How to contact us

Programme for the Study of Religion and Non-Religion
London School of Economics
Department of Anthropology
Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE



Coordinator: Matthew Engelke  


Tel: +44 (0)20 7955 6775




Forum on Religion Past Events

Forum on Religion Seminars

On Hunting

Date: Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Time: 4.00pm-6.00pm

Venue: OLD 6.05 (Seligman Library), Old Building, LSE, WC2A 2AE

Speaker: : Kevin Lewis O'Neill (University of Toronto)

A recent shift in the War on Drugs has made Guatemala a principal point
of transit for cocaine produced in the Andes and bound for the United States.
One effect has been a spike in the use of crack cocaine in Guatemala.
Drug trafficking countries, the literature notes, often become drug
consuming countries. Another effect is the proliferation of Pentecostal
drug rehabilitation centers. These informal and largely unregulated
centers warehouse users (often against their will) in the name of both
security and salvation. This talk, based on in-depth ethnography,
details the practice of hunting, or bringing users to rehab, to
consider how and to what effect predation underlies pastoralism in but
also beyond the Guatemalan context.

A cultural anthropologist, Kevin Lewis O'Neill is an Associate
Professor at the University of Toronto and author of City of God
(University of California Press 2010) and Secure the Soul (University
of California Press 2015).


The Human: Intellectual Definitions and Public Beliefs in the U.S.

John EvansDate: Friday 19 September 2014 

Time: 2.00pm-3.30pm

Venue : OLD 6.05 (Seligman Library), Old Building, LSE, WC2A 2AE

Speaker: John Evans, Professor of Sociology, University of California at San Diego 

What it means to be human is one of the central, longest-running debates in Western thought. Our attention to the debates, however, is uneven—especially when it comes to public perceptions. This is important because many humanists claim that if the public holds the wrong notion of the human, they will treat other humans poorly. For example, a strand of human rights theory claims that human rights can only be legitimated with a theological definition of the human. In this talk I will discuss three intellectual definitions of the human (the biological, the theological and the philosophical), and one held only by the public (the sociological), as well as the claimed links between these ideas and human treatment, as they play out in relation to understandings of rights. I will discuss the differences between the intellectual versions and what the U.S. public believes, and describe some tentative empirical conclusions about the link between holding a particular notion of the human and human treatment.

Faith and Politics

Date: Thursday 29 May 2014 Sister Teresa Fourcades

Time: 11.00am-12.30pm

Venue: LSE Faith Centre, Saw Swee Hock Student Centre

Speaker: Sister Teresa Forcades

Sister Teresa Forcades is a Benedictine nun and prominent social activist in her native Catalonia. A controversial critic of Government, Capitalism and her own Church, Sister Teresa has gained an international reputation as a left wing public intellectual and campaigner.

Admission Free admission but places limited so please register at

Co-hosted by LSE Faith Centre and LSE Forum on Religion. 

Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems

Pic of TurksonDate: Thursday 6 February 2014

Time: 6.30-8pm

Venue: LSE campus, venue TBC to ticketholders

Speaker: Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson is president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Archbishop emeritus of Cape Coast (Ghana).

The current global financial crisis has already continued for six years now – much longer than most feared at the beginning. Moreover, there have been several sequels, the Euro crisis being the most notable. Let us reflect on the surprising technical origins of the crisis and the shocking moral ones. Let us ask what the system has learned, what insights have been acted upon, what reform is underway. And let us explore areas that remain to be reformed, in particular the responsibility of governments to embed practices of financial stewardship. Would the restoration of economic stability and prosperity be enough? Pope Francis would have the economy commit to real remedies for grinding poverty, growing inequality, social exclusion and environmental degradation.

Ticket Information

This event is free and open to all however a ticket is required; only one ticket per person can be requested.

Members of the public, LSE staff, students and alumni can request one ticket via the online ticket request form which will be live on the listing below from approximately 6pm on Wednesday 29 January until at least 12 noon on Thursday 30 January. If at 12 noon we have received more requests than there are tickets available, the line will be closed, and tickets will be allocated on a random basis to those requests received. If we have received fewer requests than tickets available, the ticket line will stay open until all tickets have been allocated.

The podcast can be accessed here.

Click here for more information.



Governing Difference through Rights: The Politics of Religious Freedom

Photo of Elizabeth HurdSpeaker : Elizabeth Shakman Hurd (Northwestern University)

Chair: Mathijs Pelkmans

Date: Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Time: 6.30-8.00pm

Venue: Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, LSE, WC2A 2AE


What happens when social difference is conceived through the prism of religious rights and religious freedom? Far from occupying an autonomous sphere independent of religious affairs, human rights advocacy is a site of difference and governance that implicates religion in complex ways. This paper explores the consequences of a religious rights model for both politics and religion. It argues that this model regulates the spaces in which people live out their religion in specific and identifiable ways: singling out groups for legal protection as religious groups; moulding religions into discrete “faith communities” with clean boundaries, clearly defined orthodoxies, and senior leaders who speak on their behalf; and privileging a modern liberal understanding of faith. The right to religious freedom is a specific, historically situated mode of governing difference through rights.

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd teaches and writes on the politics of religious diversity, the intersection of law and religion, the history and politics of US foreign relations, and the international relations of the Middle East including Turkey and Iran. She is the author of The Politics of Secularism in International Relations (Princeton, 2008), which won an APSA award for the best book in religion and politics (2008-2010) and co-editor of Comparative Secularisms in a Global Age (Palgrave, 2010) which will appear in paperback in 2013. Recent publications include “International politics after secularism” in Review of International Studies (2012) and “Contested secularisms in Turkey and Iran” in Contesting Secularism: Comparative Perspectives (Ashgate, 2013). Hurd is currently writing a book on the “strategic operationalization” of religion in international affairs and its implications for religion, law and public policy.


Secular Temples

Speaker: Courtney Bender (Columbia University)Chair: Lois Lee (Kent University)

Date: Monday 22 July 2013
Time: 3pm – 5pm
Venue:Seligman Library, LSE, 6th Floor Old Building

Co-sponsored with the Centre for Religion in Contemporary Society, University of Kent

In this informal seminar, Professor Bender will discuss some of her recent research on art museums in New York City. Join us for what promises to be a stimulating conversation and exchange with one of the most prominent sociologists of religion in the US.


Date: 27 February 2013
Venue: Seligman Library (OLD 6.05), Old Building, LSE


Mathew Guest (Durham)
Universities as Sites of Religious Encounter: The Christian Undergraduate in Pursuit of Identity


Date: 23 January 2013
Time: 16.30-18.00
Venue: Seligman Library (OLD 6.05), Old Building, LSE


Audra Mitchell (University of York)
'Bringing Secularity (Back) into International Relations: Immanence, Agency and Intervention'  


Stacey Gutkowski (King's College, London)
'Secular Ways of War'

Public Lectures

The LSE Forum on Religion and Forum for European Philosophy present:

Conversation: Tino Sehgal, Asad Raza, and Simon Glendinning together in talk

Date: 10 July 2013
Time: 11am – 12.30pm
Venue: Vera Anstey Room, Mezzanine Level, Old Building, LSE 

Chair: Matthew Engelke (Anthropology, LSE)

Tino Sehgal imageThe Forum on Religion and the Forum for European Philosophy at LSE are pleased to announce this rare opportunity to hear Tino Sehgal and Asad Raza in conversation. Join us for a morning of talk covering art, ritual, modernity, metaphysics and likely more besides.

Tino Sehgal is an artist whose work has been exhibited around the world, including at the Guggenheim Museum in New York; Villa Reale, Milan; Documenta (13), Kassel, Germany; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the ICA, London. Sehgal’s 2012 commission for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in London earned him a nomination for this year’s Turner Prize. He recently won the Golden Lion for best artist at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Asad Raza, producer of the Sehgal's 2012 exhibition at Tate Modern, has worked closely with Sehgal on several exhibitions. Raza and Sehgal are currently programming a slate of works for the Mayfield Depot space at this summer's Manchester International Festival. Simon Glendinning, a philosopher at LSE, has participated in three of Sehgal’s works.

Photo Credit: Gareth McConnell

Of Miracles, Events, and Special Effects

Speaker: Hent de Vries (The Johns Hopkins University) Hent de Vries

Chair: Matthew Engelke (LSE)

What might be said to characterise genuine events, in history and politics? In what sense might miracles (or, more precisely, the theologies and traditions of belief in miracles—and their modern critique) offer the greatest resource for answering this question, even in the age of global markets and media? In this lecture, Hent de Vries addresses the significance of events within and for global religions, paying particular attention to the ways in which we can understand their 'special effects' by turning to miracles as a conceptual resource.

Date: 13 June 2013

Time: 18.30-20.00

Venue: Seligman Library, 6th Floor, Old Building, LSE, WC2A 2AE

Hent de Vries, one of the foremost philosophers of religion working today, is Director of the Humanities Center at the Johns Hopkins University and Russ Family Professor in the Department of Philosophy. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Philosophy and the Turn to Religion, Minimal Theologies: Critiques of Secular Reason in Theodor W. Adorno and Emmanuel Levinas, and Religion and Media (co-edited with Samuel Weber).

This event is free and open to all. For further information please contact Dr Matthew Engelke, 

Reflections on Freedom of Religion in Europe and Beyond

Heiner BielefeldtSpeaker: Professor Heiner Bielefeldt (UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Professor of Human Rights and Human Rights Politics, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg)

Chair: Dr Ronan McCrea (Faculty of Laws, University College London)

Date: 25 April 2013
Time: 18.30-20.00
Venue: Wolfson Lecture Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics

Within the UK, the recent cases of Nadia Ewedia and others before the European Court of Human Rights have brought questions of freedom of religion or belief to the fore, cases which are part of a much broader set of currents, interests, and debates. In this lecture, Professor Bielefeldt will reflect upon how what we’re seeing in the UK relates to these broader currents, from his unique perspective as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

This event is free and open to all with no ticket required. The New Academic Building is accessible at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Please contact Dr Matthew Engelke via with any questions.

Co-sponsored by the LSE’s Forum on Religion and Centre for the Study of Human Rights

With Good Reason? A Debate on the Foundations of Ethics

Speakers: Dr Julian Baggini, Canon Dr Angus Ritchie, and Dr Mark Vernon
Date and Time: 6 December 2012, 18.30-20.00
Venue: Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, LSE

This event is co-sponsored with Theos.

Religious and secular philosophers have long debated whether ethics have an objective basis (moral realism) or a relative basis (moral relativism). But in terms of the first, does theism or atheism offer a better basis for ‘moral realism’? In this debate, a theist, an atheist and an agnostic debate this question in what promises to be a lively and (perhaps) spirited exchange.

A podcast of this event is now available at:

Britain’s New Religious Landscape

Speaker: Professor Linda Woodhead (Lancaster University)
Chair: Dr Matthew Engelke (LSE)
Date and Time: 7 November 2012, 16.30-18.00
Venue: Seligman Library, Old Building, LSE

Linda WoodheadProfessor Woodhead argues that a profound shift has taken place in the religious landscape of Great Britain since the late 1980s, a shift whose significance has been highlighted by research on the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme. She suggests that the dominant mode of religion in this country is now one which differs profoundly from the Reformation mode of religion (a mode which was intensified and ‘purified’ into more fundamentalist forms in the course of the 20th century).

Professor Woodhead identifies key features of the new post-Reformation form of religion – discussing its organisational, magical, and moral aspects – and shows how its co-existence with older Reformation forms of religion explains a great deal about the landscape we now inhabit.

Salafi Islam, Online Ethics and the Future of the Egyptian Revolution

Speaker: Professor Charles Hirschkind (University of California, Berkeley)
Chair: Dr Mathijs Pelkmans (LSE)
Date and Time: 8 November 2012, 18.30-20.00
Venue: Old Theatre, Old Building, LSE

Charles HirschkindThis event is co-sponsored with the Depar tment of Anthropology.

In this public lecture, Professor Hirschkind, one of the most influential anthropologists of his generation, looks at the politics of the Salafi movement in Egypt in relation to changing practices of religious media use. The movement is the political face of a much broader and diverse current within Egyptian society, one grounded less in a specific tradition within Islam than in a grassroots movement centred on ethical reform.

A podcast of this event is now available to download.

Ethics as Piety

Speaker: Webb Keane (University of Michigan)
Chair: Charles Stafford (London School of Economics)
Date: 27 June 2012, 18.00-19.30
Venue: Room LG.09, New Academic Building, LSE

Webb Keane photographAssuming that what we call “religion” and “ethics” are in principle distinct from each other, what is the conceptual relationship between them? What are the historical pathways along which the two often seem to converge? What are the social implications of that convergence where it occurs? And when they converge, what remainder escapes the conflation of these two? These are, of course, very large questions, whose investigation requires substantial empirical and conceptual work. In the interests of carrying out a preliminary ground-clearing, this talk is confined to reflections on a limited number of texts. Discussion of these texts will center on how certain traditions within Islam and Protestant Christianity objectify ethics in ways that render them cognitively explicit and thus expose them to pressures toward rationalisation, generalisation, and abstraction. But these traditions also expect ethics to guide everyday life, in all its concrete particularity, with potentially paradoxical consequences.

The event is free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis.

At the Origins of Modern Atheism

Speaker: Rev Dr Giles Fraser Giles Fraser
Discussant: Prof John Gray (London School of Economics)
Chair: Dr Matthew Engelke (London School of Economics)

6 June 2012, 18.30-20.00 
Old Theatre, Old Building

In the first event of the Programme for the Study of Religion and Non-Religion, Giles Fraser examined the links between Enlightenment thought and theology, reflecting on how theology frames the very ways in which we can understand the denial of God.

This event was followed by a reception and marked the public launch of the Programme for the Study of Religion and Non-Religion.

podcast of this event is available to download.

Public debate – Is There A Future For Multiculturalism?

Forum on Religion and Theos public debate
Thursday 20 October 2011
Old Theatre, Old Building, 6.30pm–8pm
Public speakers: Dr Jonathan Chaplin, Claire Fox, Professor Tariq Modood and Dr Jenny Taylor
Chair: Jane Little

Dr Jonathan Chaplin, Claire Fox, Professor Tariq Modood and Dr Jenny Taylor Jane Little

Recent years have seen politicians and commentators of all stripes lining up to condemn multiculturalism. This event asks whether we are right to bury state multiculturalism, having once praised it so energetically. The debate coincides with the launch of Multiculturalism: a Christian retrieval from Theos.

Jonathan Chaplin is the first Director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics. Claire Fox is Director of the Institute of Ideas. Tariq Modood is Director of the Centre for Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship at the University of Bristol. Jenny Taylor is Director of Lapido Media. 

The podcast of this event is available on the Public lectures and events lecture web page.

Forum on Religion Public Lecture - Lent Term 2011

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols Good Life in Hard Times
Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols
Chair: Professor Conor Gearty

2 March 2011
Sheik Zayed Theatre, 6:30pm

Ticketed event: tickets available from 10am, 23 February from LSE Events page

The Future of Christianity

Speaker: Diarmaid MacCulloch (Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University).

Diarmaid MacCullochChair: Professor John Breuilly (Professor of Nationalism and Ethnicity, LSE)

Date: 18 November 2009

Venue: Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, LSE

An audio recording of this event is available to download as: mp3 (38mb; approx 82 minutes)

Islam: What I believe

Speaker: Tariq Ramadan (Professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University, visiting Professor at Erasmus University and president of the European think tank European Muslim Network in Brussels)

Chair: Dr. Effie Fokas (Director of the Forum on Religion and a Visiting Fellow to the European Institute)

Date: 14 October 2009

Venue: Old Theatre, Old Building, LSE

An audio recording of this event is available to download as: mp3 (22mb; approx 97 minutes)

Did religion make a difference? The American elections and beyond

Speakers: Peter Berger (Professor Emeritus of Religion, Sociology and Theology, Boston University), and John Micklethwait (Editor in Chief of The Economist)
Chair: Grace Davie (Professor of Sociology, Exeter University)
Date: 11 November 2008
Venue: Old Theatre, Old Building, LSE
(followed by a book launch hosted by Ashgate for Religious America, Secular Europe? A theme and variations. Co-authored by Peter Berger, Grace Davie and Effie Fokas)
An audio recording of this event is available to download as: mp3 (41mb; approx 89 minutes)

Religious Faith and Human Rights

Speaker: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams
Chair: Professor Conor Gearty (Rausling Professor of Human Rights Law in the Department of Law, LSE)
Date: 1 May 2008
Venue: Old Theatre, Old Building, LSE
(co-hosted with the Centre for the Study of Human Rights)

Transcript (Link to external site)

Video (Link to external site)

An audio recording of this event is available to download as: mp3 (22mb; approx 97minutes)

Islam and secularism in France and Turkey

Speakers: Alain Touraine & Nilufer Göle (Professors of Sociology at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris)
Chair: Simon Glendinning (Director of the Forum for European Philosophy and a Reader in European Philosophy at the European Institute)
Date: 14 February 2008
Venue: Old Theatre, Old Building, LSE