion according to types of sacred which are independent of religious categories, allows (non)religious identities to be conceptualised to acknowledge the simultaneous intersection of multiple subjectively compatible (yet seemingly contradictory) religious and/or nonreligious identities, and paves the way for scholars to take religion seriously whilst avoiding unwarranted reverence."
Contemporary Druidry often presents itself as the native spirituality of the British Isles. However, there is not one form of Druidry and there are also significant numbers of Christian and atheist Druids as well as those that combine Druidry with Wiccan or other perspectives and practices. From international organisations to local ‘groves’, there are diverse types of Druid groups, ...
It is fast becoming a tradition in ‘nonreligion’ research to acknowledge that Colin Campbell’s seminal call in Toward a Sociology of Irreligion (1971) for a widespread sociological analysis’ of ‘nonreligion’ had until very recently been ignored (Bullivant and Lee 2012). Although there has been a steady stream of output on secularisation, and more recently on atheism, ...
Over the past decade or so, the academic study of religion has become infused with a (re-)appreciation of the importance and impact of space, place and location upon its field of study. Of course, scholars have for a long time been aware of the need to situate ‘religion’ in context, however, the spatial analysis goes far beyond mere description of physical or cultural spaces, ...
The relationship of religion to gender is a highly complex and disputed area. However, it is well-documented that (to take some UK-based examples), ‘men are proportionately under-represented’ in (mainstream ‘Christian’) ‘religious’ services, and ‘women outnumber men on all indices of religiosity and spirituality’. In fact, Marta Trzebiatowska and Steve Bruce, ...
"...religion happens in material culture - images, devotional and liturgical objects, architecture and sacred space, works of arts and mass-produced artifacts. No less important than these material forms are the many different practices that put them to work. Ritual, communication, ceremony, instruction, meditation, propaganda, pilgrimage, display, magic,...
During her recent trip to the UK, the Religious Studies Project managed (with the promise of copious Pink Gin) to persuade Professor Carole Cusack to take part in a roundtable discussion. She suggested that we discuss how to build an academic career – advice which she has been generous with to many people in the past. That having been agreed, ...
Week three of our Editors' Picks. Chris tells us why he (and his fiancée) liked Jay Demerath's interview on substantive and functionalist definitions of religion. Could the difficulties associated with the academic conceptualisation of “religion” be overcome by changing our focus instead to “the sacred”?
In this, the first of four summer break Editor's Picks "repodcasts", Louise Connelly reintroduces Chris's interview with Callum Brown, first broadcast on 30/4/2012. How can we use historical approaches in the study of religion? More specifically, can we use historical approaches to understand why people are losing it? Professor Callum Brown tells us why historical approaches have much to tell us about religious change.
This discussion brings together a number of aspiring academics to reflect on some of the issues brought up in a recent podcast in a friendly and hilarious manner. The question cuts to the core of what academics who study religion are doing… are they taking care of religion? Are they antagonising it? What should they be doing? And judging by the various long tangents through which discussion meanders, the question certainly sparked our interest.
'Belief' lies at the core of E.B. Tylor's canonical definition of religion as belief in 'spiritual beings'. However, in the last decades of the twentieth century the concept became unfashionable in the social sciences, with scholars from all parts of the world denouncing its centrality as a Western, Protestant bias which has limited application to other religions. Ariela Keysar disagrees...
Although "cult" and "sect" are used as technical terms in religious studies, in their popular usage, "cult" tends to refer to a New Religious Movement [NRM] or other group whose beliefs or practices are considered reprehensible. Since such pejorative attitudes are generally considered inappropriate for the academic study of religion, ...
In another roundtable gathering, conversation ranges from the strengths and weaknesses of such data, whether there is more to the social sciences than quantitative methods, and the place of the social sciences within a multi-disciplinary Religious Studies field. Can we trust social sciences when we study religion? Is a social scientific approach the future of religious studies?
How can we use historical approaches in the study of religion? More specifically, can we use historical approaches to understand why people are losing it? Professor Callum Brown tells us why historical approaches have much to tell us about religious change. How can we use historical approaches in the study of religion?
Charles Darwin's On The Origin of Species was published in 1859, and had an immediate and dramatic effect on religious narratives. Traditional religions were forced to adopt an evolutionary worldview, or to go on the offensive; whereas New Religious Movements like Wicca or New Age adopted an environmental concern as a central part of their belief. And possibly, ...
"In practice, experimentation requires much effort, imagination, and resources. The subject of religion seems too complex and too ‘soft’ for the laboratory. It is filled with much fantasy and feelings, two topics which academic psychology finds hard to approach." Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin, and Michael Argyle. The Psychology of Religious Behaviour, Belief and Experience. London: Routledge, 1997, p. 47.
The majority of those who identified as a Jedi on the 2001 UK census were mounting a more-or-less satirical or playful act of non-compliance; nevertheless, a certain proportion of those were telling the truth. How does a religion constructed from the fictional Star Wars universe problematise how we conceptualise other religions, and the stories they involve?
“If we want to discover what [wo]man amounts to, we can only find it in what [wo]men are: and what [wo]men are, above all other things, is various. It is in understanding that variousness – its range, its nature, its basis, and its implications – that we shall come to construct a concept of human nature that, more than a statistical shadow, and less than a primitivists dream, ...
After this week’s podcast, which involved eight scholars giving their views on the future of Religious Studies, there was really only one way we could create a suitably collective and varied response – six postgrads sitting around a table, accompanied by pink gin and our trusty dictaphone. Conversation ranges from the public perception of what Religious Studies does, ...
This week we decided to do something a bit different. Every time David and Chris have conducted an interview, they have been asking the interviewees an additional question: “What is the Future of Religious Studies?” The result is this highly stimulating compilation of differing perspectives and levels of optimism The result is this highly stimulating compilation of differing perspectives and levels of optimism on what has become one of the most hotly debated topics in the academic study of religion at the start of the second decade of the twenty-first century.
Could the difficulties associated with the academic conceptualisation of "religion" be overcome by changing our focus instead to "the sacred"? Jay Demerath tells Chris why we should define religion substantively - that is, in terms of specific attributes like rituals, deities or dogmas - but the sacred in terms of the function it serves in the lives of individuals and cultures.
In the 1960s, most sociologists consciously or unconsciously bought into idea of the 'death of god' - religion became effectively invisible to academia. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, a number of events - most notably the 'Satanic Verses' controversy - dramatically increased the 'visibility' of religion: it became a political problem. Now, in the 21st century, ...
The Religion, Youth and Sexuality: A Multi-faith Exploration project, based at the University of Nottingham, looked at 18 to 25 year-olds from a variety of faith backgrounds in order to understand attitudes and practices around sexuality and how this was negotiated in relation to religious traditions. Dr Sarah-Jane Page, one of the research fellows, ...
The Insider/Outsider problem, relating to where scholars position themselves relating to the subject matter (whatever that may be), is one of the most perennial problems in the academic study of religion. Does one have to be a member of a community for your testimony about that community to be valid? Or does your membership of the community invalidate your objectivity?
It is generally accepted - at least as far as most academics are concerned - that there is a distinct difference between religious studies and theology. As you shall see from this interview, however, things are much more complicated, and Professor Wiebe is particularly qualified to present his own take on the relationship between these two distinct disciplines.
The cognitive study of religion has quickly established itself as the paradigmatic methodology in the field today. It’s grounded in the concept that religiosity is natural because it is well adapted to the cognitive propensities developed during the evolution of our species. In this episode, Professor Armin Geertz tells Chris why it deserves its prominent profile, and how it is developing.