Hugh Turpin - student Profile

HUGH TURPIN  Hugh Turpin - student photo

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institute of Cognition and Culture

PhD Project: Failing God? A cognitive anthropological investigation of the relationship between Catholic scandals and Irish secularisation.

While existing Irish sociological research has tended to focus on liberal, de-institutionalised or cultural Catholicism, little work currently exists on outright religious rejection in an Irish context. My PhD research addressed this by examining the growing rejection of Catholicism in the Republic of Ireland from a cognitive and social anthropological perspective, aiming to clarify its relationship to Catholic Church scandals in particular. The project consisted of a nationally representative survey, a period of fieldwork examining non-religious and religious actors and individuals in Dublin, and a behavioural experiment.

Findings suggested that the rejection of Catholicism in the Republic of Ireland is underpinned by strong moral judgements linked to clerical abuse and other Catholicism-related scandals and lingering Catholic influence on Irish social institutions, undergirded by an existing and longstanding decline in religious transmission. This social context encourages the emergence and spread of particularly strong forms of religious rejection, focussed as much against inertial affiliation as devout belief.


Hugh Turpin is a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, and is affiliated with the Institute of Cognition and Culture there. He holds a BA in Philosophy from Trinity College Dublin, as well as master’s degrees in Social Anthropology (University of Oxford) and Cognitive Science (University College Dublin), and a joint PhD from Queen’s University Belfast and Aarhus University Denmark in the cognitive anthropology of religion. He has published his work in the Routledge journal Religion, Brain and Behaviour, and has forthcoming chapters in The Oxford Handbook for the Cognitive Science of Religion (OUP) and The Handbook of Leaving Religion (Brill). His research interests include the cognitive science of religion, the failure of religious systems and beliefs, secularisation theory, the anthropologies of Christianity and Catholicism, and the anthropology and psychology of morality.


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