Strand 3 – Sexuality and Gender

How and why do gender and sexuality act as flashpoints in debates on religious freedom?

Strand 3 examines two important flashpoints for issues of religious diversity in Canada: gender and sexuality. They explore the ways in which gender and religion intersect in a manner that attracts public, legal and policy attention.

Please find below the list of Strand 3 team members. Click on the links in order to read their biographies and research statements. Click here to read about the projects carried out by the Strand 3 team members.


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Nancy Nason-Clark (Co-investigator)

University of New Brunswick
Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology
Director of the RAVE Project

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Pamela Dickey Young (Co-investigator)

Queen’s University
Professor, School of Religion

Nancy Nason-Clark is professor of Sociology (and Acting Associate Dean of Arts) at the University of New Brunswick. She is the director of the RAVE Project, a research initiative funded by the Lilly Endowment. Nason-Clark received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the London School of Economics and Political Science (1984). She has served as President of the Association for the Sociology of Religion (1998-2000), President of the Religious Research Association (2001-2004), on council of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (1995- 1998), and World Hope Canada (2000-2011) and PASCH (2003-2013). Nason-Clark served two terms (2000-2006) as editor of Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review. A frequent speaker at both secular and religious conferences, her travels have taken her to various parts of the world.

Her major publications include: Men Who Batter (2015, Oxford University Press; with FisherTownsend), No Place for Abuse: Biblical and Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence (2nd edition, 2010; with Kroeger), Strengthening Families and Ending Abuse (2013; edited with Fisher-Townsend and Fahlberg), Responding to Abuse in the Christian Home (2011; edited with Fisher Townsend and Kroeger) Refuge from Abuse: Hope and Healing for Abused Christian Women (2004; with Kroeger), The Battered Wife: How Christians Confront Family Violence (1997), Beyond Abuse in the Christian Home (2004; edited with Fisher Townsend and Kroeger), Feminist Perspectives and Narratives in the Sociology of Religion (2004; edited with Neitz), and Understanding Abuse: Partnering for Change (2004; edited with Stirling, Cameron and Miedema).

For over twenty years, Nancy Nason-Clark has been researching and writing about the interface between religion and domestic violence. She has explored how religious faith impacts the journey towards healing and hope for victims and survivors, the rhetoric and the reality facing religious leaders who are called upon to respond to families impacted by domestic violence, and the collaborative challenges for secular and sacred cooperation in the fight to end intimate partner abuse and other forms of family violence. Her interest in the coordinated community response to abuse has led her to study criminal justice, therapeutic and advocacy responses to the role of religion and religious professionals as partners in ending violence. Over the years, she has conducted projects in Canada, the United States, Asia, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe.

Since 2005, Nason-Clark has directed the RAVE [Religion and Violence e-Learning] Project, funded by the Lilly Endowment. This is a web-based series of resources and on-line training initiatives to assist religious leaders around the world in responding to abuse victims, perpetrators and their families. The website is available at

Together with Steve McMullin, she is exploring the role of seminaries in equipping religious leaders to understand the dynamics of family violence and to offer assistance in its aftermath. With Catherine Holtmann, she is documenting how religious women engage in social action and challenge religious organizations to take seriously the issue of abuse. These two initiatives represent specific examples of the broader program of her research.

Nason-Clark was part of Peter Beyer’s team of co-investigators examining religion in the lives of 1.5 generation youth from Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist backgrounds. In this context, her long-standing interest in gender and religion is focussed on the religious trajectories of young Hindu women.

Pamela Dickey Young is Professor of Religious Studies, School of Religion, Queen’s University. She has been at Queen’s since 1985. She received her Ph.D. in Religious Studies in 1983 from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX.

She served as Head of the Department of Religious Studies at Queen’s University for 11 years and as Principal of Queen’s School of Religion for 1. She acted in various capacities (including as Editor-in-chief) on the Editorial Board of Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses. She has been a member of the Board of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences and has been both President and Secretary of the Canadian Theological Society. She is also a member of the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion and the American Academy of Religion. During the course of the discussion on same-sex marriage in Canada she was often a media commentator on the role of religion in the debate.

Recent publications include: Religion, Sex and Politics: Christian Churches and Same-Sex Marriage in Canada. Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing, 2012; Women and Religious Traditions. 3rd edition. Edited and contributed; edited with Leona Anderson. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2015. With Heather Shipley and Tracy Trothen, she has edited and contributed to Religion and Sexuality: Diversity and the Limits of Tolerance. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2015.

Recent articles and chapter include:

Pamela Dickey Young, Heather Shipley and Ian Alexander Cuthbertson. “Religion, Gender and Sexuality Among Youth in Canada: Some Preliminary Findings.” Bulletin for the Study of Religion 45/1 (2016): 17-26.

Heather Shipley and Pamela Dickey Young. “Religion, Youth and Queer Identities Canada,” in Sexual Diversity and Religions: Transnational Dialogues in the Contemporary World, ed. Martin Jaime. Lima: PEG/Diversities, (forthcoming) 2016.

“Who Speaks for Religion?” Issues in Religion and Education: Whose Religion? Leiden: Brill, 2015, 305-320.

Heather Shipley and Pamela Dickey Young. “Christianity, Gender and Identity among Canadian Youth,” in The Brill Handbook of Global Contemporary Christianity: Themes and Developments in Culture, Politics and Society, ed. S. Hunt. Leiden: Brill Academic Press, 2015, 325-245.

Pamela Dickery Young and Heather Shipley. “Belief, not religion: Youth Negotiations of Religious Identity in Canada,” in Handbook of Children and Youth Studies, eds. J. Wyn and H. Cahill. Singapore: Springer, 2015, 861-873.

Heather Shipley and Pamela Dickey Young. “Values and Practices: How are Youth Integrating Religion and Sexuality in their Daily Lives?” in Globalized Religion and Sexuality: Contexts, Contestations, Voices. ed. H. Shipley. “International Studies in Religion and Society,” Leiden: Brill Academic Press, 2014, 276-294.

“’Severely Normal’: Sexuality and Religion in Alberta’s Bill 44,” in Religion and Sexuality: Diversity and the Limits of Tolerance. ed. Pamela Dickey Young, Heather Shipley and Tracy Trothen. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2015, 45-66.

“Conclusion,” in Religion and Sexuality: Diversity and the Limits of Tolerance. ed. Pamela Dickey Young, Heather Shipley and Tracy Trothen. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, forthcoming, 2015, 241-246.

Recent papers presented include: “Sex, Religion and Canadian Youth,” Association for the Sociology of Religion, Seattle, August 20, 2016; “Examining Competing Claims in the Dialogue over Sex Education in Ontario: Women, Rights and Religion,” Workshop on Women, Rights and Religion, University of Calgary, August 28, 2016; “Gender in the RGSY Project,” Canadian Society for the Study of Religion, , 1 June 2015.

Research Statement:

My current research interests revolve around questions of sex, gender and public policy and on questions of the intersections of sexual identity and religious identity, particularly among youth. I am interested in such questions as how religion plays into the social construction of sex, gender and sexuality and how religion is involved in public debates on questions of sex, gender and sexuality.

Current Research Projects:

In the context of the MCRI work working with Heather Shipley and RA Ian Cuthbertson on a project entitled: Religion, Gender and Sexuality among Youth in Canada. In the first stage of this research project we have received almost 500 responses to a web-based survey in English and French. We are currently analyzing the data, interviewing some of the participants and having some of them complete video diaries. More information on the project is available from our web site:


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Natasha Bakht (Collaborator)

University of Ottawa
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law

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Donald Boisvert (Co-investigator)

Concordia University
Retired and Affiliate Professor
Principal, Montreal Diocesan Theological College

BA (Drama, Political Science, Women’s Studies, University of Toronto), MA (Political Studies, Queen’s University), LLB (University of Ottawa), LLM (New York University School of Law), of the Bar of Ontario.

SSRN page:

Natasha Bakht graduated from the University of Ottawa’s English common law program and then served as a law clerk to Justice Louise Arbour at the Supreme Court of Canada. She was called to the bar of Ontario in 2003 and completed her LL.M at New York University School of Law as a Global Hauser scholar.

Professor Bakht joined the Faculty of Law in 2005, where she teaches Criminal Law and Procedure, Family Law and Multicultural Rights in Liberal Democracies.

Professor Bakht’s research interests are generally in the area of law, culture and minority rights and specifically in the intersecting area of religious freedom and women’s equality. She has written extensively in the area of religious arbitration and assisted in Canadian judicial education on issues of religion, culture and diversity. Prof Bakht was an active member of the Law Program Committee of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) from 2005-2009, advancing women’s equality through litigation. She has edited the collection Belonging and Banishment: Being Muslim in Canada (Toronto: TSAR, 2008). Her most recent writings on the rights of niqab-wearing women were cited by the Supreme Court in the case of R v NS, 2012 SCC 72. She is the current English Language Editor of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law (CJWL). She is also an Indian contemporary dancer and choreographer.

Donald L. Boisvert is a retired affiliate associate professor of religion at Concordia University in Montréal, and formerly served as Principal of the Montreal Diocesan Theological College (Anglican). His PhD was awarded in 1990 by the University of Ottawa, with a dissertation examining aspects of the interplay of religion and nationalism in Québec society.

For several years, he was Co-chair of the Gay Men’s Issues in Religion Group of the American Academy of Religion (2000-07). He has served as a guide and board member of the Montréal Holocaust Memorial Centre and Museum (2002-09).

In addition to a number of articles, he has published the following books: Out on Holy Ground: Meditations on Gay Men’s Spirituality (2000), Sanctity and Male Desire: A Gay Reading of Saints (2004), nominated for the Lambda Literary Award, Gay Catholic Priests and Clerical Sexual Misconduct: Breaking the Silence (edited with Robert E. Goss, 2005) and a two-volume collection, Queer Religion (edited with Jay Emerson Johnson, 2012), a two-volume collection, Queer Religion (edited with Jay Emerson Johnson, 2012), Education about Religion and Worldviews (edited with Anna Halafoff and Elisabeth Arweck, 2016), and, forthcoming in 2016/17, The Bloomsbury Reader in Religion, Sexuality and Gender (edited with Carly Daniel-Hughes).

My current research activities are focused primarily on two broad themes: the construction of sexual pedagogies within religious communities, and masculinities and same-sex desire.

I am working on a collection of essays which examines the ways in which the Roman Catholic Church has used adolescent saints as a privileged means of elaborating a sexual pedagogy for Catholic young people. Parallel with this, I am interested in looking at the place of children and youth within religious communities, their expectations and experiences, and the dynamics of their interchange with adult believers.

A second area of research, tied more generally to my already published work, is concerned with furthering my exploration of issues of same-sex desire, but more specifically how masculinity is understood and lived out within religious communities. I am currently looking at this experience within the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions. My abiding interest remains that of same-sex relations and how they are understood, challenged and integrated within the religious experience.

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Pascale Fournier (Co-investigator)

University of Ottawa
Associate Professor, Faculty of Law (Civil Law Section)

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Nacira Guénif-Souilamas (Collaborator)

Université Paris-Nord / 13
Associate Professor, Education Sciences
Fellow Researcher Experience (Paris 8-Paris 13)

Pascale Fournier is Full Professor and Research Chair in Legal Pluralism and Comparative Law at the Faculty of Law, Civil Law Section, University of Ottawa. She teaches Rights and Freedoms, Comparative Family Law and Critical Approaches to Law. In 2010—2012, she served as Associate Dean Research.

Professor Fournier received her LL.B from Laval University (1997), her master’s degree from the University of Toronto (LL.M.; 2000) and her doctorate degree from Harvard Law School (S.J.D.; 2007). A Fulbright and Trudeau scholar, Pascale served as Law Clerk to the Honourable Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé at the Supreme Court of Canada in 2000-2001. Professor Fournier’s research focuses on human rights, religion and secularism, children’s rights, criminal law and cultural diversity, as well as family law. Pascale has lectured at the State University of Haiti, McGill University, the University for Peace in Costa Rica and the Institute for Women’s Studies and Research in Iran. In 2008, she served as an expert consultant for the United Nations Development Programme on issues of gender and Islamic law in Tunisia, Egypt, Malaysia and Nigeria. Professor Fournier regularly intervenes before Canadian and American courts as an expert witness and counsel, organises training sessions for judges and policy makers and is frequently invited by the media to comment on the legal and social issues of the day.

Her publications appear in leading law and social sciences journals in English, French and German and were selected by the Harvard-Stanford Junior Faculty Forum (2008), the Québec Bar Foundation prize for “best law review article” (2009), and the Canadian Association of Law Teachers Scholarly Paper Award (Honorable Mention/2010). Her book Muslim Marriage in Western Courts: Lost in Transplantation was published by Ashgate Publishing in 2010. A new edition of her book was published under its French version entitled Mariages musulmans, tribunaux d’Occident : les transplantations juridiques et le regard du droit, published in 2013 by Les Presses de Sciences Po.

She was awarded the Laval University Raymond-Blais Medal (2008), the Québec Bar Association’s Advocatus Emeritus distinction (2009), the University of Ottawa President’s Award for Excellence in Media Relations (2011) and the Fulbrighter of the Month distinction (November 2011). In 2014, Professor Fournier was selected by the prestigious International Women’s Forum and was awarded the Canada-Arab Chamber of Commerce « Special Achievement Award » in the « Academic Excellence and Contribution to Humanity » category. In 2015, she was invited to join the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference (Study Group : Northwest Territories) and was unanimously appointed by the National Assembly of Quebec as Commissioner to the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse : CDPDJ). She was named « one of the Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers in Canada » by the Canadian Lawyers Magazine (August 2015), in the « Worldstage » category.

Pascale’s current research projects investigate the migration of religious divorce laws in Canada, France, Britain, Germany, Israel, Lebanon and Palestine, and explore through field interviews the effects of such migration on religious women. The choice of a qualitative interview-based methodology reflects her deeper commitment to giving voice to religious women through a contextual understanding of their daily struggles. In addition to numerous publications and several conferences in North America and Europe, Pascale has found unique venues for the dissemination of her fieldwork results. For instance, in the summer of 2013, she was invited by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to give a conference in Beirut, Lebanon on the impact of informal family law mediation on the condition of Arab women in the Near East. In the summer of 2013, Pascale has received funding from Religion and Diversity to begin a new phase of this project and conduct interviews with religious women in Lebanon, this time including women from Christian as well as Muslim backgrounds.

Nacira Guénif-Soulamas est sociologue, enseignante à l’Université Paris-Nord ( Paris 13 ), Département de Sciences de l’Éducation (2000-)Chercheure à EXPERICE (Paris 13-Paris 8). Elle a publié “Des beurettes aux descendantes d’immigrants nord-africains” (2000), avec Eric Macé “Les féministes et le garçon arabe” (2004), avec Laurent Mucchielli, Christine Delphy, Joëlle Marelli “La république mise à nu par son immigration “(2006).

  • Migration, mobilité, diasporas, transnationalisme,
  • Race, genre, queer, études postcoloniales, subalternes, culturelles
  • Identité, ethnicité, altérité, minorité, majorité,
  • Adaptation / acculturation vs. assimilation / intégration,
  • Discrimination, racisme, assignation, ségrégation, stéréotype
  • Normativité, déconstruction, épistémologie située
  • Sexisme, sexualité, féminisme, corps,
  • Codes vestimentaires, accoutrements, frivolité, éroticisation, politisation,
  • Transaction, négociation, imposition,
  • Croyances, religions, processus de sécularisation, laïcité,
  • Subjectivation, individuation, appartenance, attachement, changement,
  • Famille, rapports intergénérationnels, adolescence, jeunesse, enfance,
  • Rapport de classe, rapport de domination, rapport de pouvoir,
  • Sphère publique, politique publique, politique de l’identité, la différence, la reconnaissance.
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Rebecca Johnson (Co-investigator)

University of Victoria
Professor, Faculty of Law

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Rubina Ramji (Co-investigator)

Cape Breton University
Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Program Director, Gender and Women’s Studies

Professor Johnson clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada for Madame Justice L’HeureuxDubé in 1993-93, and was a member of the Faculty of Law of the University of New Brunswick from 1995 to 2001, when she joined the University of Victoria Faculty of Law. Her book, Taxing Choices: The Intersection of Class, Gender, Parenthood, and the Law (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2002) received the Harold Adams Innis Prize. She was promoted to Full Professor in 2009.

She teaches Criminal Law, Business Associations, Legal Process and Law and Film. Current research projects include a study of judicial decision making (and particularly practices of dissent); an exploration of the economic imaginary in legal and popular culture; a study of cinema as a site of intercultural legal encounter; and an interrogation of the operation of sexuality as a flashpoint in debates around religion and diversity.

I am currently working on three research projects, each exploring a different dimension of my interest in struggles over meaning in the socio-legal-cultural arena. The first project concerns religion and diversity. The second project focuses on judges and the negotiation of persistent difference in the context of group-based decision-making. The third project focuses on ‘the economy’, and social and legal disagreements about duties owed by directors (and corporations) to various stakeholders.

Rubina (Ruby) Ramji is Associate Professor of Religious Studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Cape Breton University. She received her B.A. in Psychology and M.A. in Religion and Culture at Wilfrid Laurier University. She received her PhD in Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa in December 2003. She followed the PhD with a postdoctoral fellowship. She also held the John W. Altman Humanities Scholar-in-Residence position in the Department of Comparative Religion and the Faculty of the Middle East and Islamic Studies at Miami University of Ohio. She is currently the Director of the Gender and Women’s Studies Program at Cape Breton University.

Ramji is the Film Editor of the Journal of Religion and Film and after serving a four year term as Senior Editor of Golem: Journal of Religion and Monsters, she now serves as a peer-review editor. She served as Chair of the Religion, Film and Visual Culture Group in the American Academy of Religion for six years and is currently the President of the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion (2012-16) and a Religious Studies Representative on the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program Committee for the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. She has also worked as a policy analyst for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, with specific work on the Gender Based Analysis.

Ramji is co-editor, with Peter Beyer, of the book Growing Up Canadian: Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists (McGill-Queen’s University Press 2013) and is the author of a variety of articles and chapters in books including “Maintaining and Nurturing an Islamic Identity in Canada – Online and Offline” in Religion in the Public Sphere: Canadian Case Studies (Eds., S. Lefebvre, & L. Beaman, University of Toronto Press 2014), “Muslims in the Movies” in The Bloomsbury Companion to Religion and Film (Ed., W. Blizek, Bloomsbury 2013); “Being Muslim and Being Canadian: How Second Generation Muslim Women Create Religious Identities in Two Worlds”, in Women and Religion: Challenging Secularization (Eds., K. Aune, S. Sharma & G. Vincett, Ashgate 2008); “Creating A Genuine Islam: Second Generation Muslims Growing Up In Canada” in Canadian Diversity/Diversité Canadienne (6:2, 2008); “The Global Migration of Sufi Islam to South Asia and Beyond”, in Globalization, Religion and Culture (Eds., P. Beyer & L. Beaman, Brill 2007); and, “Representations of Islam in American News and Film: Becoming the ‘Other’” in Mediating Religion: Conversations in Media, Religion and Culture (Eds., J. Mitchell & S. Marriage, T&T Clark 2003).

My research activities focus on the areas of religion, media and identity, religion in Canada, and religion and immigration. Beginning with a postdoctoral fellowship in 2004, my research focused on religious diversity in Canada. Working with a team comprised of Peter Beyer, Lori Beaman and Nancy Nason-Clark, we worked on a project that explored religious expression and identity of second generation young adults from Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist backgrounds growing up in Canada. This project extended into a new project that is currently exploring attitudes of religious diversity and multiculturalism in Canada amongst young adults from diverse religious/cultural backgrounds across the country.

Carrying forward from this research, I have begun focusing on the impact of global events on identity construction. Through this exploration, I am exploring how media images impact immigrant youth living in Canada. In the process of this exploration, I am currently examining how Canadian Muslim youth, living in a post 9/11 world, are constructing their identities in relation to often hostile and demeaning media representations of Islam and its followers. The role of media, in the maintenance and negotiation of religious identities amongst immigrants in new host societies, is an untapped field and yet its importance in shaping identities is immense. Scholarship in the field clearly illustrates that media is used not only to maintain and strengthen identity boundaries, but also creates new, shared spaces in which syncretic cultural forms, such as new ethnic identities, can be formed.

Another complementary area of research examines how and why gender and sexuality act as flashpoints in debates on religious freedom. A recent topic that has created a clash between freedom of religion and human rights specifically based on sex and gender is the wearing of the niqab by Muslim women. To better understand how gender relates to human rights and religious values, I am examining how Muslim communities in European countries and North America are now dealing with state sanctions based on the niqab. The banning of the niqab is an important issue for examination as it raises questions about the rights of Muslims as citizens and issues of freedom of expression, as well as questions about security, accommodation and obligations of citizenship.

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Linda Woodhead (Collaborator)

Lancaster University
Professor, Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion
Director, AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme

Linda Woodhead MBE DD is Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University (Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion and Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies). She did her undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Cambridge (1982-1988), and then taught for three years at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxford, before moving to Lancaster.

She has been involved in a number of funded research projects including as principal UK investigator on ‘VEIL’, an eight country EU project on public debates and policy on the Muslim headscarf.

In 2007 she was appointed Director of the £12m UK research programme ‘Religion and Society’, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. This consists of 75 separate research projects, which are run by academics across the UK, often working in multidisciplinary teams. The Programme ended in 2013.

Linda Woodhead is the organiser of the Westminster Faith Debates, which bring religion research into public debate.

Her books include Religion and Change in Modern Britain (ed with Rebecca Catto, Routledge: 2012), A Sociology of Religious Emotions (with Ole Ris, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality (with Paul Heelas, Blackwell, 2005), and An Introduction to Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Recent articles include ‘Five Concepts of Religion’, International Review of Sociology 21(1), 2011, 121-143; ‘Holistic Spirituality, Gender, and Expressive Selfhood’ (with Eeva Sointu), Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 47 (2) June 2008, pp. 259-276; ‘Real Religion, Fuzzy Spirituality’, in Dick Houtman and Stef Aupers, Religions of Modernity: Relocating the Sacred to the Self and the Digital. Leiden: Brill, 2010, pp. 30-48.

My general interests are in:

  • How and why religion and belief has changed in the modern world – I argue that religion has been transformed since the 1980s
  • What people really believe – which I explore using a range of qualitative and quantitative methods.

More specifically, I have written widely on Christianity, its growth, decline and transformation in modern times. In An Introduction to Christianity (CUP 2004) and A Very Short Introduction to Christianity (OUP 2004) I took a historical0sociological approach which paid particular attention to the ways in which power has been imagined and distributed within Christianity.

I am also interested in the rise of ‘alternative’ spirituality from the mid 19th century to the present. In The Spiritual Revolution (Blackwell 2005) Paul Heelas and I considered the significance of contemporary forms of ‘holistic’/’mind, body, spirit’ practices and reasons for their rapid growth since the 1980s.

I am currently writing on religious change in Britain since 1989.