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Prof Stephen Bullivant

Director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society
Professor of Theology and the Sociology of Religion

Prof Stephen Bullivant

About Research

Tel: 020 8240 4185


Stephen Bullivant is Professor of Theology and the Sociology of Religion, and Director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society. He holds doctorates in Theology (Oxford, 2009) and Sociology (Warwick, 2019). He joined St Mary’s in 2009, having previously held posts at Heythrop College, London, and Wolfson College, Oxford. Professor Bullivant has also held Visiting fellowship at the Institute for Social Change (University of Manchester), Blackfriars Hall (University of Oxford), and the Institute for Advanced Studies (University College London).

Prof Bullivant has published ten books, including: Mass Exodus: Catholic Disaffiliation in Britain and America since Vatican II (OUP, 2019), Why Catholics Leave, What They Miss, and How They Might Return (Paulist, 2019; with C. Knowles, H. Vaughan-Spruce, and B. Durcan), The Oxford Dictionary of Atheism (OUP, 2016; with L. Lee), and The Trinity: How Not to Be a Heretic (Paulist, 2015). He is currently co-editing a two-volume Cambridge History of Atheism (CUP, forthcoming) with Michael Ruse, with whom he previously co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Atheism (OUP, 2013).

Prof Bullivant’s research has received funding from, among others, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the John Templeton Foundation, the British Academy, Porticus UK, the St Barnabas Society, the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, the Apostleship of the Sea, and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

His ongoing studies of contemporary religion in Europe and America are frequently featured by major media outlets, including NBC, Fox News, BBC, Sky News, Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Financial Times, Economist, Spectator, Der Spiegel, La Croix, Il Foglio, and Grazia. Television and radio credits include EWTN, Vatican Radio, Radio 4, Radio 5 Live, Radio 3, and LBC. Prof. Bullivant is consulting editor and writes regularly for the Catholic Herald, as he also has for the Guardian, New Scientist, the Spectator, First Things, America, and the Tablet.

Current areas of research/PhD supervision interest include:

  • Religious trends in Britain, Ireland, Europe, North America, and Anglosphere (e.g., South Africa, Australia)
  • Nonreligion, atheism, secularity, secularism, indifference, nones, ‘nonverts’, etc.
  • Sociology and social history of Catholicism, including (inter alia) parishes, movements, liturgy, youth, evangelization, intergenerational transmission, lapsation, disaffiliation, conversion, vocations
  • Sociology of healthcare and family, including sex, contraception, teen pregnancy, abortion
  • Latter-Day Saints, Mormonism
  • Sexual abuse crisis, statistics, trends, episcopal governance
  • New evangelization
  • Second Vatican Council and its reception
  • Quantitative methods, church statistics, survey research,
  • Social network analysis, relational sociology, subcultural identity theory (‘sacred umbrellas’, Benedict Option), credibility enhancing displays (CREDs), plausibility structures
  • Catholic dogmatic, systematic, and/or historical theology (Newman, Vatican II, Humanae Vitae, Rahner, Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, Trinity, salvation)


Areas of research supervision

  • Sociology of religion
  • Catholic theology
  • Atheism/nonreligion
  • Science/technology and religion

Research profile

Academic and Professional Qualifications:

  • 2019: PhD Sociology (Warwick University)
  • 2010: Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • 2010: PGCert in Academic Practice; Distinction  (St Mary’s)
  • 2009: DPhil Theology (Christ Church, University of Oxford)
  • 2006: MSt Theology (Christian Doctrine); Distinction (Christ Church, University of Oxford)
  • 2005  BA (Hons) Philosophy and Theology; First (Christ Church, University of Oxford)

Grants, Awards and Bursaries:

  • 2019: St Barnabas Society; ‘Led by Faith and Conscience: The experiences of clergy from other denominations (and religions) within the Catholic Church in the British Isles’ project (£100 000).
  • 2018: Arts and Humanities Research Council; ‘Catholics in Britain’ project, co-PI with Dr Ben Clements at Leicester University (£170 000).
  • 2018: Porticus UK; ‘Seeds of Hope: Catholic Growth in the UK’ project (£80 000).
  • 2018: Ryan Foundation; ‘Teenage Pregnancy: a cross-country analysis’ project (£61 000).
  • 2017:   Porticus UK; ‘Evangelising Parishes’ project, phase 2 (£20 000).
  • 2017:   Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service; project analyzing historial data on abuse allegations in England and Wales (£10 000).
  • 2017: Ryan Foundation; project exploring statistical data on contemporary religion in South Africa (£20 000).
  • 2016: Porticus UK; ‘Evangelising Parishes’ project, phase 1 (£11 500).
  • 2016: John Templeton Foundation; 'Understanding Unbelief', co-PI on 3-year project in collaboration with colleagues at Kent, Coventry, and Queen's Belfast (£2.3 million).
  • 2016: Apostleship of the Sea; PI on project evaluating current work of Catholic charity in supporting spiritual needs of seafarers (£15 000).
  • 2016: Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales; PI on project profiling the nonreligious population of England and Wales, using British Social Attitudes data (£5000).
  • 2015: John Templeton Foundation; 'The Scientific Study of Non -Religious Belief', co-PI on 15-month project in collaboration with colleagues at UCL, Coventry, and Queen's Belfast (£140 000).
  • 2015: Private benefaction; project mapping contemporary Catholicism in England and Wales, using British Social Attitudes data (£5000).
  • 2013: National Catholic Safeguarding Commission; grant awarded to conduct 10-year review of national statistics on abuse allegations within the Catholic Church in England and Wales (£2500).
  • 2013: British Academy Quantitative Skills Acquisition Award; awarded for project ‘Who leaves the Catholic Church? A demographic profile of “Catholic disaffiliates” using British Social Attitudes data’, incorporating visiting researcher position at Institute for Social Change, University of Manchester (£3500).
  • 2013: Hünermann Foundation for the Advancement of Catholic Theology in Europe; contribution towards speakers’ travel costs for ‘Theology and Power’ symposium in Manila, July 2013 (€1000).
  • 2012: Staff Research Prize (St Mary’s University College); awarded for monograph The Salvation of Atheists and Catholic Dogmatic Theology (£1000).
  • 2010: Higher Education Academy; miniproject grant awarded for curriculum design project ‘Teaching atheism and nonreligion’ (£1500).
  • 2010: Catholic Theological Society of America: Catherine Mowry LaCugna Award for New Scholars; first non-US recipient ($1000).
  • 2006-9: Arts and Humanities Research Board; Full Doctoral Award (c. £60 000).
  • 2005-6: Arts and Humanities Research Board; Full Research Preparation Masters Award (c. £13 000).


  • Mass Exodus: Catholic Disaffiliation in Britain and America since Vatican II (Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2019)
  • Why Catholics Leave, What They Miss, and How They Might Return, co-authored with Catherine Knowles, Hannah Vaughan-Spruce, and Bernadette Durcan (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2019)
  • O My Jesus: The Meaning of the Fátima Prayer, co-authored with Luke Arredondo (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2017) [Translations: Korean, 2018; Polish, 2019]
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Atheism, co-authored with Lois Lee (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016) 
  • The Trinity: How Not to Be a Heretic (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2015)
  • Faith and Unbelief (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2013; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2014)
  • The Salvation of Atheists and Catholic Dogmatic Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012)
Edited volumes
  • The Cambridge History of Atheism, co-edited with Michael Ruse, two volumes (New York: Cambridge University Press; 2020, forthcoming)
  • Theology and Power: International Perspectives, co-edited with Agnes M. Brazal, Daniel Franklin Pilario, and Eric Marcelo O. Genilo (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2016)
  • The Oxford Handbook of Atheism, co-edited with Michael Ruse (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) 
  • Secularity and Non-Religion, co-edited with Elisabeth Arweck and Lois Lee (London: Routledge, 2013)
Reports and official submissions
Special journal issues
  • ‘Redeeming Power: Overcoming Abuse in Church and Society’, special issue, ET-Studies: Journal of the European Society for Catholic Theology 4/2 (2013), co-edited with Gerhard Kruip
  • ‘Non-Religion and Secularity: New Empirical Perspectives’, special issue, Journal of Contemporary Religion 27/1 (2012), co-edited with Elisabeth Arweck and Lois Lee
Book chapters
  • ‘Atheism Throughout the World’, in Michael Ruse and Stephen Bullivant (eds), The Cambridge History of Atheism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2020; forthcoming)
  • ‘Nonreligion and Europe’ (co-authored with Josh Bullock), in Grace Davie and Lucian Leustean (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020; forthcoming
  • ‘The Thames Flows into the Tiber: Benedict XVI, Performative Ecumenism, and the Place of Christians in a Secular Society’, in Emery De Gaál and Matthew Levering (eds), Joseph Ratzinger and the Healing of the Reformation-Era Divisions (Steuebnville, OH: Emmaus Academic, 2019; forthcoming)
  • ‘Benedict and the New Evangelization: A Saint, a Pope, and an Option’, in Monasticism Today: The Value of Monastic Life in Today’s World (Buckfastleigh: Buckfast Abbey, 2018), 41-7
  • ‘“Especially in mission territories”: New Evangelization and Liturgical (Reform of the) Reform’, in Uwe Michael Lang (ed), Authentic Liturgical Renewal in Contemporary Perspective (London: T. & T. Clark, 2017), 97-107
  • ‘Foreword’, in C. R. Cotter, P. Quadrio, and J. Tuckett (eds), New Atheism: Critical Perspectives and Contemporary Debates (New York: Springer, 2017)
  • ‘Vatican II and abuses in the Church: “A community composed of men” that is “always in need of being purified”’, in S. Bullivant, D. Pilario, E. Genilo, and A. Brazal (eds), Theology and Power: International Perspectives (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2016), 123-36
  • ‘I Call You (Facebook) Friends: New Media and the New Evangelization’, in Martin Lintner (ed.), God in Question: Religious Language and Secular Languages (Brixen: Verlag Weger, 2014), 461-73
  • ‘Defining “Atheism”’, in Stephen Bullivant and Michael Ruse (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Atheism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 11-21
  • ‘The Study of Atheism’ (co-authored with Michael Ruse), in Stephen Bullivant and Michael Ruse (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Atheism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 2-7
  • ‘Interdisciplinary Studies of Nonreligion and Secularity: The State of the Union’ (co-authored with Lois Lee), in Elisabeth Arweck, Stephen Bullivant, and Lois Lee (eds), Secularity and Non-Religion (London: Routledge, 2013), 2-7
  • ‘Christian Spirituality and Atheism’, in Peter Tyler and Richard Woods (eds), The Bloomsbury Guide to Christian Spirituality (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), 375-86
  • ‘Secularism’ (co-authored with Trevor Stammers), in Mark Cobb, Christina Puchalski and Bruce Rumbold (eds), The Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 83-8
  • ‘Atheism, Apologetics and Ecclesiology: Gaudium et Spes and Contemporary Unbelief’, in Andrew Davison (ed.), Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition (Norwich: SCM Press, 2011), 81-97
  • ‘The New Atheism and Sociology: Why Here? Why Now? What Next?’, in Amarnath Amarasingam (ed.), Religion and the New Atheism: A Critical Appraisal (Leiden and Boston, MA: Brill, 2010), 109-24 
  • ‘Explaining the Rise of “Nonreligion Studies”: Subfield Formation and Institutionalization within the Sociology of Religion’, Social Compass 67/1 (2020; forthcoming)
  • ‘We Confess We Are Atheists’, New Blackfriars (2020; forthcoming)
  • ‘Catholic Disaffiliation in Britain: A Quantitative Overview', Journal of Contemporary Religion 31/2 (2016), 1-17
  • ‘10 Years of Allegation Statistics, 2003-2012’, National Catholic Safeguarding Commission: Annual Report 2013/14, 38-41
  • ‘Redeeming Power: Overcoming Abuse in Church and Society’, ET-Studies 4/2 (2013), v-ix
  • ‘Not so Indifferent After All? The New Visibility of Atheism and the Secularization Thesis’, Approaching Religion 2/1 (2012), 100-6
  • ‘Interdisciplinary Studies of Nonreligion and Secularity: The State of the Union’ (co-authored with Lois Lee), Journal of Contemporary Religion 27/1 (January 2012), 19-27
  • Caritas in Veritate and the Allocation of Scarce Resources’, Catholic Social Science Review 16 (October 2011), 17-25
  • ‘Sing an Old Song to the Lord’ (co-authored with Joanna Bullivant), Pastoral Review 7/2 (March/April 2011), 58-65
  • Sine culpa? Vatican II and Inculpable Ignorance’, Theological Studies 72 (March 2011), 70-86
  • ‘Newman and Modernism: The Pascendi Crisis and its Wider Significances’, New Blackfriars 92/1038 (March 2011), 189-208
  • ‘Teaching Atheism and Nonreligion: Challenges and Opportunities’, Discourse 10/2 (Spring 2011), 93-110
  • ‘The Myth of Rahnerian Exceptionalism: Edward Schillebeeckx’s “Anonymous Christians”’, Philosophy & Theology 22/1+2 (2010), 339-51
  • ‘A Meister Among the Moderns: Hegel, Rosenberg, Bloch and Cage’, Eckhart Review 18 (2009), 4-21
  • ‘From “Main Tendue” to Vatican II: the Catholic Engagement with Atheism, 1936-65’, New Blackfriars 90/1026 (March 2009), 178-87
  • ‘Richard Dawkins on Being a Christian’, Theology 111/864 (November/December 2008), 420-6
  • ‘Research Note: Sociology and the Study of Atheism’, Journal of Contemporary Religion 23/3 (October 2008), 363-8
  • ‘Son of God or “red son-of-a-bitch”? John Steinbeck, Woody Guthrie and left-wing folk christology’, Journal for Faith, Spirituality and Social Change 1/2 (May 2008)
  • ‘Introducing Irreligious Experiences’, Implicit Religion 11/1 (April 2008), 7-24
  • ‘A House Divided Against Itself: Dostoevsky and the Psychology of Unbelief’, Literature and Theology 22/1 (March 2008), 16-31

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