New Religious and Nonreligious Organisations: Competition, Contest & Communalities

Monday, July 14, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: Harbor Lounge B
Oral Presentation
Johannes QUACK , Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
What are the communalities and differences between religious and nonreligious organisations? With ‘nonreligion‘ I am referring to groups that are generally considered to be not religious but are nevertheless related to ‘religion’ in important ways. Obvious examples are atheist, rationalist, and secular humanist organisations. Despite their roots in the 19th century, their apparent growth in many parts of the world and their realignment in the contemporary world make them in many ways new forms of (nonreligious) organisations. My engagement with such groups will primarily draw on a long-term study of rationalist and atheist organizations in India (Quack 2012) as well as data from atheist groups in the Philippines and humanist associations in Sweden and Germany. These organisations try to spread an explicitly secular worldview, provide secular alternatives to religious life-cycle rituals, and stand in direct and indirect competition and contest with religious organisations in various ways. To analyse these relationships, I will critically engage with the ‘theory of religious and secular competition’ developed by the sociologist Jörg Stolz (2009) to complement the ‘religious economies approach’ within secularization theory. Based on a relational approach to study ‘nonreligious’ groups and organisations (Quack 2014), I will further engage with the organisations’ struggles for various kinds of capital within institutional and field-related ‘logics’. On this basis, I discuss the ways in which nonreligious organizations can be situated within the ‘surroundings’ of a religious field, thereby complementing Bourdieuian studies of specific religious fields. 


Quack, J. (2012). Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India. New York: Oxford University Press.

Quack, J. (2014). Outline of a Relational Approach to ‘Nonreligion’. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, forthcoming

Stolz J. (2009). A Silent Battle. Theorizing the Effects of Competition between Churches and Secular Institutions. Review of Religious Research 51: 253-276.