Secularization

Podcast

Near Death Experiences

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?
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After Secularization: Unbelief in Europe

"Since the 1960s, critiques of scientific rationalism and technocracy have not withered away but have only expanded and have, in the process, diffused from the libertarian left to the new populist right," writes Professor Dick Houtman in this response to our December 2nd episode, "Unbelief as a Nuanced Phenomenon."
Podcast

The secularization of discourse in contemporary Latin American neoconservatism

In this week’s podcast, Professor Jerry Espinoza Rivera explains how Latin American conservatism became neoconservatism. Though Latin America is diverse, conservatism has been a widespread in the region shaping not only the political power plays of religious institutions but the people's daily experience of the world. Recently, however, neoconservatism has managed to develop a language of its own that blends science and philosophy with historical analysis of the contemporary world political landscape to become an significant religio-cultural force.
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Editors’ Picks, Summer 2018: The Co-Dependency of Religion and the Secular

In our fifth editors' pick, Marek Sullivan writes "Few questions are as meta-reflexive as the question ‘Is secularism a world religion?’ It’s now established that secularism and religion are co-constitutive terms: the history of the category ‘religion' is inseparable from the history of secularisation.
Podcast

Is Secularism a World Religion?

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!
Podcast

Conversion and Deconversion as Concepts in the Sociology of Religion

For this interview with Lynn Davidman, we focus on the concepts of conversion and deconversion, illustrations of these processes in various contexts, what each term means and how each is experienced in someone's life, the histories of these terms and their use in scholarship, and issues that arise from their conceptualization or use.
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Report: 2015 Joint Conferences of the New Zealand and Australian Associations for the Study of Religion

The biennial conference of the New Zealand Association for the Study of Religions (NZASR) and the annual conference of the Australian Association for the Study of Religions (AASR) were held together in Queenstown, New Zealand from December 8-10 2015. Interdisciplinary perspectives and theoretical approaches across the humanities and social sciences were evident in the wide-range of papers presented. Islam, and Asian religions more generally, were the most consistent objects of focus, perhaps unsurprising given Australasia’s proximity to Asia and recent increased media attention to the Islamic State.
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“Religion in Peru” — conference report, 2015

That this conference took place at the National University of San Marcos was quite inspiring. This was the first university on the continent with a theology and arts faculty during the second half of the sixteenth century. Now, almost five hundred years later, Peruvian academics still have an interest in studying religion. However, our current perspectives and methodologies are far more diverse, and ever broadening. I remain optimistic that, in the near future, the academic study of religion in Peru will be as widespread and supported as other research areas.
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Self-Report: We Can Do Better (And Are!)

Those of us within psychology of religion who study secularity are privileged to be working in a time where secular beliefs and nonbelievers are starting to be taken seriously within the field as a whole. The Religious Studies Project interview with Dr. Luke Galen conducted by Tommy Coleman was an excellent cross-section of some of the a long way to go in figuring ...
Response

Identity Crisis: the Nones and Habitual Christianity

Many of my participants felt that familiarity with Christianity permitted them to be critical in a way that they could not with other religious traditions. This podcast coincides with Linda Woodhead’s recent Croall Lectures, aimed at interrogating the question: Is Britain still a Christian country? Drawing on her own qualitative research and recent surveys in the UK,
Podcast

Is Britain still a Christian country?

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.
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The Gamrie Brethren: At the Heart of Cosmic Struggle and the Fringes of the Imagined Community

I hope I can place Webster’s research [on the Scottish Brethren] in the wider social and historical context, the ‘national level’ alongside the ‘local’ and ‘global’ ones. In the RSP's interview with Joe Webster, listeners are treated to rich ethnographic data which reveal how an immediate ‘local’ context is embedded in ‘global’ processes and networks. Webster conducted his fieldwork in the fishing village of Gardenstown or ‘Gamrie’ in Aberdeenshire, in the north-east of Scotland.
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Measuring Secularity

While often rigorously testing for variance among the religious, many studies treat the irreligious as if they have a static identity, resulting in an elision of the range of beliefs and behaviors that have been found within this growing group. At the home of the first secular studies undergraduate program, amid dozens of secularity scholars from around globe, Tommy Coleman's interview with sociologist ...
Podcast

Understanding the Secular

Making their own contributions to the discourse, Shook and Zuckerman briefly discuss the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Secularism they are co-editing, the growing field of secular studies, what it might mean to ’be secular‘, different secularisms, and offer up two different views of the relationship between categories such as ’religion‘ and ’secular‘.
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Secular, Spiritual, Religious: American Religion Beyond the Baby Boomers

In acknowledging how capacious and even misleading the “religiously unaffiliated” label has become, we might wonder if its growth is symptomatic of a taxonomy that has failed to keep pace with restructuring. In his wide-ranging interview with Dusty Hoesly, Wade Clark Roof both re-emphasizes the importance of the baby boomer generation and suggests some ways to think beyond it. In the second half of the interview, in particular,...
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The Logics of Bricolage Reconsidered: A Cognitive Approach to Individuals and Their Constraints

This response is a defense of the academic interest in the individual, which I take to be inclusive of the variety of ways that the activities of individuals are constrained, or not, in any given context. All constraints are not equal. Veronique Altglas is to be commended for her intervention into the contemporary academic discussions and (often uncritical) usage of the concept of bricolage. As she rightly suggests, ...
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Now We Know Religion is Not Disappearing

Various new religious movements seek to establish a presence in politics through challenging the hegemony of traditional churches in a very peculiar way. Postsecular, like postmodern, is a title applied to phenomena in society that do not seem fit into an earlier paradigm and has thus been named post-something because it perhaps is not yet visible what comes next. It is an end of an era but also a shift towards another and has the academic world digging out all the blind spots of the earlier theories,...
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The Interstices of Science and Religion

Having exiled the supernatural, science finds itself left with the task of writing a modern genesis, or a liturgy for a secular age. Science and religion are not ancient concepts. What we think of as inherently scientific today may have carried theological overtones in times past; what we conceive of as religious may have likewise found support in scientific circles. Both categories have emerged through complex and contradictory histories:
Podcast

Science and Religion in Europe: A Historical Perspective

Professor Peter Harrison discusses the false historical assumptions behind the current perception that "science" and "religion" have always been in conflict. Providing a wide-ranging historical overview, Harrison begins with the early interplay between religious institutions and scientific activity, ...
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Beyond Maps: Eoin O’Mahony’s Geographies of Religion and the Secular in Ireland

We should be aware of the delocalising effect of attempts to remove religion from public spaces and the consequences this process has for those who dwell and invest meaning within these spaces. Eoin O’Mahony’s work reflects a growing and consolidating movement in the Geography discipline over the last 15 years, which after a history of stops and starts, has made significant progress in attempting to understand spatiality of religion.
Podcast

Geographies of Religion and the Secular in Ireland

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’.
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The Emerging Church

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,...
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Habermas and the Problem with the ‘Problem’ of Religion in Public Discourse

The starting assumption is that religious people will be fundamentally unable to speak to those who don’t share their faith. But why start with the assumption that translation will be a problem? Living in a country where you don’t know the language means you have a great excuse for not talking to Jehovah’s Witnesses. To be completely honest, I actually did understand the two Witnesses when they came to my door.
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An Outline of Norenzayan’s ‘Big Gods’

When belief in God was distilled into belief in a mean God (i.e., vengeful, and punishing) versus belief in a nice God (i.e., compassionate and forgiving), participants endorsing a mean-God concept were less likely to cheat relative to nice-God supporters. In his book Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict, Dr. Ara Norenzayan addresses two “puzzles” about human existence. First, how were large-scale societies able to develop?
Podcast

Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict

Big Gods: 1. Watched people are nice people, 2. Religion is more in the situation than in the person, 3. Hell is stronger than heaven, 4. Trust people who trust in God, 5. Religious actions speak louder than words, 6. Unworshipped Gods are impotent Gods, 7. Big Gods for Big Groups, 8. Religious groups cooperate in order to compete.
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Religion in the Age of Cyborgs

What happens to religion if the future belongs to the cyborgs? Merlin Donald’s Big Thoughts on the evolution of culture offer opportunities to speculate about the place of religion in the natural history of our species – an opportunity most recently taken by Robert Bellah in his much discussed last book, Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age (2011).
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To Atheism – And Beyond! Where Nonbelievers Go

Many of the religious “nones,” the term used to describe those who do not identify with a religion, have deeply held spiritual, mystical, or New Age beliefs that are antithetical to the values of Secular Humanism The motto of the Council for Secular Humanism is “Beyond atheism. Beyond agnosticism. Secular Humanism.” Yet, the Council for Secular Humanism is just one place beyond nonbelief that atheists and agnostics can go to explore what it means to be a nonbeliever.
Podcast

‘Secular Humanism’

In Thomas Coleman’s interview for the RSP with Tom Flynn, secular humanism is described as a “complete and balanced life stance” rejecting supernaturalism. Recorded at the Center For Inquiry’s 2013 Student Leadership Conference, Tom argues that secular humanism offers more than agnosticism and atheism.
Podcast

Belief, Belonging, and Academic Careers

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, ...
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Heavy Metal as Religion and Secularization as Ideology

"Social science, more than any other branch of science, is prone to the undesired influence of philosophical and ideological perspectives. The question is, then, how should social scientists deal with ideologically-infused theories without glossing over the ideologies behind them? I don’t have a straightforward answer to this question, but I can refer to Gauthier’s nuanced approach to studying neo-liberalism, which he outlines in his interview."
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Historical Approaches to Studying Religion

Tim Hutchings: "My own field of research is digital religion, an area with a particularly troubled relationship to history. Scholars and commentators interested in digital culture and its significance for religion have struggled to distinguish what is truly new from what has come before, and continue to search for helpful ways to talk about change." As the RSP continues to grow, we're going to be returning more frequently to topics and themes which have already been touched upon in previous podcasts and features.
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Religion, Secularism and the Chaplaincy

"As Sullivan and other religious studies scholars complicate terms like religion and secularism, reducing these terms to near incoherence, and insist on the constant intermingling of the sacred and the secular, they leave jurists and legislators in a predicament with important practical consequences."
Podcast

Religion and Globalization

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, ...
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The Secular Reality

"If, as [Douglas Pratt] is contending, we don’t want the “metaphysical dimension” and “stories” of religion at the personal as well as societal level, this is not persistence; this is a new phenomenon altering centuries of evolving theological trajectory." Douglas Pratt presents us with a most noble and worthwhile endeavor in his Religious Studies Project podcast entitled, The Persistence and Problem of Religion.
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The ‘Persistence’ and ‘Problem’ of Religion

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.
Podcast

Mormonism, Growth and Decline

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,...
Response

Secular Sacreds and the Sacred Secular

"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."
Podcast

Why are Women more Religious than Men?

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, ...
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Editors’ Picks 4: The Secularisation Thesis

In this, the penultimate Editors' Pick, David tells us why he chose his interview with Linda Woodhead on the Secularisation thesis as his favourite. The secularisation thesis – the idea that traditional religions are in terminal decline in the industrialised world – was perhaps the central debate in the sociology of religion in the second half of the 20th century.
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Editors’ Picks 3: Jay Demerath on Functionalist Religion and the Substantive Sacred

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”?
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In Saecula Saeculorum: Reflecting on the Age/Aeon in light of the Cappadocian Fathers

Drawing on my own research and interdisciplinary interests, the following response to Professor Tariq Modood’s podcast entitled ‘The Crisis of European Secularism’ will consist in a summary of his main thesis, followed by a statement of the challenge I seek to address, namely the anthropocentrism inherent in (some forms of) contemporary secularism; particularly its neglect of religion/God and the cosmos.
Podcast

Historical Approaches to (Losing) Religion

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?
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Secularization: A Look at Individual Level Theories of Religious Change

While it is often argued that the secularization thesis only referred to macro-level secularization – the separation of religion from other societal spheres in the process of functional differentiation (cf. e.g. Wilson 1998) – there is no way of denying that most specific secularization theories also refer to a loss of significance of religion on the individual level, explicitly or implicitly,
Podcast

The Secularisation Thesis

The secularisation thesis - the idea that traditional religions are in terminal decline in the industrialised world - was perhaps the central debate in the sociology of religion in the second half of the 20th century. Scholars such as Steve Bruce, Rodney Stark and Charles Taylor argued whether religion was becoming less important to individuals, or that only the authority of religions in the public sphere was declining.
Podcast

Substantive Religion and the Functionalist Sacred

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.