here & there

May 22nd, 2017

Call for Applications | International Center for the Humanities and Social Change, UCSB

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The recently established International Center for the Humanities and Social Change at the University of California, Santa Barbara, will fund dissertation fellows and postdoctoral scholars for the academic year 2017-2018.

Our guiding theme for the academic year 2017-­2018 will be “The Humanities as a Vocation: Fact and Value—After Truth.” This thematic focus is prompted both by the many urgent questions facing us today about the meaning, function, and interplay of “facts” and “values” in public life and by the centenary of sociologist Max Weber’s famous treatment of the fact/value question in his “Science as a Vocation.”

For our dissertation and postdoctoral fellowships, we seek applicants from the humanities, arts, and humanistic social sciences whose work speaks in creative and far-reaching ways to questions of fact, value, clarity, and responsibility as these relate especially (though not exclusively) to matters such as media, politics, public trust, and institutional legitimacy; big data, surveillance, artificial intelligence, and automation in contemporary political, economic, and social life; cultures and economies of entertainment and spectacle, consumerism, narcissism, addiction, and distraction; struggle and contestation surrounding racial, ethnic, sexual, national, and religious identity; nihilism, fundamentalism, secularity, and the challenges of religious and political radicalization.

Application review will begin on May 30, 2017.

To read the job description and apply for a Dissertation Fellowship Scholar in the International Center for the Humanities and Social Change position, click here.

To read the job description and apply for a position as Postdoctoral Scholar and Lecturer in the International Center for the Humanities and Social Change, click here.

For more information or with any questions, visit the Center’s website or email

April 27th, 2017

UCSIA Summer School: Religion, Culture, and Society

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UCSIAThis is a call for applications for the 2017 UCSIA Summer School on “Religion, Culture, and Society: Entanglement and Confrontation.” This summer school is a one-week course taking place from Sunday, August 27, 2017 until Saturday, September 2, 2017 at the University Center Saint-Ignatius Antwerp, University of Antwerp, Belgium. This year the program will focus on the topic “Between Market, State, and Religion: Economic Realities, Social Justice, and Faith Traditions.”

The UCSIA Summer School brings together a multidisciplinary and international group of 30 PhD students and postdoctoral scholars. Participation and stay for young scholars and researchers are free of charge, but participants should pay for their own travel expenses to Antwerp.

You can submit your application via the electronic submission form on the summer school website. The completed file as well as all other required application documents must be submitted to the UCSIA selection committee no later than Sunday, May 14, 2017.


February 1st, 2017

Jeffrey Stout to give Gifford Lectures

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Religion Unbound: Ideals and Powers from Cicero to King
May 1 – May 11, 2017, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Business School Auditorium, University of Edinburgh

“Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world?”—Martin Luther King Jr.

The religious defenders of tyranny and oppression bind religion to injustice. The remedy, Adam Gifford thought, is not to secularize politics but to emancipate religion from arbitrary power. Religion is not going away. It will always have political effects. The effects are good if the religion is good and bad if the religion is bad. An ideal of ethical religion animated the abolitionists whom Gifford admired and many activists since.

In “Religion Unbound,” a 2017 Gifford Lecture Series hosted by the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, Professor Jeffrey Stout (Princeton University) will trace the ideal’s history and explain how its defenders have defined and criticized religion.


January 19th, 2017

CFP | Jews and Quakers (NEW DATE!)

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Brighton pierUPDATE (3/29/2017)

This one-day conference will now be taking place on Thursday, December 14, 2017 at the University of Sussex.

If interested, please send 300-word proposals for 30-minute papers, along with a short CV, to the conference coordinators at by midnight Monday, April 10, 2017. The organizers aim to respond to proposals by Monday, April 24, 2017. To register for attendance at the conference please email the coordinators to express your interest. Please give details of special dietary or access requirements. This event is supported by the Gerald Hodgett award.

More information about the call for papers and the conference can be found below or on the conference blog.

January 6th, 2017

CFP | Converting Spaces: Re-Directing Missions Through Global Encounters

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Converting SpacesThe department of religious studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara, with support from the Cordano Endowment in Catholic Studies, will host an interdisciplinary conference from May 4-6, 2017, entitled “Converting Spaces: Re-Directing Missions Through Global Encounters.” The keynote speaker for the event is Dr. Liam Brockey of the history department at Michigan State University.

Proposals addressing the relation of space to conversion in the context of European global and colonial expansion from the sixteenth century onwards are welcome from established scholars, graduate students, and independent researchers. The deadline for submissions is February 17, 2017. Full details can be found below:


December 1st, 2016

Post-Doctoral Opportunity at the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion

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ucb_bcsr_logo_rgb_cyanThe Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion at the University of California-Berkeley has opened recruitment for the Berkeley Postdoctoral Fellowship in Public Theology for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Part of BCSR’s Public Theology Program, the fellowship is dedicated to the furtherance of the very best new scholarship in religious studies, and, in particular, the development of modes of inquiry that can pioneer new approaches for the study of religion in the public university. For the academic year 2017-18, BCSR seeks a top early career scholar to come to Berkeley for one year. . . .

November 1st, 2016

Beyond the Secular State? Secularism, Empire, and Hegemony

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ICLS | Columbia UniversityMonday, November 14, 6:15 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
403 Jerome Greene Hall, Columbia University

A number of recent critiques have argued that secularism is more exclusionary than emancipative. French secularism (laïcité) and its current relation to Muslims is widely considered as the paradigmatic example. But secularists often claim that such exclusions are not “really secular” and distort the truth of secularism. Their claim is given credit by the attacks against the idea of secularization emanating from “fundamentalist” religious discourses, some of which are violent indeed. However, seen from outside the Eurocentric West, this defense of secularism would be more convincing if secularists displayed a greater capacity at criticizing their own tradition.

Three orders of questions regarding secularism—genealogical, philosophical, and political—will be envisaged during an upcoming public debate at the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (ICLS) at Columbia University. Talal Asad, Mohamed Amer-Meziane, and Etienne Balibar will be speaking on these questions in the conversation titled, “Beyond the Secular State? Secularism, Empire, Hegemony.”


October 12th, 2016

Charles Taylor wins Berggruen Prize

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Charles TaylorOn October 4, 2016, the Berggruen Institute named philosopher Charles Taylor as the inaugural recipient of the Berggruen Prize—a one-million dollar annual award for a thinker “whose ideas are of broad significance for shaping human self-understanding and the advancement of humanity.” For his breadth of study across disciplines, commitment to both academia and public life, and the legacy of his research into human relationship and meaning, the nine-person committee selected Professor Taylor as the first winner of this prize. In the words of Craig Calhoun, current president of the Berggruen Institute and former president of the Social Science Research Council, “Taylor’s own life exemplifies the wisdom that philosophy celebrates, bringing intellectual humanity as well as remarkable knowledge to personal relationships, teaching, scholarship, and public engagement.”

In celebration of this honor for Charles Taylor, we at The Immanent Frame collected some of our favorite content from the past nine years written by or about the man whose concept, the “immanent frame” (Chapter 15 of A Secular Age), is our namesake.

September 29th, 2016

Call for Comments: Writing religion for the IPSP

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International Panel on Social ProgressCan we hope for a better society? That is the animating question behind an ambitious project, the International Panel on Social Progress (IPSP). Inspired by Amartya Sen, the project is modeled after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and is guided by a scientific council and a steering committee. It exists to “harness the competence of hundreds of experts about social issues” and to “deliver a report addressed to all social actors, movements, organizations, politicians, and decision-makers, in order to provide them with the best expertise on questions that bear on social change.” Also modeled on the IPCC, drafts of the chapter reports are now available for public comment. Prompted by David Smilde, this is our invitation to the readers of The Immanent Frame to join that conversation.

June 1st, 2016

Post-Doctoral Opportunity at Columbia University IRCPL

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UntitledThe Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life invites applications for postdoctoral scholar positions, for the 2016-2017 academic year. Renewal for the 2017-2018 academic year is possible, contingent on satisfactory performance and funding.

The Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life at Columbia University supports academic research, teaching, and scholarship on the study of religion, culture, and social difference at Columbia University. In addition, it convenes academic conferences, public forums, and collaborative programming to support and extend academic and scholarly understanding of these topics, and to disseminate and distribute such new understandings to broader publics and communities.

Candidates must have received the PhD between August 31, 2013 and August 31, 2016 in a discipline engaged with the interdisciplinary study of religion. The Institute is particularly interested in candidates whose research engages critical, interpretive, historical, and genealogical approaches that challenge traditional disciplinary boundaries and who are studying important global issues in the following thematic areas: 1. Islam in the 21st Century; 2. Religion and Politics in the Middle East; 3. Religion in American Public Life; 4. Democracy, Secularism and Pluralism; 5. Religion and Sexuality; and 6. Religion and Journalism.

This is a full time salaried position with benefits. Review of applications begins on June 9th, 2016 and will continue until the positions are filled. All applications must be submitted through Columbia University’s online Recruitment of Academic Personnel System (RAPS).

Click here for more information.

April 14th, 2016

Post-Doctoral Research Associate: Public Life and Religious Diversity

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Department of Politics and International Relations LogoThe Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University has announced a new position: Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Political Theory: Public Life and Religious Diversity in association with Harris Manchester College.

April 6th, 2016

CFP: Putting Truth in the Second Place: On Compromise, Religion and Politics

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unnamedAs part of the COMPROMISE research project at the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen will host an international conference on December 6-7, 2016.

March 30th, 2016

The sacred and the social

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Carlyle Lectures PosterIn these Carlyle Lectures, given at the University of Oxford in January and February 2016, I suggested that between 1650 and 1800 sacred history offered a fertile resource to political philosophers interested in exploring the concepts of “society” and “sociability.” The lectures thus brought together two stories which early modern intellectual historians have tended to keep separate. One is the study of sacred history, in particular of its foundation text, the Bible, which entered a new phase in the Renaissance, and reached a peak of intensity and originality in the seventeenth century. Over this period a succession of scholars from Erasmus to Richard Simon transformed understanding of both the text and the context of the Bible by study of its composition and authorship, and of its chronologies and historical and geographical content. The excitement of that early modern scholarship has recently been captured by Anthony Grafton and a growing number of younger historians, including Scott Mandelbrote and Dmitri Levitin.1 In turn, their work has enabled me to appreciate what the political philosophers who are my subjects saw in sacred history.

  1. Anthony Grafton, Joseph Scaliger 2 vols, (Oxford: Oxford U.P., 1983-93); Scott Mandelbrote, “Isaac Vossius and the Septuagint,” in Eric Jorink and Dirk van Miert, Isaac Vossius (1618-1698) between science and scholarship (Leiden, 2012, pp. 85-117; Dmitri Levitin, Ancient Wisdom in the Age of the New Science. Histories of Philosophy in England c.1640-1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 2015), and “From sacred history to the history of religion: paganism, Judaism, and Christianity in European historiography from Reformation to ‘Enlightenment,'” The Historical Journal, 55 (2012), 1117-60.

March 14th, 2016

New editorial board

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TIFvatarThe Immanent Frame is pleased to announce its first editorial board. Members of the editorial board are:

Carlo Invernizzi Accetti (City College of New York)
Courtney Bender (Columbia University)
Ruth Braunstein (University of Connecticut)
Elizabeth Shakman Hurd (Northwestern University)
Nancy Levene (Yale University)
Vincent Lloyd (Syracuse University)
Saba Mahmood (University of California, Berkeley)
Daniel Vaca (Brown University)

In concert with the editorial board, Managing Editor Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins and Editorial Associate Wei Zhu will work together in order to provide fresh content on academic and contemporary matters related to religion, secularism, and the public sphere. Please follow the site to catch up on the latest posts.

March 10th, 2016

Robert P. Benedict Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy

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Robertson Lecture PosterUniversity of Cambridge historian John Robertson will be delivering this year’s Robert P. Benedict Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy at Boston University entitled, The Sacred and the Social: 1650-1790. Professor Robertson will offer three lectures entitled:

The interpretation of the Word of God: Hobbes and Spinoza: Tuesday, April 19th 5-7 PM

The Flood and the making of Gentile society: G.B. Vico: Thursday, April 21st 5-7 PM

Conjectural histories, religion and society: from J-J Rousseau to F.M. Pagano: Monday, April 25th 5-7 PM

The event is free an open to the public. More information can be found here.

February 16th, 2016

Conference: A Postsecular Age? New Narratives of Religion, Science, and Society

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On July 27-30, the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion in conjunction with St. Anne’s College at Oxford will be hosting a conference entitled, Postsecular Age? New Narratives of Religion, Science, and Society.

The past 20 years have seen the development of the interdisciplinary subfield of ‘secularism studies’ or ‘critical secularism studies.’ Previous theories of secularisation typically presupposed the steady march of human civilisations toward non-religion—in part under the influence of scientific advance. By contrast, these new approaches view secularism and narratives of secularisation as ideological artefacts corresponding to specific times and places and in need of critical framing. Are we then living in what some have called a ‘postsecular’ age? Why have atheism and secularism become so fascinating for scholars—and in popular culture—for the past two decades? Has the secularisation narrative gone away (or changed shape?), putting religion back on the agenda of scholarship, global politics, law-making, and commerce? Are developments in science contributing to these trends? What effect have the New Atheism and new deployments of scientific authority had on secularisation theory? Why do secularisms look different in different times and places? What is the role of globalisation in the emergence and transformation of secularisms?

Speakers include Courtney Bender (Columbia University), Matthew Engelke (London School of Economics), Alister McGrath (Oxford University), Ann Pellegrini (New York University)
Mary-Jane Rubenstein (Wesleyan University) and Graham Ward (Oxford University).

The closing date for abstract submissions is 15 April 2016. More details can be found here:

February 4th, 2016

New blog on religion in the public sphere

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In late January, a new blog on the role of religion in the public sphere was launched: Religion: Going Public. The blog discusses various aspects of contemporary religion in the public sphere. aims to disseminate on-going research findings to wider audiences, and engages with and informs public debates on religion. Religion: Going Public develops out of a collaboration between researchers in three research projects funded by Norwegian Research Council’s SAMKUL program​.

Explore the blog here.

January 20th, 2016

Religion, Secularism, and Constitutional Democracy

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religion secularismSecularism has many critics in the academy these days, but not all have given up on it. This is made abundantly clear in the recently published volume, Religion, Secularism, and Constitutional Democracy edited by Jean L. Cohen and Cécile Laborde. While recognizing the limitations of a militant variant of secularism, the contributors to this volume call for the notion to be reformed rather than jettisoned for some type of post-secular alternative. From the publisher:

Polarization between political religionists and militant secularists on both sides of the Atlantic is on the rise. Critically engaging with traditional secularism and religious accommodationism, this collection introduces a constitutional secularism that robustly meets contemporary challenges. It identifies which connections between religion and the state are compatible with the liberal, republican, and democratic principles of constitutional democracy and assesses the success of their implementation in the birthplace of political secularism: the United States and Western Europe.

Approaching this issue from philosophical, legal, historical, political, and sociological perspectives, the contributors wage a thorough defense of their project’s theoretical and institutional legitimacy. Their work brings fresh insight to debates over the balance of human rights and religious freedom, the proper definition of a nonestablishment norm, and the relationship between sovereignty and legal pluralism. They discuss the genealogy of and tensions involving international legal rights to religious freedom, religious symbols in public spaces, religious arguments in public debates, the jurisdiction of religious authorities in personal law, and the dilemmas of religious accommodation in national constitutions and public policy when it violates international human rights agreements or liberal-democratic principles. If we profoundly rethink the concepts of religion and secularism, these thinkers argue, a principled adjudication of competing claims becomes possible.

Read more on the book here.

January 6th, 2016

Postdoctoral fellowship in religion, politics, and global affairs

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The Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the Buffett Institute at Northwestern University invite applications for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in the study of religion, politics, and global affairs. The fellowship runs from September 1, 2016 to August 31, 2018 and will be part of the Politics of Religion at Home and Abroad Project in Evanston, Illinois.

Applications are welcome from scholars working at the intersections of religion, law, and politics in national and/or global contexts. Scholars whose research engages critical, interpretive, historical, and genealogical approaches that challenge traditional disciplinary boundaries are encouraged to apply. The Fellow will be affiliated with the Buffett Institute and will be affiliated with an appropriate department in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

The application deadline is February 1, 2016. More details can be found here.

December 15th, 2015

Religion, Media, and the Digital Turn

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This new report by Christopher D. Cantwell and Hussein Rashid begins to document some of the impact that digital modes of research and publication have had on the study of religion. The report, supported by funding from the Henry Luce Foundation, is a snapshot of an ever-evolving digital landscape that points towards potential challenges and opportunities for digital scholarship in the future, while highlighting the wealth of resources currently available.

The last decade has witnessed nothing short of a transformation in the study of religion. Where the printed word was once the field’s stock in trade, scholars and journalists now produce and circulate knowledge through a variety of digital media as well. These new genres have, in large part, been made possible by the rise of “digital humanities” within the academy—a methodological turn that, despite its name, has altered disciplines across both the humanities and social sciences—as well as the widespread use of social participatory media.

We intend for this report to serve as what might be called a form of documentary advocacy. While our primary goal is to chronicle emerging forms of intellectual production shaping the study of religion, we hope that a greater awareness of this new work will generate more recognition of the high quality and innovative work that already exists.

Read the full report on the Social Science Research Council’s website.

November 23rd, 2015

Postdoc in Public Theology at Berkeley

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The Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion has announced a postdoctoral fellowship in Public Theology. The position will be supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, the Berkeley Public Theology Program brings together a group of scholars from fields across the humanities and social sciences, with specializations in a wide array of religious traditions. Our three-year initiative is dedicated to exploring the place of theology in public life, past and present. Theology is here meant broadly as the constellation of conceptual commitments and modes of inquiry that together enable communities to investigate and understand the world in religious terms. We propose to open this subject up to varied disciplinary approaches. Subjects might include, but are not limited to: theology and the institutions of secular life; theological aspects of politics; theology and law; art, literature, and
theological inquiry; theology and social formations, and so on. We will consider applicants from all relevant disciplines whose work promises to advance the research aims of the Berkeley Public Theology Program.

Review of applications will begin February 1, 2016. For more information, including eligibility guidelines and application instructions, see the full call here.

November 17th, 2015

Spirits of Capitalism: Exploring Religion and Economy

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Sunday, Nov. 22, 5pm to ­6.30pm
Marriot-International 6 (International level)
American Academy of Religion annual meeting (Nov. 21­-24, Atlanta, GA)

A session entitled “Spirits of Capitalism: Exploring Religion and Economy” will serve as an exploratory session for a potential new AAR program unit entitled “Religion and Economy.” Both the panel and the proposed unit seek to promote interdisciplinary conversations among scholars whose work conjoins concepts of religion, economy, and economics. The panel will feature brief presentations by scholars familiar to readers of The Immanent Frame (including Pamela Klassen and Kathryn Lofton). Panelists will reflect on how they conceptualize intersections of religion and economy in their historical, anthropological, and critical theoretical scholarship. Through the presentations and subsequent discussion with the audience, the panel will explore how capitalism’s terms and constraints not only orient religious life but also take shape through fields of thought, activity, resistance that the “religious” helps bring into view.

If you have any questions about the panel or proposed program unit, please feel free to contact the co-­organizers, Daniel Vaca ( and Elayne Oliphant (

November 17th, 2015

René Girard dies at 91

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Image of René Girard from the Wikimedia CommonsEarlier this month, Stanford University announced that prominent faculty member René Girard had died after a long illness. Among many contributions, Girard is best known to many for his theory of mimetic desire and his work on religion and violence.

In particular, Girard was interested in the causes of conflict and violence and the role of imitation in human behavior. Our desires, he wrote, are not our own; we want what others want. These duplicated desires lead to rivalry and violence. He argued that human conflict was not caused by our differences, but rather by our sameness. Individuals and societies offload blame and culpability onto an outsider, a scapegoat, whose elimination reconciles antagonists and restores unity.

Read full obituaries of Professor Girard from Stanford UniversityLe Monde, and the New York Times. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Religion & Ethics blog has published an appreciation of his work of his work.

October 7th, 2015

Christianity and human rights at Religion Dispatches

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As part of a joint project, Religion Dispatches contributing editor Austin Dacey has written a series of posts on The Immanent Frame‘s recent discussion on Christianity and human rights. The last in the series asks what is the true extent of Catholicism’s contribution to the contemporary discourse of human rights:

[Cardinal Pietro] Parolin is correct that for some time, popes have spoken of the dignity of the human person, a phrase that may sound familiar from the U.N. Charter and Declaration of Human Rights. But as his statements lay bare, this Catholic usage is strikingly different from the usage in the contemporary discourse of human rights. What to make of the human rights legacy of Christianity, and conservative Catholic thought in particular, is the subject of a vigorous debate among historians at The Immanent Frame.


September 25th, 2015

John Boehner resigning

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Amidst growing tension between conservative factions in Washington, Speaker of the House John Boehner has announced his intention to resign from Congress in October, leading some to speculate on whether yesterday’s remarks from Pope Francis played a role in Boehner’s decision. According to the New York Times, Representative Charlie Dent (Republican, Pennsylvania) “blamed the House’s hard-right members, who he said were unwilling to govern.”

“It’s clear to me that the rejectionist members of our conference clearly had an influence on his decision,” Mr. Dent said. “That’s why I’m not happy about what happened today. We still have important issues to deal with, and this will not be easier for the next guy.”

“The dynamics are this,” he continued. “There are anywhere from two to four dozen members who don’t have an affirmative sense of governance. They can’t get to yes. They just can’t get to yes, and so they undermine the ability of the speaker to lead. And not only do they undermine the ability of the speaker to lead, but they undermine the entire Republican conference and also help to weaken the institution of Congress itself. That’s the reality.”

The Times’s editorial board puts a sharper point on the issue, calling Boehner’s exit “a sorry measure of how far right-wing extremism has advanced in immobilizing the Republican Party and undermining the process of healthy government.”

August 21st, 2015

The religious roots of ISIS

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At Arc of the Universe, Daniel Philpott draws from Rukmini Callimachi’s recent The New York Times article, “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape,” and Graeme Wood’s earlier The Atlantic article, “What ISIS Really Wants,” to emphasize the importance of political theology in understanding ISIS’s actions.

Is it theology that explains the behavior of the attackers or is it economic dislocation, resentment over colonialism and present-day imperialism, weak states, the desire for adventure, and other alternative causes? Of course, most who think that religious beliefs play a strong and independent role, as I do, also believe that these myriad factors are commingled and contributory. It is also the case that members of ISIS will hold their beliefs with greater and lesser intensity. Some are very bad Muslims. But the behavior and tactics of the group cannot be explained apart from the theology that governs it and is promulgated within it. This is what is denied by a striking number of analysts writing today. See only the reaction to Wood’s piece.  The critics are dismissive of religion altogether and hold that theology is almost entirely a rationalization, not a driver or a motive.

Read his full piece here.

In pointing out the religious motivations for ISIS’s abuse of Yazidi women, Philpott adds to an ongoing debate on the nature and universal applicability of religious freedom claims and protections. Writing at The World Post, Kecia Ali calls attention to the way that focusing on ISIS’s brutality, and the religious claims they make to justify it, occludes both problematic stereotyping and hypocrisy on the part of Americans.

By focusing on religious doctrine as an explanation for rape, Americans ignore the presence of sexual abuse and torture in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and in Assad’s Syria by the regime and other factions in its vicious ongoing war. None of this is to deny the horror of the systematic rapes Callimachi reports or the revolting nature of the theology she describes. It is to point out that there are reasons why the story of enslaved Yazidis is one that captures the front page of the New York Times: it fits into familiar narratives of Muslim barbarity.

In focusing on current abuses in the Middle East, perpetrated by those claiming the mantle of Islam, Americans — whose Constitution continues to permit enslavement as punishment for crime — deflect attention from partial U.S. responsibility for the current crisis in Iraq. Sanctions followed by military invasion and its brutal aftermath laid the groundwork for the situation Callimachi describes. Moral high ground is in short supply. The core idea animating enslavement is that some lives matter more than others. As any American who has been paying attention knows, this idea has not perished from the earth.

Read her full piece here.

August 19th, 2015

Coalitions and slippery slopes: The same-sex marriage debate continues

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Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court of the United States confirmed the constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry. Unsurprisingly, debates on the meaning and future of marriage have not subsided, but have taken on new directions. Among the hottest topics of debate are how American Muslims should respond to the ruling and whether polygamy will be the next battleground.

American Muslims’ views on same-sex marriage have recently become an issue of wider public debate, and particularly in response to an open letter by Reza Aslan and The Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj. Aslan and Minhaj’s letter is a political appeal for embracing the rights of LGBT communities. “No one is asking you to change your beliefs. If you feel your faith tells you that homosexuality is haram, fine,” they write to American Muslims.  Their contention is that American Muslims should empathize with and support other minority groups, because as a minority they know only too well about discrimination and the importance of enjoying legally protected rights.

August 18th, 2015

A View from the Margins of the Banlieue

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What light does the experience of Salafi Muslim women shed on satire mocking Islam and Muslims?

New Directions in the Study of Prayer grantee Z. Fareen Parvez takes up this question in her recent article on the place of female Muslim piety in contemporary France. Parvez, who worked with Salafi Muslim women in Lyon, contends that religious worship and community are particularly meaningful for women whose “status as French citizens remains precarious.” Nineteenth-century Catholicism, which was the topic of political satire back then, was the religion of a privileged class. Islam in France is not. These observations on discrimination against Muslim minorities problematizes the use of satire and the solidarity expressed after the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo:

[T]he implications of the slogan “je suis Charlie” are not as straightforward as they are made to appear. To say “je suis Charlie” is not only to denounce the killings and express one’s sympathy with the victims and their societies. It is not only to show one’s support for protected speech and the use of satire. Rather, it simultaneously has the effect of dismissing and invalidating the persistent reality of aggression, harassment, and political and economic exclusions that have been plaguing French Muslims, especially women among the unemployed working-class. Furthermore, it ignores the history of satire and perverts its logic by prodding and provoking those without social power—those who are excluded from public space and denied various dignities of citizenship.

Parvez’s article is part of the series Je Suis Musulman: European Muslims after Charlie Hebdo published by Reviews & Critical Commentary.

August 10th, 2015

Politics of Religious Freedom

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Politics of Religious FreedomIn a just-published edited volume, Politics of Religious Freedom, editors Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Saba Mahmood, and Peter Danchin ask contributors: what is religious freedom, why is it being promoted, and how are we talking about it? From the publisher:

Taking a global perspective, the more than two dozen contributors delineate the different conceptions of religious freedom predominant in the world today, as well as their histories and social and political contexts. Together, the contributions make clear that the reasons for persecution are more varied and complex than is widely acknowledged, and that the indiscriminate promotion of a single legal and cultural tool meant to address conflict across a wide variety of cultures can have the perverse effect of exacerbating the problems that plague the communities cited as falling short.

Many of the essays collected are the result of this earlier collaboration with The Immanent Frame.

For more on the book, click here.

July 28th, 2015

Materializing the Bible

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Materializing the BibleThe Immanent Frame contributor James S. Bielo and co-curator Amanda White have recently launched a new website called Materializing the Bible. The site, a “curated, online catalogue of Bible-based attractions around the world,” the site is designed to aid visitors in exploring and understanding these places, and to serve as a research and curriculum resource for students and educators.

Materializing the Bible is intended for multiple audiences. First and foremost, we hope educators and students at various levels will find the site productive and provocative. We also hope the site will be fruitful for public audiences, in particular to advance comparative, ethnographic ways of understanding Bible-based attractions. And, of course, for travelers of all kinds: use this site to locate an attraction near you or your next destination. While the websites are fascinating, sometimes you have to… go.

Bielo has written previously at The Immanent Frame on one such attraction: Ark Encounter, a biblical theme park currently under construction in Williamstown, Kentucky.

Read more about Bielo and White’s digital project here.

July 2nd, 2015

How will the same-sex marriage ruling affect religious liberty?

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On Friday, June 28, the United States Supreme Court ruled in a 5 to 4 decision that same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry. The Court’s ruling overturns restrictions on same-sex marriages in 13 states. While many have celebrated the landmark ruling—which was announced just before last weekend’s gay pride events in cities nationwide—the decision has also sparked concerns about the effect it will have on religious liberty in the United States.

Emma Green at the Atlantic talks about the kind of legal conflicts that are likely to follow from the Court’s decision for gay marriage. These potential conflicts are also addressed in the dissents of justices Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr., John G. Roberts, Jr., Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas.

May 22nd, 2015

5 questions (and answers) about religious exemptions for vaccines

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The measles outbreak originating in Disneyland in California—which was finally declared over last month after 169 cases in the United States—thrust the issue of non-medical vaccination exemptions into the political spotlight again, and fueled the growing public controversy over their place in mandatory immunization policies. Personal exemptions for moral or philosophical reasons exist in some states, but religious exemptions, which are allowed in forty-eight states, are far more prevalent. Determined to cut down on the number of unvaccinated people, lawmakers across the U.S. have proposed restrictions and bans on religious exemptions, triggering heated (and ongoing) debates in California, Maine, and Vermont. The current backlash raises a series of important legal, political, and religious questions about these exemptions, beginning with the most basic one.

Why do these religious exemptions exist?

Christian Scientists played an important role in establishing religious exemptions as they relate to the medical care of children. In 1967, Christian Scientist Dorothy Sheridan was convicted of manslaughter under the child neglect law for not seeking medical attention for her daughter, who died of pneumonia (Sheridan had to tried to treat her daughter solely with prayer). In response, Christian Scientists began to mobilize against the various laws regarding child abuse and neglect by lobbying for religious exemptions. Their campaign met with great success; Sheridan’s home state of Massachusetts, for example, added a religious exemption to its child neglect law in 1971. In 1974, religious exemption clauses were added to the Code of Federal Regulations (since repealed), as well as to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.1

  1. It is worth noting here that John Ehrichman, H. R. Haldeman, and Egil Krogh, close advisors to then-President Richard Nixon, were all lifelong Christian Scientists.

April 17th, 2015

Remembering Martin Riesebrodt

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On December 6, 2014, influential sociologist of religion Martin Riesebrodt died at the age of 66. Professor Riesebrodt was the author of two groundbreaking comparative studies: Pious Passion: The Emergence of Modern Fundamentalism in the United States and Iran (1993), and The Promise of Salvation: A Theory of Religion (2010).

April 16th, 2015

Projecting religious futures

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Projected Cumulative Change Due to Religious Switching, 2010-2050Earlier this month, Pew Research Center published its projections on what religious affiliations might look like in 2050, in what it describes as the “first formal demographic projections using data on age, fertility, mortality, migration and religious switching for multiple religious groups around the world.” Demographers from Pew and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria gathered data from more than 2,500 sources, and covers eight groups: Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, adherents of folk religions, adherents of other religions and the unaffiliated.

Among its most notable conclusions are that the number of Muslims will eventually match and then exceed the number of Christians in the world, and that Muslim and Christian adherents will double in sub-Saharan Africa by that time. China looms large in the report, as any religious shifts there would have massive implications given the sheer size of its population. But the country remains, to a large degree, terra incognita: up-to-date data on the religiously affiliated (or not) is simply unavailable. The forecasts provide a vague outline of trends that will surely have major sociopolitical ramifications globally.

Read the full report here.

March 23rd, 2015

Religious freedom at Religion Dispatches

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As part of a joint project between The Immanent Frame and Religion Dispatches, RD contributing editor Austin Dacey has written a series of posts on religious freedom in the United States. His latest piece tackles Winnifred Fallers Sullivan’s “The impossibility of religious freedom” and potential alternate regimes for legislating religious freedom in the United States:

For those opposed to the regime of religious freedom, the question is what could replace it. Is there a system that would be morally preferable yet also administratively implementable? Although her recent article doesn’t address it, Sullivan’s 2005 book of the same name closes by gesturing towards an alternative.

Under this legal regime, religious individuals and communities would “have to make arguments for the special legal accommodation of difference to legislative bodies.” Those making a case for “differential treatment would be required to make a very strong showing, as in race cases, of past discrimination or present need, to justify special legal treatment.” While these remarks are promising and suggestive, they do not constitute a workable theory. Attempts to construct such a theory—and attempts to show that there could be no such theory—presently preoccupy much legal scholarship. Insofar as there is no feasible alternative to a regime of “religious freedom,” Koppelman’s larger challenge remains in force: Religious freedom may be impossible, but compared to what?

Dacey has also written about the impact of the Holt v. Hobbs and Hobby Lobby decisions, the concept of corporate personhood, and the differences between religious non-profit and for-profit companies.

This collaboration with Religion Dispatches is made possible by funding from the Henry Luce Foundation.

March 10th, 2015

CFP: Freedom of (and from) Religion

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The Department of Religious Studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara, with support from the Cordano Endowment in Catholic Studies, will host a conference on “Freedom of (and from) Religion: Debates Over the Accommodation of Religion in the Public Sphere” from April 30 to May 2, 2015. The keynote speaker will be Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University-Bloomington, and Affiliated Professor of Law, Maurer School of Law. Full details in the call below:


February 23rd, 2015

Religion in Britain: Demography, identity, and the public sphere

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At Public Spirit, to coincide with the publication of the second edition of Grace Davie’s Religion in Britain, Tariq Modood comments on three significant changes in demography, identity, and the public sphere that are going to characterize the next few decades and perhaps beyond:

…when historians look back at the post-war Commonwealth immigration they will note of course the ethnic transformation…but also note the religious transformation of this country that no one at the time foresaw. These two transformations are working their effects across so many features of social, economic and political life but one which I think we have been slow to recognise is what it means in terms of the place of religion and belief in British public life. Unfortunately, for too many politicians and others this question is too dominated by issues of extremism, violence and terrorism. Such phenomena are exceptional and it is a great mistake to judge religion, not to mention Muslims and Islam, in such fearful terms. We need to think of not just the harm that some militants can do but about the good that religion has to offer, not just to individuals but to communities and society as a whole; not just about religious minorities as fringe movements but about their place in the mainstream.

Read the full article here.

February 22nd, 2015


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Some readers may have recently returned to Frequencies only to find that its spiritual focus had radically shifted. Due to hijinks (perhaps predictable) relating to transitory labor, scholarly ignorance, and the virtualization of just about everything, the original site has experienced foreclosure. Its contents will soon be reconstituted in new http territory.

Which is to say that the original Frequencies domain is now in the hands of a self-described “growth hacker” who has replaced our “collaborative genealogy of spirituality” with the “mejores webs de porno en español,” so we’re setting up an archival edition at a new URL. As soon as the site is settled in at its new location, we will let you know. Stay tuned for the resurrection.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

The Frequencies Collective

February 18th, 2015

CFP: Secularism and Secularity

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Now entering its third year, the Secularism and Secularity Program Unit of the American Academy of Religion is going strong and looking forward to another great set of proposals. The call for papers for the 2015 meeting in Atlanta is now available, and the deadline for submissions is March 2nd.

February 5th, 2015

Norse pagan temple to be built in Iceland

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Roughly a millennium after Christianity overtook Norse paganism, there will soon be a new temple devoted to Odin, Thor, and Frigg overlooking Reykjavík. Ásatrúarfélagið, a religious organization devoted to a contemporary form of Norse paganism, will be building the temple. From The Guardian:

Worship of the gods in Scandinavia gave way to Christianity around 1,000 years ago but a modern version of Norse paganism has been gaining popularity in Iceland.

“I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet,” said Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, high priest of Ásatrúarfélagið, an association that promotes faith in the Norse gods.

“We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.”

Membership in Ásatrúarfélagið has tripled in Iceland in the last decade to 2,400 members last year, out of a total population of 330,000, data from Statistics Iceland showed.

Read more about the actual design and building of the temple here.

February 4th, 2015

Conference: Why Prayer? A Conference on New Directions in the Study of Prayer

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January 29th, 2015

CFP and fellowship opportunities

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The Religion Network of the Social Science History Association has announced a call for papers, panels, and book sessions for the 40th annual meeting of the Social Science History Association in Baltimore, Maryland, November 12-15, 2015. The deadline for submissions is February 14th, 2015.

January 20th, 2015

Opportunity at Connecticut College

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The Department of Religious Studies at Connecticut College has an opening for a visiting assistant professor:

The Department of Religious Studies at Connecticut College seeks a Visiting Assistant Professor in the “Religious Histories of the Americas,” with a focus on Africana/African American religions and/or Latin@/Latin American religions.  The visiting faculty member in Religious Histories of the Americas should have the Ph.D. or equivalent degree completed by the beginning of the Fall of 2015 semester.   The Department seeks candidates with training in interdisciplinary fields, innovative methodologies, critical approaches, and advanced training in religious studies, history, anthropology, American studies or other area studies, global studies, cultural studies, or other comparable units.

Read the full job description here.

January 16th, 2015

A new year at The Immanent Frame

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TIFvatarHappy New Year from The Immanent Frame!

The end of 2014 saw us kicking off a new series on religious freedom in the United States, in response to questions raised by guest editor and contributor Winnifred Fallers Sullivan. Contributions so far have included Sarah Imhoff, Andrew Koppelman, Finbarr Curtis, Amanda Porterfield, Isaac Weiner, and Ronit Y. Stahl, with more to come.

In the book blog, we wrapped up our forum on Thomas Pfau’s Minding the Modern, with contributions from Thomas Joseph White, Borja Vilallonga, Victoria Kahn, Mark Alznauer, Elizabeth Pritchard, Paul Silas Peterson, Charly Coleman, Brad S. Gregory, and a multipart response from Pfau.

Our here & there section continues to feature relevant events, news, essays, and reviews.

As we move into the new year, we are excited to announce a new discussion series on religion and digital culture, which has started with Kathryn Lofton’s “The digital is a place to hide,” Jason Anthony’s “Religion: The Game,” and Austin Dacey’s “How to make someone famous for the wrong reason.” Finally, in addition to new content, we look forward to a site-wide redesign, which is currently in the planning phase.

To keep up with The Immanent Frame in 2015, be sure to follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our RSS feed. You can also find us on Facebook.

January 13th, 2015

The Charlie Hebdo shootings

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On Wednesday, January 7th, two masked assailants stormed the Paris headquarters of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdokilled 12 people, and wounded 11 others. Police quickly identified 3 suspects—the shooters and a suspected getaway driver. The following day, in a suburb of Paris, a masked gunman (later linked to the brothers suspected of carrying out the magazine massacre) fatally shot a policewoman. By Friday, all three gunmen had been killed in separate hostage situations, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying that they were intended to teach the French “that the freedom of expression has limits and boundaries.”

December 18th, 2014

Church of England has its first female bishop

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Following a July 2014 vote to allow female bishops, the Church of England has named the Reverend Libby Lane as its first female bishop. Speaking on her appointment, Lane said:

I am grateful for, though somewhat daunted by, the confidence placed in me by the Diocese of Chester. This is unexpected and very exciting. On this historic day as the Church of England announces the first woman nominated to be Bishop, I am very conscious of all those who have gone before me, women and men, who for decades have looked forward to this moment. But most of all I am thankful to God.

The church faces wonderful opportunities, to proclaim afresh, in this generation, the Good News of Jesus and to build His Kingdom. The Church of England is called to serve all the people of this country, and being present in every community, we communicate our faith best when our lives build up the lives of others, especially the most vulnerable. I am excited by the possibilities and challenges ahead.

Over at The Guardian, Haroon Siddique has a short profile of Lane’s life in the clergy:

Libby Lane, who has been chosen by the Church of England as its first female bishop, has long been one of the most influential women in the church.

She is one of eight clergywomen from the church elected as participant observers in the House of Bishops, as the representative from the dioceses of the north-west, and has been a bishop’s selection adviser for 10 years, making recommendations to the church about candidates offering themselves for ordination.

Meanwhile, Alan Cowell at The New York Times highlights some of the divisions that the issue of female bishops has caused within the Anglican Communion:

The halting process toward her consecration reflected deep divisions between liberals and conservatives in the Church of England that are likely to be cemented rather than resolved by the move.

“Without prayer and repentance, it is hard to see how we can avoid some serious fractures,” said the Most Rev. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, who backed the push for female bishops, after a final vote on the matter last month.

Read the Church of England’s full statement on Bishop Lane’s appointment here.

December 9th, 2014

Why Prayer? A Conference on New Directions in the Study of Prayer

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New Directions in the Study of PrayerThe Social Science Research Council’s program on Religion and the Public Sphere announces Why Prayer? A Conference on New Directions in the Study of Prayer (February 6-7, 2015). This two-day gathering will showcase the work of over 30 scholars and journalists exploring what the study of prayer can tell us about a range of topics.

Please join us February 6-7, 2015, for panels and presentations on topics including religious technologies, embodiment, material culture, language, politics, and the mind. Beginning Friday afternoon, the conference will also feature the Prayer Expo—a pop-up installation of multi-media presentations and material objects that call attention to the myriad representations of prayer shaping discourse and practice. On Saturday, two plenary events will highlight the multiple registers of engagement occasioned by new, transdisciplinary research on the practice of prayer.

For more information on the conference and how to register, please click here. Registration is free, but space is limited.

December 4th, 2014

CFP: The Psychology of Religion/The Religion of Psychology

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On Friday, March 6th, 2015, the University of Chicago Divinity School and the Martin Marty Center will host “The Psychology of Religion/The Religion of Psychology,” a conference exploring the relation between two problem children of modernity.

Both to the discomfort and excitement of psychologists, scholars of religion, and religious practitioners, the overlap between the histories of psychology and religion is rather significant. Like philosophy, psychology was once pegged, in the words of Frank E. Manuel, as the “newest handmaiden of true religion.” However,with the emergence of new experimental methods in the late nineteenth century and of psychoanalysis (an inherently anti-religious discipline, according to its founder) in the early twentieth, psychology attempted to distance itself from religion, though with mixed results. Although psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals today understand their respective disciplines to have grown increasingly scientific and thus less “religious,” the various ways in which psychology and religion were interrelated in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries could be used to tell a different story.

The conference will be keynoted by a roundtable discussion by Jeffrey Kripal, Jonathan Lear, and Tanya Luhrmann. Proposals for this conference are due by January 5th, 2015. Read the full call for papers here.

December 3rd, 2014

Book launch for Queer Christianities

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TONIGHT at 6PM, Eugene Lang College will host a book launch party for Queer Christianities: Lived Religion in Transgressive Forms, edited by Kathleen T. Talvacchia, Michael F. Pettinger, and Mark Larrimore. The event will feature a brief discussion with remarks from Pettinger and Talvacchia, followed by a reception. About the book:

Queerness and Christianity, often depicted as mutually exclusive, both challenge received notions of the good and the natural. Nowhere is this challenge more visible than in the identities, faiths, and communities that queer Christians have long been creating. As Christians they have staked a claim for a Christianity that is true to their self-understandings.  How do queer-identified persons understand their religious lives? And in what ways do the lived experiences of queer Christians respond to traditions and reshape them in contemporary practice?

Read the full announcement here.

November 18th, 2014

Political backlash and the rise of “nones”

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In an article that appears in the open access online journal Sociological Science, sociologists Michael Hout and Claude Fisher take a look at the relationship between religious disaffiliation and backlash against right-wing religio-political movements. Like David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam in American Grace, the authors find that the rise of “nones” can partially be explained by changing political preferences. They update the argument with additional data and analysis:

Twenty percent of American adults claimed no religious preference in 2012, compared to 7 percent twenty-five years earlier. Previous research identified a political backlash against the religious right and generational change as major factors in explaining the trend. That research found that religious beliefs had not changed, ruling out secularization as a cause. In this paper we employ new data and more powerful analytical tools to: (1) update the time series, (2) present further evidence of correlations between political backlash, generational succession, and religious identification, (3) show how valuing personal autonomy generally and autonomy in the sphere of sex and drugs specifically explain generational differences, and (4) use GSS panel data to show that the causal direction in the rise of the “Nones” likely runs from political identity as a liberal or conservative to religious identity, reversing a long-standing convention in social science research. Our new analysis joins the threads of earlier explanations into a general account of how political conflict over cultural issues spurred an increase in non-affiliation.

Read the full article here.