Centre for Religion and Public Life research seminar with Dr Anna Strhan and Dr Rachael Shillitoe

CRPL research seminar with Dr Anna Strhan and Dr Rachael Shillitoe (University of York): “Nonreligious Childhood: Growing Up Unbelieving in Contemporary Britain”

What does it mean to be ‘unbelieving’ for children? As numbers of the avowedly nonreligious continue to rise in Western Europe and North America, this paper presents findings from an ethnographic project exploring how, when, where, and with whom children learn to be unbelieving, and how they experience and negotiate their unbeliefs across everyday school and family life. Drawing on comparative fieldwork across three contrasting geographical ‘microclimates’ of religion and nonreligion in the UK (Voas and McAndrew 2012), our project explores the everyday lived realities of children’s unbelief, and how this is experienced, performed and negotiated in relation to the times and spaces of school and home, and across different geographical settings. Understanding children’s ‘unbelief’ is also relevant to wider public issues, and this presentation considers how unbelieving and nonreligious children interact with aspects of religious education and collective worship in schools, and what it might mean for the latter to be continued in the context of growing numbers of nonreligious children. Is there currently an adequate public language through which such children are helped to recognise and reflect on their existential commtiments? To what extent and in what ways does children’s unbelief provide a moral orientation for their lives?