Research Projects - Esther McIntosh

How are the Voluntarily Childless and the Involuntarily Infertile to Make Sense of their Christian Faith?

This project discusses the rise of the Quiverfull Movement, whose advocates attack feminism and birth control, favouring a biblical patriarchy that emphasizes female submission and extensive reproduction. The article locates the pronatalism of the Quiverfull movement, in less extreme forms, within official Catholic and Anglican teaching and tradition. By examining prominent church documents responding to the developments in contraception and artificial conception, this project will explore the extent to which the ubiquitous emphasis on motherhood and procreation in Christianity is damaging to infertile couples and the growing numbers of voluntarily childless persons. Drawing on surveys that illustrate the negative experience of being single and/or child-free in a Christian community, this project will propose a more inclusive theology that incorporates the concept of children as gifts into wider care for refugees and duties to future generations.

Feminism and Misogyny in Online Christianity

Digital media has opened up a new space for Christians to share, debate, support and critique their religion. On the one hand, the internet assists women in having their voices heard and in finding supportive listeners; on the other hand, it also exposes them to trolling, including extreme, vitriolic and misogynistic threats and abuse through which those within Christian circles who seek to maintain gender inequality, often on the basis of a tradition that promotes male domination, female subservience, sacrifice and complementarity are galvanised and legitimised in their views. Whether the use of digital media is assisting, hindering or making no difference to feminist Christians in their fight for equality has yet to be analysed. While large numbers of white evangelical women voted for Trump despite ‘fake news’ and blatant misogyny, research into online religion rarely mentions gender; this project will begin to fill that gap.  

Living Religion: The Fluidity of Practice

This project highlights the contemporary relevance of Macmurray’s work for the turn in philosophy of religion towards living religion. The traditional academic focus on belief analyses cognitive dissonance from a distance, and misses the experience of being religious. Alternatively, in an astute move ahead of his time, Macmurray emphasized emotion and action over theory and cognition; he examined religion as the creation and sustenance of community, over and above doctrinal division and incompatible beliefs. Using Macmurray as a springboard, this project considers the new speech acts of digital media and considers the advantages the virtual world holds for exploring diverse religious practices and identities. This project will discover whether online communities are significant for the spiritual practice of the religiously affiliated as well as religious ‘nones’, and, hence, whether online religion is relevant to the understanding of living religion aimed at in contemporary philosophy.

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