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Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective: Challenges of a Vernacular Approach

The World Religions Paradigm has organised popular and academic knowledge about religions for a century or more. The paradigm envisions exclusive religious traditions defined by specific beliefs, practices and identities. However, the paradigm has been challenged in recent years by the notions of ‘lived’ and ‘vernacular’ religion which privilege religion defined not as assent to particular textual claims or participation in specific ritual acts but religiosity as an ad hoc and always in motion combining and fabricating of lives, practices, ideas and futures. These seminars will explore the challenges of vernacular approaches to religion broadly conceived. Papers that explore aspects of religion and identity, religious and cultural crossing, religious and secular crossing and vernacular religion in relation to localities, citizenships, material culture or social change will be particularly welcome. Enquiries and offerings of papers should be sent to Dr Paul-François Tremlett (

Research seminar:

May 3 14:00-16:00 MR04,
Gary Keogh, University of Manchester

'Theology and the New Atheism'

The popular ‘movement’ which became known as ‘new atheism’ reached its pinnacle in the late 2000s with the publication of books by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and a number of others. In this paper, I hope to assess the implications of the new atheist movement for theology, pointing out whether it had any influence on theology and whether it shed any new light on age-old questions that have been the concern of theologians and philosophers for millennia. I will be critically challenging the newness and indeed, the atheism of new atheism, and illustrating where the new atheist movement has and has not had an impact on the landscape of theology.

Reading Richard Dawkins - Gary Keogh