The Project

The Nonreligion in a Complex Future (NCF) project is an international, comparative, interdisciplinary research project based at the University of Ottawa (Canada). The NCF project identifies the social impact of the rapid and dramatic increase of nonreligion. Canada is the focal point of our international research sites, which include Australia, Latin America (Brazil and Argentina), the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland), the United States, and the United Kingdom. 

Our key research objectives are to:

  1. Develop new research tools to measure and describe nonreligion;
  2. Analyze the social impact of nonreligion; 
  3. Expand the conceptualization and theorizing of diversity to include nonreligion; 
  4. Map conflicts and collaborations between religious and nonreligious social actors; 
  5. Advance new knowledge for living well together that can be used to inform public policy and practice.
Alt Text

The project achieves these objectives by considering five areas where we observe the impact of nonreligion. These five focal areas are health, law, education, the environment, and migration.  


In each of these areas, we ask how the approaches and interests of the nonreligious challenge existing and taken-for-granted practices and cultures. For instance, are changes in religious affiliation reflected in how people talk about death and dying in obituaries over time? How do nonreligion and religion influence legal debates over same-sex marriage and reproductive rights? How is religion taught in societies where nonreligious people make up an increasingly large share of the population? Do nonreligious people experience feelings of awe when they are hiking in nature? What do invasive slugs in community gardens tell us about individuals’ lifestances? Are refugees always considered religious by receiving countries? What are the beliefs and values held by nonreligious people? 


These questions allow us to examine the nature, shape, and impact of nonreligion, and to build an evidence base from which to identify models for living well together in complex, diverse, and inclusive societies. 


These questions are addressed in our eleven projects currently underway:

The NCF is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).  

Learn more about our research here: