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):


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.

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%).” 

Podcast: Lois Lee on Nonreligion

Lois Lee talks to the members of the Religious Studies Project team about her views on researching nonreligion, more details and the podcast can be found on the RSP website: 

“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, these publications rarely dealt with ‘nonreligion’ as it is ‘actually lived, expressed, or experienced […]in the here and now’ (Zuckerman 2010, viii). One scholar who has been leading the way in theorising and empirically populating this emerging field is Lois Lee, the founding director of the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network, who joins Chris and Ethan in this podcast, recorded in May 2012 in Edinburgh.

Publication: The Secular Studies series, Phil Zuckerman

“The launch  of the NYUP’s book series on Secular Studies has just been announced – details attached. An exciting development in the rising fortunes of our research into nonreligiosity – the hundreds of millions in the world who aren’t religious but who nevertheless interact with religious people and engage in ‘religious-like’ practices every day. Will be of interest to lots of you, as readers and contributors.” Lois Lee

The Secular Studies series is meant to provide a home for works in the emerging field of secular studies. Rooted in a social science perspective, it will explore and illuminate various aspects of secular life, ranging from how secular people live their lives and how they construct their identities to the activities of secular social movements, from the demographics of secularism to the ways in which secularity intersects with other social processes, identities, patterns, and issues.


Publication: Proportional Prayers in the Scottish Parliament

Publication from one of the network members, Norman Bonney, whcih also provided the basis for his recent presentation at the Religion and Society conference New Forms of Public Religion for those who missed it.

In an article in Parliamentary Affairs, Norman Bonney reports an analysis of the first 12 years (1999-2011) of the Scottish Parliament’s Time for Reflection which was intended to replace the Anglican daily prayers of the Westminster UK Parliament with weekly prayer or meditation time for religions, denominations and others in proportion to the pattern of belief in Scotland. Even though Christian contributions are statistically over-represented contributions from pentecostal churches tend to be substantially under-represented. The desire to be manifestly inclusive towards the several small non-Christian religions on a near annual basis means that they are considerably over-represented. The substantial non-religious population which is currently estimated at 43% is markedly under-represented and humanists appear far less than small non-Christian denominations. Analysing Time for Reflection as an outcome of the role of churches and faiths in the movement to establish the Parliament the article also explores the rules which were developed to limit and shape religious and belief expression according to dominant political norms in this parliamentary context as a new form of UK state and civil religion.


Advance online access is available on the Oxford journal site  (11 April 2012)

Publication: Scientific Study of Atheism – Religion, Brain and Behavior

From the EDITORIAL “The scientific study of atheism”

“This issue of Religion, Brain & Behavior focuses on the scientific study of atheism.
With a pair of target articles from Catherine Caldwell-Harris and Dominic Johnson,
a large collection of expert commentaries on those articles, and two responses from
the authors, this is one of the richest discussions of the scientific study of atheism in
print. Johnson reviews the various ways of conceiving of atheism in evolutionary
terms, while Caldwell-Harris analyzes the evidence for atheism as a matter of
individual differences. These two essays represent fundamentally contrasting
strategies for making sense of atheism and it is likely that future scientific study
will have to navigate between the two perspectives.”


Read more of this open access edition Religion, Brain & Behavior, Volume 2 Issue 1


One of our conference speakers, Samuli Schielke has a recent publication which is freely accessible online and of great interest to the topic. Please see details below

What is the function of logic in al-Kindī’s corpus? What kind of relation does it have with mathematics? This article tackles these questions by examining al-Kindī’s theory of categories as it was presented in his epistle On the Number of Aristotle’s Books (Fī Kammiyyat kutub Arisṭū), from which we can learn about his special attitude towards Aristotle theory of categories and his interpretation, as well. Al-Kindī treats the Categories as a logical book, but in a manner different from that of the classical Aristotelian tradition. He ascribes a special status to the categories Quantity (kammiyya) and Quality (kayfiyya), whereas the rest of the categories are thought to be no more than different combinations of these two categories with the category Substance. The discussion will pay special attention to the function of the categories of Quantity and Quality as mediators between logic and mathematics.

Samuli Schielke (2012). BEING A NONBELIEVER IN A TIME OF ISLAMIC REVIVAL: TRAJECTORIES OF DOUBT AND CERTAINTY IN CONTEMPORARY EGYPT. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 44 , pp 301-320 doi:10.1017/S0020743812000062

Publication: Secularism and Scottish independence

Some of the religious dimensions of the current UK constitutional arrangements and the opportunities that are afforded by the debate over Scottish independence for moves towards a secular state and a secular monarchy are investigated in an article in the current issue of the Political Quarterly by Norman Bonney.

It is argued that If the proponents of Scottish independence follow the expressed preference of the Scottish Parliament to eliminate the religious discrimination against Roman Catholics and other faiths in the line of succession to the throne – an opportunity afforded by the need to renegotiate the Acts of Union of 1707 in the event of a ‘yes’ vote for independence – this could result in a secular constitution for an independent Scotland and a need to rethink the monarch’s religious role as Head of the Church of England in a rump UK.

Tuvalu and You: The Monarch, the United Kingdom and the Realms -NORMAN BONNEY and  BOB MORRIS

‘Scottish Independence, State Religion and the Monarchy’, Political Quarterly, 83, 2, 2012, 360 -367.

Publication: “Devolution fraying the edges of UK Church establishment”

Norman Bonney, ‘Established religion, parliamentary devolution and new state religion in the United Kingdom’, Published online in Parliamentary Affairs 2012.

Parliamentary devolution in the UK since 1999 has had the effect of trimming the significance of Church establishment in the UK and introducing alternative expressions of official religosity and secularism in the proceedings of the devolved parliament and assemblies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The Church of England remains as the official state church of the United Kingdom performing religious services for the UK Parliament and state but the elected devolved institutions have devised alternative arrangements in relation to their own business with a secular Welsh National Assembly, silent contemplation in place of daily prayers in the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly and a multi-faith Time for Reflection in the Scottish Parliament.

The article examines the origins and reasoning of the new parliamentary bodies for abandoning the practice of Anglican prayers and adopting innovative contemporary solutions to the perennial tensions between the spheres of politics and religion.