NSRN Annual Lecture Announced: Dr Matthew Engelke, ‘In Spite of Christianity: Humanism and Its Others in Contemporary Britain’

NSRN Annual Lecture 2012

28 November 2012 Doors from 6pm, lecture at 6.30pm, Followed by a drinks reception

Conway Hall, London

This event is free but places are limited.
To register, please email Lois Lee at

We are very happy to annouce that Dr Matthew Engelke will be our guest speaker at our annual lecture, this year to be held November 2012 in Conway Hall [details above]

In spite of Christianity: Humanism and its others in contemporary Britain – Dr Matthew Engelke

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 .


News: New survey – religion and politics in the US

Please see below details of a report released by Juhem Navarro-Rivera, who has worked on a number of reports about the nonreligious, in conjunction with the Public Religion Research Institute on the connections between religion and politics in the US.  The report focuses on the nonreligious (a.k.a. religiously unaffiliated):


Event: Digital Methodologies in the Sociology of Religion

Please note that alongside general interest for the network there are also some streams here also for studying digital nonreligion.


16th November 2012, Enterprise Centre, University of Derby

Organised by the Centre for Society, Religion & Belief (SRB), University of Derby

Funded by Digital Social Research (DSR)

Book your place

This conference is generously subsidised by Digital Social Research. There is a small registration fee of £30 (+ £6 VAT)

Within an era of a growing reliance on digital technologies to instantly and effectively express our values, allegiances, and multi-faceted identities, the interest in digital research methodologies among Sociologists of Religion comes as no surprise (e.g. Bunt 2009; Cantoni and Zyga 2007; Contractor 2012 and Ostrowski 2006; Taylor 2003). However the methodological challenges associated with such research have been given significantly less attention. What are the epistemological underpinnings and rationale for the use ‘digital’ methodologies? What ethical dilemmas do sociologists face, including while protecting participants’ interests in digital contexts that are often perceived as anonymised and therefore ‘safe’? Implementing such ‘digital’ research also leads to practical challenges such as mismatched expectations of IT skills, limited access to specialized tools, project management and remote management of research processes. Hosted by the Centre for Society, Religion, and Belief at the University of Derby and funded by Digital Social Research, this conference brings together scholars to critically evaluate the uses, impacts, challenges and future of Digital Methodologies in the Sociology of Religion.

Please forward this to your invitation to your professional networks and to your students. A few travel bursaries are available for post-graduate students in the UK. Please write to either Sariya Contractor (s.contractor@derby.ac.uk) or Suha Shakkour (s.shakkour@derby.ac.uk) for further details.


Plenary Speakers:

Prof. Heidi Campbell, Texas A&M University Methodological Challenges, Innovations and Growing Pains in Digital Religion Research

Dr. Eric AtwellLeeds University Applying Artificial Intelligence to the Understanding of Islam


Draft Programme

09:45 – 10:15  Registration & Refreshments

10:15 – 10:40  Welcome, Introduction and Housekeeping

Dr. Sariya Contractor & Dr. Suha Shakkour

Prof. Paul Weller, Head of Research and Commercial Development, EHS

Dr. Kristin Aune, Director, Centre for Society, Religion & Belief

10:40 – 11:25  Plenary: Methodological Challenges, Innovations and Growing Pains in Digital Religion Research

Prof. Heidi Campbell, Texas A&M University

11:25 – 12:40  Social Networking Sites

Anti-Social networking: Facebook as a site and method for researching anti-Muslim and anti-Islam opposition

Dr. Chris Allen, University of Birmingham

Role of Digital Communication Technology in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Lead Revolution in Egypt

Dr. Abul Hassan & Prof. Toseef Azid, Markfield Institute of Higher Education

Ethical Challenges of researching Muslim women’s closed religious newsgroups

Dr. Anna Piela, Independent Researcher

12:40 – 13:40  Lunch

13:40 – 14:55  Digital Resources and Tools

Surveying the Religious and the Non-Religious

Dr. Tristram Hooley & Prof. Paul Weller, University of Derby

  Research Approaches to the Digital Bible

Dr. Tim Hutchings, Durham University

Employing Distance Learning to Improve the Quantity and Quality of Islamic Studies

Dr Muhammad Mesbahi, Islamic College & Morteza Rezaei-Zadeh, University of Limerick

14:55 – 15:40  Plenary: Applying Artificial Intelligence to the Understanding of Islam

Eric Atwell, Leeds University

15:40 – 15:55 Refreshments

15:55 – 17:10  Communication

Prospects and Limits for Mxit and Mobi Methodologies for Religion in Sub-Saharan Africa

Dr. Federico Settler, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Researching Religious Discourses Online: Some thoughts on method

Thomas Alberts, SOAS

The Online Communication Model: A theoretical Framework to Analyse the Institutional Communication on the Internet

Juan Narbona & Dr. Daniel Arasa, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross

17:10 – 17:30  Concluding Comments, Publication Plans

Dr Sariya Contractor & Dr. Suha Shakkour

Centre for Society, Religion & Belief

University of Derby

Event: Socrel / HEA Teaching and Studying Religion, 2nd Annual Symposium: Religion and Citizenship: Re-Thinking the Boundaries of Religion and the Secular

BSA Meeting Room, Imperial Wharf, London

13 December 2012, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Religions today are implicated in a wide variety of publics. From contests over the environment and democracy to protests against capitalism, religions remain important factors in political and public life across diverse, and interconnected, global contexts. A variety of diverse responses have been articulated to the so-called ‘return of religion’ in the public sphere, drawing into question relations between the religious, the non-religious and the secular. As scholars have developed new theoretical understandings of the terms of these debates and questioned how these are bound up with cultural conceptualizations of citizenship, education – in schools, universities and less formal educational contexts – has often been a site where contestations of the religious and the secular have been acutely felt. The aim of this symposium is to consider the interrelation between conceptions of the religious, the secular, citizenship and education, and to explore how these issues affect the study of religion in higher education.

To find out more about how participants from a variety of disciplines and contexts have engaged with these issues, join us on December 13 at the BSA Meeting Room in London, for a BSA Socrel symposium, organized by Paul-François Tremlett (Open University), Anna Strhan (University of Kent) and Abby Day (University of Kent and Chair of Socrel). It won’t be your usual ‘stand-and-deliver’ event. Our presenters are working hard to condense their work into short summaries that will be distributed to all participants in advance of the day via e-mail. All participants will be expected to read the summaries and come prepared for a full day of engaging in vibrant exchanges across disciplines, countries, methods and other conventional boundaries.

Total delegate numbers are restricted to 30. Last year’s inaugural symposium was oversubscribed, and early registration is encouraged. Registration for the symposium is now available on the BSA website.

Information on the venue location and transport links, is available at http://www.britsoc.co.uk/events/london-meeting-room.aspx

For any further information, please contact Anna Strhan (A.H.B.Strhan@kent.ac.uk), Paul-François Tremlett (p.f.tremlett@open.ac.uk) and Abby Day (A.F.Day@kent.ac.uk). The full programme for the day will be published on the BSA Socrel website

Keynote lecture by Nasar Meer, Reader in Sociology, Northumbria University

Confirmed Speakers:

Discussants: Lois Lee (University of Kent), Paul-François Tremlett (Open University), Mujadad Zaman (University of Cambridge)


Carool Kersten (King’s College, London) Indonesian Debates on Secularity and Religiosity: Islamists, Liberal Muslims, and Islamic Post-Traditionalists

Angela Quartermaine (University of Warwick) Investigating Warwickshire pupils’ perceptions of religious forms of terrorism

Trevor Stack (University of Aberdeen) Getting Beyond Religion as an Issue for Citizenship

Steven Kettell (University of Warwick) Barbarians at the Gates? Exploring the Rise of ‘Militant Secularism’

Rodrigo Cespedes Proto (Lancaster University) A Legal Perspective on Teaching and Studying Religion: Lessons from the European Court of Human Rights

Leni Franken (University of Antwerp) Religious and Citizenship Education in Belgium / Flanders

Olav Hovdelien (Oslo University College of Applied Sciences) A Secularist School in a Multicultural Society – The Norwegian Case

Slawomir Sztajer (Adam Mickiewicz University) Confessional Religious Education in State Schools: The Case of Poland

Simeon Wallis (University of Warwick) Faith beyond Belief in Religious Education

Graeme Smith (University of Chichester) Blurring the Boundaries: A critical evaluation of the concept of ‘resonance’ and its importance for understanding the relationship between the religious and the secular through the early work of Reinhold Niebuhr

Christos Tsironis (Aristotle University of Thessalonika) Perceptions of Greek students on the relation between the study of religion and volunteering

Kit Kirkland (University of St Andrews) The Christian Right’s Influence on Higher Education



Joseph H. Hammer, Ryan T. Cragun, Karen Hwang, Jesse M. Smith are published in the current volume of Secularism and Nonreligion.


The nationally representative 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found that 41% of self-identified atheists reported experiencing discrimination in the last 5 years due to their lack of religious identification.  This mixed-method study explored the forms and frequency of discrimination reported by 796 self-identified atheists living in the United States.  Participants reported experiencing different types of discrimination to varying degrees, including slander; coercion; social ostracism; denial of opportunities, goods, and services; and hate crime.  Similar to other minority groups with concealable stigmatized identities, atheists who more strongly identified with their atheism, who were “out” about their atheism to more people, and who grew up with stricter familial religious expectations reported experiencing more frequent discrimination.  Implications for future research tied to the ongoing religion/spirituality-health debate are discussed.

CFP: Deadline Extended, Engaging Sociology of Religion – BSA Conference

Please note the change of deadline for abstracts is now 15th October especially of interest to those researching Secularism and secularisation

Call for Papers: Engaging Sociology of Religion

BSA Sociology of Religion conference stream, Annual Conference of the British Sociological Association

Grand Connaught Rooms, London, 3-5 April 2013

How does sociology of religion engage with topical issues affecting contemporary society? How can field-specific theories and models help in understanding religion’s role in recent global and local social movements (the Occupy movement, transitions in the Arab world, London riots in 2011), the economic crisis and austerity, social mobility, the ‘Big Society’, cultural pluralisation, climate change, and so on? How have – and how should – sociologists of religion engage broader public arenas? What could be the specific contribution of sociology of religion to public discussion? We invite papers that address topical issues such as the above, but also papers on core issues in the sociology of religion, including – but not limited to – the following:

* ‘Public’ Sociology of Religion

* Religion, Social Movements and Protest

* Religion and Welfare (including Faith-Based Organisations)

* Religion and inequalities (gender, ethnicity, class)

* Religion and media

* Religion and State in the 21st Century

* Social Theory and Religion

* Secularism and secularisation

Abstract submission to be completed at: www.britsoc.co.uk/events/Conference

Deadline for abstract submission: 5 October 2012.

E-mail: bsaconference@britsoc.org.uk for conference enquiries; t.hjelm@ucl.ac.uk  or j.m.mckenzie@durham.ac.uk for stream enquiries. Please DO NOT send abstracts to these addresses.


Pew Research: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation

Yesterday Pew research published findings that “One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation

According to the write up, “The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling…In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).”