Dr Lois Lee joined the Department of Religious Studies in 2017 as a Research Fellow, becoming Senior Research Fellow in 2018 and Senior Lecturer in 2020. She is Principal Investigator on the Understanding Unbelief programme in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Kent, a landmark research programme into atheism, agnosticism and other forms of so-called unbelief around world, majorly funded by the John Templeton Foundation.
Lois received a BA (Hons) in History from the University of Leeds and her MPhil and PhD in Sociology from the University of Cambridge, before taking up research and teaching roles at the University of Kent's Department of Religious Studies and UCL's School of Public Policy and Institute of Advanced Studies.
Her early research focused on religious and nonreligious identities and ideology in relation to nineteenth century political thought, before moving on to contemporary sociological studies of people who are identified as nonreligious.
Lois' doctoral research explored what it means to be nonreligious and argued that not only is nonreligious culture a present and influential force in contemporary societies but that its study also helps us to recognise the existential, meaning-making dimension to the lives of nonreligious people – something that the nonreligious and religious have in common.
Lois' current research interests centre on the nature of the existential in modernity, with an empirical focus on non-theist and nonreligious populations.
Building on past work at the Religion and Political Theory Centre at UCL’s School of Public Policy, her work engages normatively as well as scientifically with questions around the role of religious and nonreligious existential culture in public life.
Theoretically, her research concerns the concept of religion and egalitarian conceptual approaches (such as ‘worldview’, or her own concept of ‘existential culture’); secularisation and other theories of religious change; and socio-political approaches to religion and existential culture, including political secularism and pluralism.
As Principal Investigator of the Understanding Unbelief programme (Jan 2017-Sept 2021) and on the Scientific Study of Non-religious Belief project at the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies before that (2015-2016), and her work focuses on the way in which social structures and regional cultures shape the religious and existential beliefs and commitments of so-called unbelievers, addressing questions about the nature and diversity of those beliefs and commitments.
As well as core research undertaken by Lois and the programme team, the Understanding Unbelief programme involves numerous academic and non-academic collaborators from around the world.
Lois has a strong interest in working with research communities in the wide dissemination of research. She founded the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network (NSRN) and the journal, Secularism and Nonreligion (S&N), and is co-editor of the NSRN book series, Religion and Its Others: Studies in Religion, Nonreligion and Secularity (De Gruyter). She also works with community groups as well as national and local media to disseminate her own - and NSRN's - research outside academia.
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