Call For Paper "Regimes of Belief, Regimes of Truth" Conference

Anne-Laure Zwilling's picture
Call for Papers
September 30, 2022
Subject Fields: 
Sociology, Religious Studies and Theology

This conference is the culmination of a seminar on non-religiousness that included nine sessions divided into three research areas: "philosophy, norms and values of non-religion"; "non-religiousness in various cultural and confessional contexts"; "religion, non-religion, secularisation: theoretical debates". It is intended to be an extension of the exchanges that have fuelled these sessions; it also aims to open up new reflections on the theme of non-religion.

The choice of the title "Régimes de croyance, régimes de vérité" (regimes of belief, regimes of truth) meets two requirements. The first is the desire not to restrict the analysis of the non-religious to a study by negation or absence. Whether we speak of agnosticism, atheism, indifference, irreligion or 'nones', the terms used to analyse this phenomenon is too often presented as the negative side of the religious (Quack, 2013). However, it seems necessary to show its positive components, which is made possible by using the terms 'belief' and 'truth'.


The second requirement is to better understand what distinguishes non-religious from religious. The reflections carried out during the seminar showed that the boundaries between these two universes of meaning are shifting, and that they share many characteristics: both can encompass norms, dogmas and rituals; they commonly refer to an axiological, symbolic and spiritual order; they unfold in the same societal "arenas"; the scientific questions they raise and from which they are approached frequently converge. Nevertheless, it appears that non-religion and religion differ from each other in their relationship to transcendence. While the former does not systematically mobilise transcendence, in the West it is a component of religion, which also sees it as a source of truth. It is to better underline this distinction that our conference has chosen the title "regimes of belief, regimes of truth". "Regimes of belief" encompass the new spiritualities as well as agnosticism, atheism and indifference. "Regimes of truth" refers exclusively to "traditional" religions.

How are regimes of belief and regimes of truth deployed and articulated in a post-secular world (Habermas, 2008)? Our modernity is characterised by an uncertainty that has become an ordinary regime, a decline in ideologies as well as an individualistic withdrawal and an acceleration of time, which reinforce the feeling that the world is slipping away from us. In this context marked by disenchantment, religion does not appear to be an obvious axiological resource, capable of responding to the existential questions of individuals. We can therefore observe a retreat from the sacred, and beliefs that have become subjective and de-institutionalised (Donegani, 2015): it is now possible to believe without belonging (Davie, 1994) or even to belong without believing (Hervieu-Léger, 1999), according to an increasingly individualised and personal experience of the spiritual (Hervieu-Léger, 2010). For all that, the religious has not disappeared, but is being maintained; the non-religious, for its part, tends to progress, without being able to be assimilated to an absence of spirituality. The porosity between these two universes of meaning is growing, in view of the axiological tinkering that individuals do: 'the believing subject claims to choose what suits him or her from different traditions and to freely combine these elements', Danièle Hervieu-Léger rightly reminds us (Hervieu-Léger, 2010).

Three axes could feed the reflections of this conference. The first would focus exclusively on regimes of belief, to explore their subjectivity. The second would concern the porosity of the boundaries between regimes of belief and regimes of truth. The third axis would focus on a sociology of the non-religious and its characteristics.

Axis 1: The subjectivity of beliefs is the result of a combination of various factors such as socialisation (family, wider environment, school), age, gender, the culture of a society and the diversity of the spiritual supply. Pierre Bréchon shows, for example, that socialisation has an impact on the relationship with non-religion, as do the age and gender of individuals (Bréchon, 2021). Anna Sthran, for her part, emphasises in an ongoing study in the United Kingdom how school or the family shape the relationship to the spiritual among the youngest (Strhan, forthcoming). The diversity of the offer in terms of religiosity/non-religiosity, as well as a country's own culture, are also key factors in understanding belief regimes, as Roodney Stark has shown in his comparison of religiosity in Europe and the United States (Stark, 1999), or Olivier Roy in his reflection on culture and religion in La Sainte ignorance (Roy, 2008). Proposals concerning the values of the non-religion, non-religious socialisation, the individualisation of beliefs or the characteristics of new spiritualities can be integrated into this axis.

Axis 2 : The porosity of the boundaries between the regimes of belief and truth would constitute a second axis of the conference. Subjectivisation and de-institutionalisation of belief render the boundaries between these two universes mobile and more difficult to perceive. The relationship between the two entities can be conflictual, as Julia Martinez-Ariño has shown in the case of the collective apostasies that occured with the Spanish and Argentinean demonstrations in defence of abortion (Martinez-Ariño, 2021). The relationship can also be one of compromise, as in the case of secular regimes whose capacity to regulate religion is questioned; it is expressed in terms of demands, as illustrated by the requests for institutional recognition of non-religious spiritual currents (Lisa Harms and Ines Michalowski, 2022). It is translated into normative terms, with the influence of the nones in positive law. Eva Guigo-Patzelt shows that a convergence between scientific atheism and religions could be observed in East Germany in a common denunciation of the indifferent (Guigo-Patzelt, 2022).

Finally, axis 3 could focus on the sociology of the non-religious in itself, questioning its object, its questioning, its autonomy vis-à-vis the social sciences of religion, and its contribution to shedding light on the recompositions of beliefs and truths that can be observed in our societies today. A debate on the terms used to understand this phenomenon would make it possible to better delimit this object of study, in an extension of the previous axis, and thus relieve some of the scepticism that weighs it. It is sometimes presented as not worthy of interest because it is born of a statistical and non-scientific terminology, sometimes perceived as too encompassing to be sufficiently relevant, or too closely linked to the religious to present characteristics that are really specific to it. This axis could thus constitute an opportunity to build or reinforce the scientific legitimacy of the emerging sociology of the non-religious.

How to submit

Proposals for papers should include a title and an abstract of 1000 to 1500 characters, not including spaces.

They should be accompanied by a short biography of the speaker.

They should be sent by 30 September 2022 at the latest to the following address:

The conference will mostly be French-speaking. Contributions in English, however, are also welcome.


Scientific committee

Vincent Genin (GSRL/EPHE)

Kristina Kovalskaya (GSRL/EPHE)

Anne Lancien (GSRL/EPHE – CERI/Sciences po)

Anne-Laure Zwilling (DRES, CNRS/Université de Strasbourg)

Contact Info: 

Further information can be obtained using address