Imagine no religion...?

By Anna Schwoub
August 5, 2013

The lines in the John Lennon song are famous by now: "Imagine there's no religion... it's easy if you try..." But is it, and what would it mean?

That is the topic for a challenging conversation at the Just Festival in Edinburgh tonight (5 August 2013) - and the fact that it has already sold out seems to be an indicator that it is one quite a few people care about.

The speakers this evening are Professor Richard Holloway (former Bishop of Edinburgh, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and author of Leaving Alexandria), Tim Maguire from the Humanist Society Scotland, and Sanderson Jones of the Atheist Church initiative. The chair will be Professor Jolyon Mitchell from the University of Edinburgh and the Centre for Theology and Public Issues.

The panellists will ask whether the world really would be "as one", as Lennon apparently envisaged, or whether we would in fact remain divided?

Indeed, is "a world without religion" a realistic possibility or a totalising dream?

Meanwhile, what alternatives do humanism, atheism or agnosticism offer? Can a happy medium between religious polities and secular states be found? Would "no religion" bring chaos and a moral deficit once structures and strictures shared by faith groups are no longer predominant?

The questions and issues go on. The event is specifically sponsored by Humanist Society Scotland, with the involvement of a sceptical former bishop and the headline friendly Atheist Church.

Just Festival itself comes out of a church initiative, embraces people of all faiths and none in conversation, and provides a platform for looking positively at the changing world, both through the eyes of art and culture, and through the medium of dialogue and presentation.

You can read more about this particular discussion here on Ekklesia, one of the Just sponsors, and on the festival's social media platforms - including twitter (@JustFestival).

Though tickets have gone for tonight, there are plenty of other enlivening conversations, some with a religious dimension and some not so much, over the next four weeks at the ground-breaking Just Festival. See:

The Just Festival, also known simply as Just, runs from 2-26 August 2013. It is based at St John's Church (Princes Street and Lothian Road) and some 27 other venues, and combines artistic and performance style events with conversations, talks, films exhibits and other ways of exploring how to live together creatively in a mixed-belief society.

* For more information on Just Festival, visit and

* Ekklesia is a sponsor of Just Festival. Our news, reporting and comment is aggregated at:


© Anna Schwoub is a writer and academic from Northumbria specialising in the link between culture, religion and social change.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.