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Benedict XVI Centre to study religious non-belief

By Sean Ryan - 23 August, 2016

Grant of £2.3 million for a three-year project on the theme ‘Understanding Unbelief’ which will be funded by the John Templeton Foundation (JTF).

Dr Stephen Bullivant

A UK-based research team, which includes Dr Stephen Bullivant of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society in Twickenham, has been awarded a grant of £2.3 million for a three-year project on the theme ‘Understanding Unbelief’.

The research will be funded by the John Templeton Foundation (JTF).

The project is a collaboration between St Mary’s University in Twickenham, London and sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists including Dr Lois Lee, the project lead from the University of Kent; Dr Jon Lanman, Queen’s University Belfast; and Dr Miguel Farias and Dr Jonathan Jong, Coventry University.

Based at St Mary’s, under the directorship of Dr Bullivant, the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society, is an international hub for research and engagement activities in the area of religion and the social sciences.

This is the team’s second JTF grant within the past 12 months.

In September, they were awarded $215,000 for the 15-month scientific study of non-religous belief.

‘Understanding Unbelief’ will build upon this work, exploring the diversity of non-religiosity across the globe.

Over the course of its three-year lifespan, ‘Understanding Unbelief’ will also give out grants of around £1.25 million to other researchers.

The project will culminate in 2019, with an international conference in Rome, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Vatican’s landmark ‘Culture of Unbelief’ conference.

This latest news caps a strong maiden year for the Benedict XVI Centre, which St Mary’s University formally established in October 2015.

The Centre has won five research grants from external funders, including commissions from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Apostleship of the Sea.

In May of this year, the Centre’s debut research report, ‘Contemporary Catholicism in England and Wales’, received wide, international media coverage.

This included the Guardian’s front page, the Daily Telegraph, Sky News, BBC Radio 4, Time, and the New York Times.

Other Centre members, including the economist Prof Philip Booth and theologian Revd Dr Ashley Beck, were prominent media commentators in the run-up to the EU referendum.

Last month, Dr Bullivant’s new statistical work on religious ‘nones’ was reported on in the leading German magazine Der Spiegel.­

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