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: 1 October 2020.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Ida Marie Høeg
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.  


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

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

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 1000 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.


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

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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