We have moved…

Dear our blog readers,

Following our makeover, we will be posting our blog on the main NSRN website (http://nsrn.net/) from February 2016. This old blog website can still be used for archives.

Deputy Editors

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Recruiting New Members for Nonreligion and Secularity’s Editorial Blog Team

Recruiting New Members for Nonreligion and Secularity’s Editorial Blog Team

Do you enjoy reading posts on Nonreligion and Secularity?
Do you have a keen interest in nonreligion and secularity research?
Would you like to become a member of the blog’s editorial team?

We are currently looking to expand and are seeking enthusiastic people to join Nonreligion and Secularity’s editorial team.

New team members will have the opportunity to play a dynamic role in the blog’s ongoing development, and its vision for the future.

Depending on experience, successful applicants will undertake some, or all, or the following responsibilities:

  • Writing articles for the blog
  • Commissioning articles from potential blog authors
  • Responding to submissions
  • Editing blog submissions
  • Dealing with general inquiries about the blog
  • Promoting the blog via social media and other sources
  • Working with the other team members on ways to enhance and improve the blog website and increase exposure and traffic
  • Participating in virtual team meetings, via email or Skype

We hope that team members will be able to write or commission 4 articles for the blog per calendar year.  However, we understand that applicants may have other responsibilities, so we are happy to discuss commitments on an individual basis.

We welcome applications from people in all stages of their academic career, including post-graduate students and early career researchers. Research experience within the field of nonreligion and secularity, or previous experience of blogging, is useful but not essential. We are also keen to hear from applicants working in other related research areas who feel they can offer a valuable external perspective on topics relating to nonreligion and secularity.

The positions are unpaid, but offer applicants an opportunity to increase their editorial experience and the chance to engage with researchers and authors at the forefront of research in this field.

If you would be interested in joining the blog team please send a short cover note and CV by email to the Deputy Editors Katie Sissons and Yutaka Osakabe (editor.nsrn@gmail.com).

Deadline for applications: Friday 22nd January 2016

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Victorian secularism in 5 objects

KSissons photo

In this post, Katherine Sissons takes us on a whistle stop tour of Victorian secularism through five objects. The objects are of valuable historical interest, but also to those interested in the material cultures of nonreligious and secular groups. 

The London Underground; street lighting; the postal service:  all institutions which have their roots in the Victorian period.  Many contemporary nonreligious organisations – including the British Humanist Association, the National Secularist Society, and the Rationalist Association – can also trace their history to this era.   This article explores the history of British atheism and secularism through five Victorian objects.

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Event Report: Rethinking Boundaries in the Study of Religion and Politics

400480_321189627925542_1317679353_n(1)Nathan Alexander attended the recent postgraduate conference,  Rethinking Boundaries in the Study of Religion and Politics held at the University of Aberdeen. Here he outlines his experiences and gives some commentary on the papers pertinent to the research network. 

The ‘Rethinking Boundaries in the Study of Religion and Politics’ postgraduate conference, held at the University of Aberdeen on the 11th and 12th of September, sought to interrogate the various categories that scholars of religion work with. The conference was interdisciplinary and spanned a range of topics (from Christian Scientists to the Muslim Brotherhood), but there was plenty that would have specifically interested scholars of atheism or other forms of irreligion. There was a panel devoted to atheism, a paper about the Sunday Assembly in London, and a keynote address by Abby Day, a sociologist of belief and non-belief.

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Sticks and Stones: The Use of Anti-Secular Discourse in Britain

In this post, Steven Kettell discusses a
rise of a strident anti-secular discourse in Britain. Intolorent secularist discourse is inherently anti-religious and wants to drive religion from the public space. Anti-secularist discourses, on the other hand have seen a rise in the promotion of religion in ‘public’ spaces. Kettell explores the motives and agendas of these discourses.

The past decade has seen the rise of a strident anti-secular discourse in Britain. Based on the idea that a militant, aggressive and intolerant form of secularism is trying to marginalise faith and drive it out of the public square, anti-secular rhetoric has found growing popularity among political as well as religious figures (particularly those associated with the Christian faith) aiming to promote a greater role for faith in the public realm. The interests and motives behind the new anti-secularism, however, are substantively divergent, and the prospects of success are slim.

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Event Report: Atheism research at the 2015 IAPR World Congress

In this post, Thomas Coleman discusses the conference the International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR) 2015 World Congress (17th-20th August 2015). Coleman takes us on a tour of the conference, through panels of interest to him on topics of atheism, disbelief and nonreligious mystical, or transcendent, experience.


Straddling the continents of Europe and Asia, the country of Turkey serves as both a literal and metaphorical bridge between not only the East and West, but also the secular and religious. And while the interplay between these porous categories is present the world over, this dialectic is particularly salient in Turkey. Religiosity flows through the streets and the Muslim call for prayer echoing off red clay tiled roofs is testament to this (and indeed cannot be ignored when rousing one from their hotel bed at 5am in the morning). Continue reading

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Event Report: American Psychological Association Annual Conference

Jason A. Cantone presented research on the psychology of discrimination at the annual American Psychological Association convention, held in Toronto, CA, on August 6-9, 2015. In the following, he summarizes some of the research that other psychological scholars presented on nonreligion and secularity.

Under the cloud of recent revelations that officials within the American Psychological Association (APA) colluded with Department of Defense officials to fashion ethical deadlines that did not constrain U.S. programs using enhanced interrogation (Hoffman, et.al., 2015), APA held their annual convention from August 6-9, 2015 in Toronto, Canada.

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Event Report: Old religion and new spirituality 26th-29th May 2015


In this post, Atko Remmel discusses the conference ‘Old religion and new spirituality: continuity and changes in the background of secularization’. held at the University of Tartu, Estonia (26th-29th  May 2015). The event was organized by the research group of religious studies of the Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory (Estonia) and the faculty of Theology of the University of Tartu. The conference also featured two panels on nonreligion and atheism. Continue reading

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Event Report: Women negotiating secularism & multiculturalism through civil society organisations

Alison Halford Blog PicutreIn this post Alision Halford gives details of the workshop, ‘Women negotiating secularism & multiculturalism through civil society organisations’, held at the University of Coventry this year. The conference drew an international audience, covering topics as diverse as FGM and Hindu Nationalism. In the post, Halford summaries some key questions raised by the speakers, adding her own reflections on the need to challenge normative frameworks of essentialist/secular beliefs.

Coventry may be a city that Larkin described as a place where ‘nothing happens’ [i] but at the second of three workshops hosted by the University of Coventry in June 2015 and funded by the International Society for the Sociology of Religion and run by an organising team consisting of Prof. Mia Lovheim (Uppsala University), Dr Terhi Utriainen (University of Helsinki) and Drs Teresa Toldy and Alberta Giorgi (Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra) [ii] that all changed.  As the host Dr Kristin Aune contended  we could use this convention to develop a dynamic and innovative dialogue on the lived experiences of secular, nonreligious and religious women. As recent events have demonstrated, religious identities and norms are becoming increasingly visible, causing us to question how women’s groups, feminists and activists respond to their perceived challenges to gender equality. But how we can find consensus between secular feminists and religious women? Are there responses that make it possible to secure both gender equality and religious freedom without sacrificing either?

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Japan’s First Psychotherapies: Between ‘Religion’ and ‘Therapy’


In this post, Christopher Harding discusses the historical negotiation between Buddhism and Psychotherapeutic frameworks, in Japan. The gives a fascinating insight into a moment in which secular and ‘religious’ frameworks come up against one another. This includes negotiating concepts such as the autonomous individual, or the ‘self’, in relation to a moral or spiritual life. The post will benefit NSRN readers interested in the questions of definitions, and the boundaries between religious and secular models.

[Psycho]analysis of character is in a way a religion since through this process the person becomes free of all worldly worries. In olden days it was only a few well-known Buddhist monks who were able to achieve this state of mind. But today a person can achieve [it] using scientific method and reason. It is possible to attain the condition known in Japanese as gedatsu [liberation from earthly desires and woes] by removing virtually all the complexes which dwell in one’s unconscious by means of the method of psychoanalytic abreaction.[i]

So wrote Yabe Yaekichi, one of the founder members of the Tokyo Psychoanalytical Society. He was broadly representative of a religious modernism in early twentieth century Japan that asked whether some of the ideas and practices associated with Buddhism, Shinto and Confucianism might usefully be updated via the latest scientific approaches to the mind. Some of Japan’s Buddhist sects were particularly keen on this idea, striving to present Buddhism not as the force for common superstition and backwardness that its critics claimed but rather as a trial-and-error tradition that in the era of modern Western science had finally come of age. Continue reading

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