Towards a plural post-secular

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The concept of secularity has become increasingly problematised in contemporary culture: by the growth of religious fundamentalism and ‘alternative’ spiritualities, the ruthless secular ‘faith’ of late capitalism, the politically-sanctioned persecution of minorities according to assumed religious threat, and the increasingly pressing need to find an ethical survival strategy amidst ecological and humanitarian crises.

This paper examines the impact of Christianity on the theorisation of the post-secular, discussing an ongoing bias in Anglophone literary theory by which the concept of religion and its assumed opposite, secularism, both remain defined by dominant Christian paradigms. Discussing critical theory examples from the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, including the popular Religion for Atheists (2012) by Alain de Botton, I examine a fallacy in which belief system diversity is often inadvertently minimised, using ‘religion’ to refer almost exclusively to Christianity and ‘secular’ to indicate non-Christianity. Illustrating this with studies whose self-proclaimed pan-religious focus retains a Christian-normative bias, this paper highlights the need to break away from this binarism as an insidious form of religious imperialism, as suggested by Manav Ratti.

I argue that to treat ‘the’ post-secular as a singular, stable category risks minimising its growing plurality, as is evident in the variety of engagement with the post-secular in contemporary literature, as in the works of David Mitchell, Margaret Atwood, and Yann Martel. A greater range of theoretical approaches are needed to understand the diversity of non-Christian post-secular influences surfacing in contemporary literature. Far from being a fixed category, then, the post-secular is plural.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 Feb 2018
EventBritish Association for Contemporary Literary Studies conference 2018 - Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Jul 201812 Jul 2018


ConferenceBritish Association for Contemporary Literary Studies conference 2018
Abbreviated titleBACLS-WHN
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Literature
  • Religion
  • Philosophy
  • Contemporary literature
  • Literature and criticism
  • Critical Theory
  • David Mitchell
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Yann Martel
  • Christianity
  • Buddhism
  • post-secular
  • Secularism


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