Nonreligion and Europe

Bullivant, Stephen and Bullock, Josh (2019) Nonreligion and Europe. In: Religion – Continuations and Disruptions: 17th Annual Conference of the European Association for the Study of Religions; 25 - 29 Jun 2019, Tartu, Estonia. (Unpublished)


This paper will present original research undertaken as part of the 3-year ‘Understanding Unbelief’ project. It draws from our forthcoming chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Europe which will analyse the latest wave of the European Values Study (2017), with a particular focus on indicators of nonreligion across 40+ European countries. Based on other recent studies (e.g. European Social Survey), this will show rapidly growing levels of secularity in most countries (albeit with significant exceptions). Already, much of Europe is marching towards a post-Christian society with young adults especially neither identifying with, nor practising religion. Nevertheless, Europe’s nations exhibit a great deal of diversity and variability in their (non)religious sociocultural climates: there is no one (or two, or three, or four) “European pattern”. The decline of Christianity in much of Europe has given rise to novel and innovative new ways to belong. Therefore, we will also offer substantive instances of organised (and sometimes antagonistic) unbelief and instances of ‘positive nonreligion’ over the past couple of decades in Europe. For example, in Germany the Meetup ‘Drinking & Socializing with Atheists in Frankfurt’ and the consumption and commercialisation of nonreligion in the form of handmade ‘atheist shoes’ in Berlin with the sole (not soul!) leaving a print reading ‘ich bin atheist’ (I am an atheist). The Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation (KLF) in Poland, which supports campaigns like ‘Days of Atheism’ (including atheist award ceremonies) and ‘atheist picnics’. The rise and demise of organised secular community the Sunday Assembly in Western European countries. As well as new and quite radical traditions (refugee camps) and rites of passage (secular confirmations) for Norwegian young humanists. As well as the upsurge of online nonreligious communities on social media for example, ‘The Dutch Atheist’ with over one hundred thousand Facebook likes/follows.

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