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Women Leaving Religion in the UK and the Netherlands


Women are often thought to be more religious then men. At the same time, a number of women disaffiliate from their religious tradition and/or community. This research explores the lived realities of women from Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious backgrounds in the UK and the Netherlands, who self-identify as having left religion. It is expected that different former faiths, the community one belongs/belonged to, and aspects such as age, education and sexuality all inform women’s experiences of leaving religion. This project will contextualise these women’s trajectories in relation to the different religious and secular dynamics and circumstantial differences of the UK and the Netherlands. Using a new and innovative life history approach , the project contributes to the study of non-religion and leaving religion, the interdisciplinary study of religion and gender, and the empirical comparative study of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Bringing women of different religious backgrounds (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) together in the same research will lead to new and original insights into the dynamics of current Western European secularising and diversifying societies. This research will investigate: a) how and why women leave their Jewish, Christian or Islamic faith and/or community; b) how aspects such as gender, generation, education, sexuality and race/ethnicity contribute to women’s experience of leaving religion; c) and their post-exit relations with family and community. This project combines a life history approach with participant observation at events organised by and for formerly religiously observant individuals, as well as interviews with organisers, activists and therapists dealing with formerly observant women. The results will be used to theoretically rethink the connections between (non-)religion, leaving religion, gender and race/ethnicity.

Call for proposal

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Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Priory Street
CV1 5FB Coventry
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 224 933,76