What do we talk about when we talk about religion? What do we recognize as essential and specific to any given faith, and why? In this lecture, I address these questions by drawing on fieldwork among humanists in Britain, paying particular attention to humanism’s relation to Christianity. In one way or another, humanists often position themselves in relation to Christianity. In a basic way, this has to do with humanists’ commitment to secularism—the differentiation of church and state. In more complex ways, though, it also has to do with an effort to move “beyond” Christianity—to encourage a world in which reason takes the place of revelation—while often, at the same time, recognizing what’s worth saving and even fostering from the legacies of faith. All these various relations and perspectives suggest how we should understand social life in contemporary Britain as what it is in spite of Christianity—and not.Dr. Engelke has recently completed a year of ethnographic fieldwork in the offices of the British Humanist Association [BHA] and is soon to publish his findings. As part of this research project Dr Engelke worked with BHA accredited celebrants and also trained as a funeral celebrant. This work leads the way for a happily increasing number of similar research projects and this will be further encouraged by the recent launch the Programme for the Study of Religion and Nonreligion at LSE, which is coordinated by Dr. Engelke . The full text of this lecture is available to download here.
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