About Me & My Blog

Hello world.

It’s time for this page to be updated [20 November 2011]… for a formalised list of my academic qualifications and activities, see my Academic CV.

I’m Chris, a twenty-something year-old recent postgraduate student in Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh. I originally come from Northern Ireland (Carrickfergus and then Jordanstown) but moved pretty much totally over to Edinburgh in 2004 when I came to study Physics… so you could say I don’t really fit into a box when it comes to the arts/science divide. I am intending upon spending the academic year 2011/12 working on PhD applications, trying to get a few more publications out, working on my new academic commitments with the NSRN, and working on a Religious Studies podcasting and blogging project (more details to follow).

In November 2011, I graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an MSc by Research in Divinity (Religious Studies) with distinction, a year and a half after graduating with a first class MA (Honours) in Religious Studies from the same institution. Throughout my undergraduate study I engaged with a wide variety of subjects in the social-scientific study of religion, ranging from New Age Religion and Systematic Theology, to Islamic Eschatology and New Indigenous Religious Movements (in Africa and the African Diaspora). My 10,000 word undergraduate dissertation was an independently conceived literary study under the supervision of Dr Steven Sutcliffe, looking at the implicit and explicit agenda(s) in the writings of four contemporary ‘New Atheists’. An edited and expanded version of the paper has subsequently been published in the International Journal for the Study of New Religions, entitled “Consciousness Raising: The Critique, Agenda and Inherent Precariousness of Contemporary Anglophone Atheism” (Cotter 2011a). My 25,000 word MSc dissertation took my initial enthusiasm for this work and directed it to the broader and under-researched field of ‘nonreligion’ – “something which is defined primarily by the way it differs from religion” (Lee 2011, 2). This project was also carried out under Steven Sutcliffe’s supervision, and entitled “Toward a Typology of Nonreligion: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students”. I have subsequently presented papers based on my thesis at the British and European Associations for the Study of Religions’ annual conferences (Durham and Budapest), and at the recent Society for the Scientific Study of Religion annual meeting in Milwaukee.

In my MSc dissertation, I suggested that the majority of existing scholarship fails to give adequate nuance to the wide variety of nonreligious positions. The nonreligious are frequently ignored in studies of ‘religion’, or treated as a monolithic group, despite the plethora of terms which divide the ‘nonreligious’ along dimensions of ‘belief’, ‘practice’ or ‘affiliation’. Thus, I aimed to address this situation by providing an alternative typology of nonreligion which was rooted in the narrative frameworks of individuals, expressed by individuals themselves, and “independent of religious categories” (Quack 2011, 2). In addition, I also aimed to use the variety of positions on display to demonstrate the artificial nature of the religion-nonreligion dichotomy.

I decided to start this blog for a few reasons:

1. Because throughout my study and discussing with friends, colleagues and acquaintances, I have realised, in a totally non-patronising way, that a lot of people don’t know very much about religion, or about any religion other than a very vague caricature of Christianity. I am not claiming to know “a lot” about religion(s), or to be able to impart knowledge in any sort of coherent manner, but I just thought that a forum where a “normal” person could offer some insight in the world’s religious faiths, and promote some discussion, that this would not be a bad thing.

2. Because I  discovered Twitter… and through following a few interesting individuals, I followed links to all sorts of informative blogs and thoroughly enjoyed the views, news and debate presented there, and thought “I could do that too”… I’m now in the odd position of juggling numerous twitter accounts. I dip in and out, and have periods of intense activity followed by weeks of lag… I’m trying to get more consistent, though. Likewise with this blog…

3. The “more” is important! I don’t want this to be a boring, intellectual exercise. I do want this to be a place where religion can be discussed… and I am more than happy to indulge rational debate and/or religious/anti-religious crusades. But I also want it to be a place where I can post interesting articles, or quotations that I find in other areas, or where I can just stick something random or humourous that happened to come my way/cross my mind.

I had previously written “I’m sure I will think of more reasons, and will add them here in due course” but I never added any more… I think, though, that my main objective is just to disseminate, condense and filter interesting knowledge that I find in various online and printed sources. If you like the kind of thing that I seem to stumble across, then fair enough… if you don’t, then that’s fine too.

Outside of studying, I live with my girlfriend Lindsey, do a lot of part-time work

Me, playing 'Tupolski' in Martin McDonagh's play 'The Pillowman'

for the University, and have a keen interest in singing and in performing – in plays, musicals, operettas and opera. I watch an awful lot of DVDs, which mostly include a lot of Star Trek and anything by Joss Whedon, have a ludicrously eclectic taste in music, enjoy playing poker and squash, reading anything and everything in general and spend an inordinate amount of time in the pub… when money allows!

Please comment, and let me know how you find the blog…

All the best,

Chris

Edinburgh, November 2011

21 responses to “About Me & My Blog”

  1. religionandmore says :

    Needless to say this section is slightly out of date now… I have graduated with First Class honours, and am returning in September to begin an MSc by Research in Religious Studies, looking at how various factors affect student religious commitment (and specifically at those students who have never been religious in the first place).

    I will properly update this page soon… promise :-)

    C x

  2. Michael Hampson says :

    Feel free to delete this comment after you’ve read it: it’s just a me-to-you thumbs up rather than a great public thesis.

    Very much appreciating what I have read here so far, and the personal intro above. Too much dogma out there falling into poles-apart pro- or anti- religion. Have subscribed and will follow.

    I’ve just started blogging having previously only been in print. You might or might not find some worth reading, if only for amusement. Click the gravitar.

    – MH

  3. Dayle says :

    It’s early, and I’m not a morning person . . . BUT I started skimming through some of your blogs, and you have certainly piqued my interest! Religion has always fascinated me. I’ve actually been toying with the idea of going back to school for comparative religion. And so the point of all of this is to say that I will certainly be back, and I look forward to reading your thoughts. :)

    • religionandmore says :

      What a lovely message to receive as I trawl through endless spreadsheets of data for my current project :-) It is lovely to get messages like this, and makes me feel that I am not just posting things for my own self indulgence :)

      Thanks a lot, and I shall try and check out your musings over the next couple of days, also.

      Best,

      CC

  4. maryhelena says :

    Hi, Chris
    I saw your post on the blog of Joseph Hoffmann – and decided to come visit…
    Great to see that a young man from that ‘dear land across the Irish sea’ is doing his best to develop critical thinking skills re the whole religion phenomena – keep it up…….and I’ll drop by again and do some reading.

    Oh, and as for music – must do a plug for my very favorite tenor – and he is half Irish to boot – Alfie Boe – must be to have that sort of music in his voice – give him a listen and you’ll be in music heaven….
    And as for DVD – the 25th anniversary Les Mis concert is a definite must have…

    cheers
    maryhelena

    • religionandmore says :

      Dear Maryhelena… thanks so much for your supportive comment, it is always lovely to hear such things! I hope you enjoy what you find here. Unfortunately Classic FM rather turned me off Alfie Boe with their constant promotion… but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good :) Saw Les Mis at the Edinburgh Playhouse last May and was bowled over by it! Currently a little obsessed with Rent… :)

  5. Stuart says :

    Hi Chris, I’m fairly new to this blog, but I think It’s fantastic and has quickly become one of my few “must reads”.

    That’s it really.

    Stuart

  6. religionandmore says :

    Hi Stuart,

    That is music to my ears, thank you so much for getting in touch.

    I hope I don’t disappoint!

    Chris

  7. Erika Salomon says :

    Hi Chris, I’ve just come across your blog from the “religion” tag on WordPress and am glad to find a fellow postgrad interested in religion on here. Your blog looks great, and I look forward to reading more.

    • religionandmore says :

      Hi Erika,

      Likewise, thanks! And I see you found me on this new world of academia.edu too… Networking is the name of the game! I think my blog postings are going to disappear for a while as my Masters thesis is due in 2.5 months… but things will keep ticking over. I subscribed to yours, so I look forward to seeing interesting things flowing into my inbox!

      Cheers for the compliments!

      All the best,

      CC

      • Erika Salomon says :

        Ah, I completely understand about the thesis taking over other aspects of your life! Well, I will await your blogging, anyway. :) Perhaps when you have time (and I have more readers to offer), you can do a gust post at my blog about your research or non-religion in general. It’s a fascinating topic but not one of my emphases.

  8. religionandmore says :

    I would love to do that – I am all about the collaboration and sharing of ideas :) And likewise anything you have to offer my readers on cognitive study :) I notice that you are going to be attending the SSSR as well?

    • Erika Salomon says :

      Hi, Chris! I am so sorry I missed your reply! Yes, I will be at SSSR. We should meet up while there. Are you giving a talk?

      Perhaps after the summer would be a good time discuss gust posting; it seems to be the busy season for both of us in terms of other writing.

      • religionandmore says :

        Hi Erika,

        We should indeed meet up whilst there! In fact… it seems that we cannot avoid doing so, in that I am convening the session that you are presenting in! What a bizarre coincidence. I am indeed giving a paper… though I think I am going to have to ask to change the title as, although the content has not changed significantly, I have somewhat changed trajectory.

        After the summer seems like some blissful heaven right now… I look forward to that time :)

        Cheers, CC

  9. SussexIR says :

    Hi Chris,

    I came across your blog on WordPress and thought you might be interested in the conference we’re having at the University of Sussex in October – The Postsecular in International Politics. We’re on WordPress too – http://internationalpostsecular.wordpress.com so feel free to add/link us.

    Thanks,

    Joanna

    • Chris says :

      Hi Joanna,

      I would love to have been able to come, but unfortunately I am going to be in the US on my way to the SSSR. I shall totally give this as much publicity as I can though, and all the best!

      Chris

  10. Jack Hastings says :

    Hi Chris, long time since I’ve seen you and was trawling the “net” when I came across your blog. Fantastic stuff – I’ll be looking out for more. Hope you had a great time at home over Christmas. Take care,

    Jack.

    • Chris says :

      Jack, did I ever reply to you? I rarely look at this blog any more to be honest… so it could quite easily have slipped my mind! In any case, I’m glad that you liked what you saw and I look forward to perhaps seeing you at some point soon!

      All the best,

      Chris

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