The Humanities and Lived Religion Workshop: A Report

The Humanities and Lived Religion: Philosophy, Religious Studies and the Impact Agenda

A One-Day Workshop at the University of Liverpool

Thursday 9th May 2013

HLR Photo2The Humanities and Lived Religion was the first workshop of the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded network, Philosophy and Religious Practices. It brought together over 50 delegates from a variety of disciplines working in Universities throughout the UK, as well as many non-academics with a vested interest in religion from the local area (a list of all the delegates follows at the end of this report). Indeed, the conversation was extremely broad, encompassing philosophy of religion, practical theology, systematic theology, religious studies, sociology, architecture and anthropology as well as everyday religious and secular experiences. Prof Jolyon Mitchell (Director, Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Edinburgh) and Prof Roger Trigg (Academic Director, Centre for the Study of Religion in Public Life, University of Oxford) gave keynote papers and, in addition, there were also 12 short talks by academic representing all the different viewpoints listed above. There were additionally two substantial discussion sessions involving all the delegates, and the variety and richness of these discussions can be seen from the two ‘wordclouds’ they produced:


Discussion 1 WordleDiscussion 2 Wordle


The aim of the workshop was to provisionally explore the different perspectives at stake in the network’s purview of philosophy and religious practices. In particular, the objective was to think different ways research on religion and lived religious practices can relate to each other and the role of philosophy of religion within that. These aims were fully met, it was felt, during the course of a day full of reflection and debate. Some of the key themes that emerged during the day included:


  • The need to re-engage philosophy of religion with lived experience, particularly through a more accessible style or a more participatory research methodology
  • The appropriate response to religious violence, and the role of the academic in bearing witness to atrocity
  • Silence as a means of responding academically to religion
  • Religion and memory
  • The limits of impartiality in researching on religion
  • The idea of the Humanities as a home for research on religion
  • The tools philosophy of religion provides to critique or question religious narratives, or indeed to justify them
  • Communicating religion
  • The relation between philosophy and theology
  • Capturing the impact of religion
  • Working on religion for policy groups and government bodies
  • Religion and discrimination, particularly the role of belief in legal definitions of religion
  • Whether too much focus on religious practices avoids debate surrounding the truth of religion or the propositions it expresses
  • Philosophising religion in a post-Wittgensteinian philosophical landscape
  • Philosophy of religion’s pathological avoidance of Eastern religions (and non-Abrahamic religion in general), and what tools it might have at its disposal to overcome this
  • Bringing ethnography and philosophy into a harmonious working relation
  • Going beyond Christianity in research on religion
  • Immanence, plasticity and the need to refuse messianicity in researching on religion
  • Does philosophy provide tools for understanding religion or does it provide a network or even a grammar?
  • Doing philosophy of religion in an evangelical environment
  • Theory’s relation to what is concrete


In his summing-up of the day, Daniel Whistler emphasised five sets of questions that had repeatedly come up, which could in general HLR Photo1be summarised under the following overarching problem: As academics working on religion, what is it that we do? What are we good for? And what good do we do?

  1. When it comes to religious violence, how should we talk about it? Should (or even can) academics remain silent or bear witness? Should they remain impartial? What form should academic discourse take? – especially if it is to avoid the affect that mars so much work in the academy: condescension.
  2. Academics are able to take their time compared to those on the ground. But what exactly is it that academics do with their time? Presumably they reflect – but what does ‘reflect’ mean here? And are there many kinds of reflection and, if so, which is most appropriate?
  3. If researchers on religion provide tools for understanding religion better, what exactly are these tools used for? Critique? Clarification? Discrimination? Or interpretation? And which of these activities is most appropriate for working with religion?
  4. What are the political uses to which research on religion can and should be put? Should it or can it help build peace or promote inclusiveness or respect the Other?
  5. Finally, is it, in fact, valuable when theory abstracts from what is concrete? Particularly if abstraction is not subsumed into generalisation. Does speaking abstractly necessarily falsify or do violence to what is personal or individual, or can it be a productive way of understanding particularity better or at least differently?

Overall, the day was felt to be a great success and more than met its aims – and all the delegates expressed eagerness for the next workshop: Buddhism and Human Flourishing, taking place on 25th June at the University of Chester (see registration details here).


More responses to the workshop can be found on the project blog:





List of Delegates


Abdul-Bashid Shaikh    University of Leeds

Alana Vincent               University of Chester

Andrew Brower Latz     University of Durham

Andrew Crompton         University of Liverpool

Anna Fisk                      University of Glasgow

Anna Strhan                  University of Kent

Beverley Clack              Oxford Brookes University

Charlotte Connolly        UCLAN

Chris Baker                   University of Chester

Chris Hewson                University of Manchester

Corrie Lowry                 Philosophy in Pubs

Daniel Hill                     University of Liverpool

Daniel Nield                  University of Chester

Daniel Whistler              University of Liverpool

Elaine Graham               University of Chester

Elena Kalmykova          University of Birmingham

Fern Elsdon-Baker         University of Coventry

Graham Harvey             Open University

Harry Bunting                University of Ulster

Ian Gould                      Independent

Iwona Zielińska             Academy of Education

James Harding               University of Liverpool

Joanne Sealey                University of Liverpool

Johan Siebers                UCLAN

John Couchman            Independent

John James Langley      University of Liverpool

John Reader                  Ironstone Benefice

John Sisson                   Independent

Jolyon Mitchell              University of Edinburgh

Julia Trigg                      Independent

Katharine Sarah Moody    University of Liverpool

Leon Moosavi               University of Liverpool

Lisa Battye                    University of Chester

Liam Jones                    Independent

Maria Power                  University of Liverpool

Mark Godin                   Independent

Martin Bloomfield         University of York

Mary Morgans               Philosophy in Pubs

Mathew Clark                Regents College

Max Feldman                University of Warwick

Meena Dhanda              Uni of Wolverhampton

Mikel Burley                 University of Leeds

Nicholas Briggs             UCLAN

Obie Hickmott               KCL

Oli Gomersall                University of Chester

Patrice Haynes               Liverpool Hope University

Philip Waldron              Independent

Rachel Handley             Independent

Rebecca Catto               University of Coventry

Richard Timmins           University of Liverpool

Rob Warner                   University of Chester

Roger Trigg                    University of Oxford

Ruth Stock                     University of Chester

Ruth Wills                     Uni of Winchester

Samuel Shearn               University of Oxford

Scott Midson                 University of Manchester

Seyed Ashrafi                University of Liverpool

Simon Hailwood            University of Liverpool

Simon Ryder                 Independent

Stephen Jones                University of Bristol

Steven Shakespeare       Liverpool Hope University

Sucheta Kapoor             University of Liverpool

Tasia Scrutton                University of Leeds

Wendy Dossett              University of Chester



4 responses

13 05 2013
Roger Trigg, The Privatisation of Religion – Is Philosophy of Religion to Blame? | Philosophy and Religious Practices

[…] Practices network kicked off with a workshop at the University of Liverpool. A report of the day is available here. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be continuing the conversation with a series of blog posts […]

13 05 2013
Plasticity and Lived Religion. – anotherphiloblog

[…] On Thursday I gave a paper at University of Liverpool with the same title as this post (here). It was a good day for challenging preconceptions. The discussion was lively, and there was a good atmosphere. Daniel Whistler has his report over at the research network’s blog. […]

13 05 2013
Rebecca Catto, Research on Religion and Public Policy | Philosophy and Religious Practices

[…] Philosophy and Religious Practices' workshop at the University of Liverpool (a report for which is available here). This is a summary of a talk given by Rebecca Catto, a research fellow at the Centre for Social […]

19 05 2013
Mathew Clark, Pentecostalism and Philosophy of Religion | Philosophy and Religious Practices

[…] [This is the second in the series of posts relating to  This is a summary of a talk given by Mathew Clark, Regent's Theological College at the University of Wales, at the first Philosophy and Religious Practices' workshop at the University of Liverpool (a report for which is available here).] […]

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