Special Issue "Nonreligion Contesting the Public Sphere. Performing of Nonreligion Rituals in Public Institutions"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 December 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Ida Marie Høeg
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Religion, Philosophy and History, University of Agder, 4630 Kristiansand, Norway

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue explores manifestations of nonreligion performed in ritual actions in Western and other liberal democracies. Nonreligion rituals refer to actions that are explicitly in contrast to organized religious ritual actions (Lee 2015), or framed as a replacement for religious rituals, particularly Christian rituals. These actions or practices take place in dialectics between the religious and nonreligious or secular and, according to Talal Asad, express the flexible borderline between the religious and the secular (2003). In many Western and other liberal democracies, for the last few decades, mainline churches and other historic faith institutions have experienced a drop in membership rates. Increasing numbers of people have exited religion altogether or have never been socialized into it. Several of those people fit under the umbrella of nonreligious and secularist and are what Lori Beaman identifies as ‘none,’ atheist, agnostic, humanist, spiritual but not religious (Beaman, et al. 2018), and who Linda Woodhead argues are not straightforwardly secular (2016: 249).  

This Special Issue follows and expands on work already initiated on nonreligion, but which has not yet taken seriously the role of actions, particularly ritual actions. A fruitful approach to understanding the heterogeneous nature of nonreligion is not only to identify the people who self-describe as ‘none’ along with their beliefs, but also to examine their performed rituals. Approaching it through the lens of ritual action highlights the meaning-making abilities.  

Nonreligion ritual actions translate into the textures of everyday life—life trajectories, educational institutions, work-life, political involvement, social media participation, etc. They are often assessed as hybrid actions or rituals void of Christian content. Some of them can also be viewed as contesting the historic Christian hegemony. In contrast to religious organisations’ doctrinal rituals or holistic rituals with an existing spiritual guideline, the nonreligious ritual actions are performed and developed by the actors themselves, public institutions (museums, city halls, parks, schools, etc.) or humanist associations/secular society organizations. Ritual actions subject to research include a range of strict and loose regulations, geographically from the rural corners to the heart of urban cities, with short and long-standing tradition, within the context of cultural heritage or in opposition to it.  

The study of nonreligion practices emerges as a novel way to understand the shifting religious landscape in Western countries. Nonreligions rituals are particularly interesting as they encompass the varying, blended, and some say “fuzzy” field of religion expressed in society. Investigating these actions will help us to understand contemporary configurations of religion worldviews outside of religious organisations like temples, churches, and mosques. The study of nonreligion ritual actions appears as a new way to investigate and challenge secularisation theory, as well as to understand the spiritual turn and expansion of consumerism. More importantly, a careful analysis of these ritual actions gives access to the negotiation of identities, values, ideals, and beliefs. To examine ritual actions and how the organizations, institutions and actors themselves use and display symbols, ideas, and emotions open ways to explore the transformation of worldview from an individual, organisational and societal level.

These ritual practices challenge several assumptions in the field of religious studies and sociology of religion with regard to the macro, meso and micro levels: How do the actors construct an in-group and an out-group, or bridge across dividing religious and nonreligious groups? Furthermore, how do these new and old rituals re-frame the present and envision the future within and without the framework of leadership, membership, and organization? The critical study of nonreligion rituals also means that we seriously consider the concepts of power, ethnicity, and gender. This raises important questions: Who acts for whom, whose voices are privileged, and whose are silenced? We invite submissions that address these or other related questions.  

References:

Asad, Talal (2003). Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Beamen, Lori G., Cory Steele, Keelin Pringnitz (2018). The inclusion of nonreligion in religion and human rights Social Compass 2018, 65(1):43–61.

Beaman LG (2012). Battles over symbols: The ‘religion’ of the minority versus the ‘culture’ of the majority. Journal of Law and Religion 28(1): 67–104.

Lee, Lois (2015). Recognizing the Non-religious: Reimagining the Secular. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Woodhead Linda (2016) The rise of ‘no religion’ in Britain: The emergence of a new cultural majority. Journal of the British Academy 4: 245–261.

Prof. Ida Marie Høeg
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • ritual
  • nonreligion
  • religion
  • pluralism
  • identity
  • secular
  • culture
  • consumption
  • Christianity

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Civil Religion or Nationalism? The National Day Celebrations in Norway
Religions 2021, 12(3), 206; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12030206 - 18 Mar 2021
Viewed by 379
Abstract
The Norwegian National Day (17 May, also referred to as Constitution Day) stands out as one of the most popular National Day celebrations in Europe. According to surveys, around seven out of every 10 Norwegians take part in a public celebration during this [...] Read more.
The Norwegian National Day (17 May, also referred to as Constitution Day) stands out as one of the most popular National Day celebrations in Europe. According to surveys, around seven out of every 10 Norwegians take part in a public celebration during this day. This means that the National Day potentially has an impact on the way people reflect upon national identity and its relationship to the Lutheran heritage. In this paper, I will focus on the role religion plays in the Norwegian National Day rituals. Researchers have described these rituals as both containing a significant religious element and being rather secularized. In this article, I discuss the extent to which the theoretical concepts civil religion and religious nationalism can help us understand the role of religion, or the absence of religion, in these rituals. Based on surveys of the general population, I analyze both indicators of civil religion and religious nationalism. The two phenomena are compared by looking at their relation to such items as patriotism, chauvinism, and xenophobia. The results show that civil religion explains participation in the National Day rituals better than religious nationalism. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Winter Solstice Celebrations in Denmark: A Growing Non-Religious Ritualisation
Religions 2021, 12(2), 74; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12020074 - 24 Jan 2021
Viewed by 324
Abstract
During the last decade, local celebrations of winter solstice on the 21st of December have increased all over Denmark. These events refer to the Old Norse ritual of celebrating the return of the light, and their appeal is very broad on a local [...] Read more.
During the last decade, local celebrations of winter solstice on the 21st of December have increased all over Denmark. These events refer to the Old Norse ritual of celebrating the return of the light, and their appeal is very broad on a local community level. By presenting two cases of Danish winter solstice celebrations, I aim to unfold how we can understand these new ritualisations as non-religious rituals simultaneously contesting and supplementing the overarching seasonal celebration of Christmas. My material for this study is local newspaper sources that convey the public sphere on a municipality level. I analyse the development in solstice ritualisations over time from 1990 to 2020. Although different in location and content, similarities unite the new solstice celebrations: they emphasise the local community and the natural surroundings. My argument is that the winter solstice celebrations have grown out of a religiously diversified public sphere and should be understood as non-religious rituals in a secular context. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Using Intersectional Perspectives in the Studies of Non-Religion Ritualization
Religions 2021, 12(1), 2; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12010002 - 22 Dec 2020
Viewed by 402
Abstract
In the 21st century, the Church of Sweden has lost its dominant position regarding the ritualization of births, marriages, and deaths in Sweden. Above all, name giving ceremonies, civil weddings, and civil funerals have become more common. The purpose of this article is [...] Read more.
In the 21st century, the Church of Sweden has lost its dominant position regarding the ritualization of births, marriages, and deaths in Sweden. Above all, name giving ceremonies, civil weddings, and civil funerals have become more common. The purpose of this article is to illustrate how intersectional perspectives can improve the understanding of the construction of non-religion in life-cycle ritualization, such as name giving ceremonies and civil funerals, performed beyond religious or non-religious organizations. This article presents the intersectional analyses of two non-religion ritual narratives as examples of how intersectional analyses could be conducted. The analysis clarifies the impact of power in non-religion ritualization, and how non-religion is constructed in relation to other discursive categories, in this case gender, sexuality, social class and nationality. The conclusion is that the use of intersectional perspectives is relevant for gaining a complex understanding of the construction of non-religion as well as knowledge of ritualization beyond religious or non-religious organizations nowadays. Full article
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