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Dr Josh Bullock

Research project: The Sociology of the Sunday Assembly: ‘Belonging Without Believing ‘in a Post-Christian Context

Abstract

The Sunday Assembly, a secular congregation with the motto ‘Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More', took centre stage in the nonreligious marketplace in 2013. Since then, over 70 franchised global congregations have opened their doors to the nonreligious affiliated market. If Britain is displaying how religions can fade, the Sunday Assembly becomes the perfect case study to examine what comes next. This thesis is an ethnographic study of the Sunday Assembly London and utilises 35 semi-structured interviews with members of the congregation. It addresses what the Sunday Assembly reveals about believing, belonging and community, and their relationship with religion, secularisation and wonder. The study highlights generational trends towards nonreligion in the UK and, in particular, how the Sunday Assembly uses existing religious structures, rituals and practices to flourish. It is through this post-Christian transition that religion is understood as a chain of memory (Hervieu-Léger, 2000); that people are still seeking to belong, but do not wish to believe in a religious doctrine, thus ‘belonging without believing' is transpiring. 

  • Research degree: PhD
  • Title of project: The Sociology of the Sunday Assembly: ‘Belonging Without Believing ‘in a Post-Christian Context
  • Research supervisors:

Biography

I submitted my Ph.D. in September 2017 at Kingston University. My doctoral research focused on the recent phenomenon of godless congregations. It addressed what the Sunday Assembly (a secular community in London) revealed about believing, belonging and community, and their relationship with religion, secularisation and wonder. I am a lecturer at Kingston University and have taught on the module Contemporary Issues in Sociology from 2014-2018. I am the post-graduate and early career researcher liaison officer for the British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion study group and am Deputy Editor for the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network and co-edit their online blog. In 2018, I start my postdoctoral research on the Templeton funded Understanding Unbelief project as co-investigator with Professor David Herbert. This project will contribute to mapping the diversity of unbelief in Northern and Central Europe by using survey, social media and interview data across six countries (UK, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Norway, and Romania).

Areas of research interest

  • Sociology of religion
  • Nonreligion
  • Atheism
  • Belonging
  • Community
  • Secularisation
  • Sunday Assembly
  • Unbelief
  • Ethnography
  • Wonder

Qualifications

  • MSc Social and Cultural Theory, University of Bristol
  • BA Media and Cultural Studies and Sociology, The University of the West of England
  • Supporting active learning through teaching certificate, Kingston University

Funding or awards received

  • Understanding Unbelief: (Co-I) Reaching for a new sense of connection? Towards a deeper understanding of the sociality of generation y non-believers in northern and central Europe. Dates: 01/01/2018 - 30/06/2019. Award: £99, 993
  • Society for the Scientific Study of Religion 2017 Washington travel grant $600
  • Humanists UK 2016 Holland travel grant £366
  • BSA Sociology of Religion conference waiver 2015
  • Kingston University part-funded scholarship 2013-2016

Publications

Bullock, J. (2017) Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network (NSRN) 'Belonging Without Believing?' Available from: https://nsrn.net/2017/09/08/belonging-without-believing/ [Accessed 13th September 2017].

Monograph: Nonreligion and the Sunday Assembly (forthcoming 2019, Routledge).

Conference papers

BSA Sociology of Religion (SocRel) Annual Conference July 2015. Paper delivered: The Sunday Assembly: Creating Community among the Nonreligious.

"The Diversity of Nonreligion" & NSRN Conference July 2016, University of Zürich, Switzerland. Paper: Reimagining the Secular: The Sunday Assembly - Belonging without Believing. Paper was also delivered and chaired at the Kingston Post-Graduate conference, June 2016.

The BSA Sociology of Religion (Socrel) annual conference, July 2017. Chaired session. Paper delivered: Studying the Sunday Assembly through a Post-Christian Lens. Paper was also delivered and chaired at the Kingston Post-Graduate conference, April 2017.

Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) annual conference, Washington DC, October 2017. Paper delivered: Understanding Sunday Assembly Rituals through a Post-Christian Lens.

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