Projects Underway

The NCF has five focal areas, which each have various projects underway:


Our planet is in an environmental crisis, as record heatwaves, forest fires, and extreme weather events remind us. Responses to this crisis reveal tensions between nonreligious and religious actors, as well as areas of similarity and collaboration. These include debates over the rights of non-human animals, the emergence of a nonreligious environmental consciousness, legal arguments about environmental rights, and environmental volunteering. In this area, we are interested in exploring emerging lifestances that reposition human relations with the natural environment in an egalitarian manner. 

The Environment focal area has two projects underway: 


Legal conflicts reveal how religion and nonreligion are entrenched in societies and states. Cases provide an important window on processes of conflict and resolution between parties, as do public reactions to legal decisions. This area asks how religion and nonreligion are understood in law. Who is permitted to speak as an intervener in court cases? How is morality positioned in law in discussions of religion or nonreligion? What role does law play in the conceptualization of majoritarian religion as “culture and heritage” in the face of challenges by nonreligious people and those from minority religions? How does nonreligion impact legal conceptualizations of human rights? To explore these questions, we are looking at specific legal controversies in our project countries. 

The Law focal area has two projects underway: 


Migration is a persistent feature of our globalized world, with the number of people forcibly displaced rising from 33.9 million people in 1997 to 108.4 million in 2023, according to the UN Refugee Agency. The response to the refugee crisis involves a complex amalgam of cooperation and conflict between religious and nonreligious actors. Religious institutions are in many ways ideal conduits for refugees – they often have a cadre of volunteers, are accustomed to fundraising, and have charitable status – yet there are potential issues for the funneling of refugees through religious organizations in an increasingly nonreligious society. This focal area thus examines the characterization of refugees as religious or nonreligious (in media, policy documents, political statements, and receiving groups) and the impact of that framing. 

The Migration focal area has two projects underway: 


The divergent approaches and interests of the nonreligious challenge existing and taken-for-granted practices regarding life, death, and well-being that are central to all societies. The historical residue of religion in healthcare has to some extent remained, transformed into spiritual care and psychologized as “spiritual well-being.” Does this conflict with the beliefs, values, and practices of the nonreligious? Do practices in palliative care, including assisted dying, reflect religious beliefs about dying? What do new grieving practices (nonreligious funerals, celebrations of life, and so on) tell us about nonreligion? What is the impact of nonreligion on material practice, such as body disposal (burial, cremation or donating one’s body to science) or organ donation? How is death understood in these contexts and what implications are there for religious and nonreligious people? These questions illustrate the need to understand the role of nonreligion in shaping key social and moral aspects of health issues. 

The Health focal area has four projects underway: 


Controversies over the role of religion in education are energized by highly prized and often conflicting values that reflect wider struggles over diversity. Given the significant upsurge in numbers of nonreligious parents raising children, public schools in particular are likely to be populated by increasing numbers of students with no religious memory or tradition. How are nonreligious worldviews represented in religious education curricula? Are religion and nonreligion mobilized in other areas of the curriculum? How does nonreligion impact access to education (in areas where the only or better schools are religious, for example)? Where is the boundary between religion and nonreligion in this context: does teaching yoga or meditation or including a smudging ceremony constitute teaching religion?  

The Education focal area has one project underway: