Introducing Irreligious Experiences

Authors

  • Stephen Bullivant Christ Church, Oxford

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/imre.v11i1.7

Keywords:

colin campbell, irreligious, god

Abstract

Reports of an emphatic awareness of the absence of God, or of unexplainable feelings of elation or despair at the thought of God’s non-existence, are well-documented from both believers and nonbelievers alike. Such irreligious experiences are, however, widely unknown, even among those engaged in the academic study of their “religious” counterparts. The purpose of this short article is to shed some light on an unjustly neglected phenomenon in the social sciences and religious studies. Although other reports are cited, the focus here is on fifteen contemporary case-studies (given in full as an appendix to the article). These are divided into two main genres, with common features identified. Brief parallels are drawn to similar experiences in the Christian mystical tradition, before some remarks concerning the future study of irreligious experiences conclude the piece.

Author Biography

Stephen Bullivant, Christ Church, Oxford

Christ Church Oxford OX1 1DP

References

Altemeyer, B. and Hunsberger, B. 1997. Amazing Conversions: Why Some Turn to Faith and Others Abandon Religion. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Amiel, H.-F. 1889. Amiel’s Journal: The Journal Intime of Henri-Frédéric Amiel, ed. and trans. M.A. Ward. London: Macmillan.

Bailey, E. 1998. Implicit Religion: An Introduction. Middlesex: Middlesex University Press.

Barbour, J.D. 1994. Versions of Deconversion: Autobiography and the Loss of Faith. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.

Brooke, J.H. 2000. “Can Scientific Discovery be a Religious Experience?” Alister Hardy Memorial Lecture, delivered at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, 4th November 2000.

Budd, S. 1994. Varieties of Unbelief: Atheists and Agnostics in English Society 1850–1960. London: Heinemann.

Campbell, C. 1971. Toward a Sociology of Irreligion. London: Macmillan.

Dimond, S.G. 1926. The Psychology of the Methodist Revival: An Empirical and Descriptive Study. London: Humphrey Milford.

Ellwood, R.S. 1980. Mysticism and Religion. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Frank, J. 1995. Dostoevsky: The Miraculous Years 1865–1871. London: Robson Books.

Freud, S. 1929. A Religious Experience. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 10(1): 1–4.

Germanus of St Stanislaus. 1913. The Life of the Servant of God Gemma Galgani: An Italian Maiden of Lucca, trans. A.M. O’Sullivan. London and Edinburgh: Sands.

James, W. 1982. The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

John of the Cross. 1966. The Dark Night. In K. Kavanagh and O. Rodriquez, eds, trans., The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross. London: Thomas Nelson

Kolodiejchuk, B. 2007. Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta. New York: Doubleday.

Kristeva, J. 1989. Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia. New York: Columbia University Press.

Leuba, J.H. 1925. The Psychology of Religious Mysticism. London: Kegan Paul.

Mackey, M.W. 2001. Deconversion and Unconversion in Victorian Novels. Unpublished MA thesis, University of Oxford.

Mawson, T.J. 2005. Belief in God: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

McGinn, B. 1998. The Flowering of Mysticism: Men and Women in the New Mysticism (1200–1350). New York: Crossroad Herder.

McGinn, B. 2007. “The Venture of Mysticism in the New Millennium,” lecture delivered at Washington Theological Union, 11th February 2007, 14–15.

Pratt, James Bissett 1923. The Religious Consciousness: A Psychological Study. New York: Macmillan.

Ruffin, B.C. 1991. Padre Pio: The True Story. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor.

Smart, N. 1996. The Religious Experience. London: Prentice-Hall.

Southwell, C. 1848. Confessions of a Free-thinker. London: privately published.

Starbuck, E.D. 1911. The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Study of the Growth of Religious Consciousness. London: Walter Scott.

Underwood, A.C. 1925. Conversion: Christian and Non-Christian. London: Allen and Unwin.

Published

2008-09-05

How to Cite

Bullivant, S. (2008). Introducing Irreligious Experiences. Implicit Religion, 11(1), 7–24. https://doi.org/10.1558/imre.v11i1.7

Issue

Section

Articles