Researching the Nonreligious

Wednesday 6 July, 10.00am – 12.30pm
Moorgate Room (10 Grafton Street, Chippendale), The University of Notre Dame Australia, Broadway campus or join us online via Zoom

Professor Stephen Bullivant: Professorial Research Fellow in Theology and Sociology, The University of Notre Dame Australia
Professor Andrew Singleton (Respondent): Professor of Sociology and Social Research, Deakin University

None is now the religious 'default setting' in several Western countries, especially among younger generations, including Britain and (increasingly) Australia. In some more strongly religious countries - especially the USA -nonreligious populations have been rapidly growing in recent decades. Despite this, it is only really in the past fifteen years that there has been serious, sustained social-scientific study of 'nonreligion' (encompassing atheism, agnosticism, religious indifference, and other forms of secularity). In this informal talk, Professor Bullivant will explain a bit about the development of this subfield, what we've learned from it so far, and several promising areas for future research.

Stephen Bullivant is Professorial Research Fellow in Theology and Sociology at The University of Notre Dame Australia. He holds doctorates in theology (Oxford, 2009) and sociology (Warwick, 2019). Professor Bullivant is a co-Investigator on the 2021 John Templeton Foundation grant: “Explaining Atheism”, a USD $4 million, 3-year project in collaboration with colleagues at St Mary’s, Queen’s University Belfast, Kent, Coventry, and Brunel.

Andrew Singleton is Professor of Sociology and Social Research at Deakin University, Melbourne. His research has been funded by numerous grant-making bodies including as CI on an ARC Discovery (2016-18) “Australian Young People’s Perspectives on Religions and Non-religious Worldviews.” He has published widely on the religious and non-religious worldviews of youth, Spiritualism, religious identity, and religious nones.

Chaired by Rosemary Hancock
Rosie is co-convener of Institute for Ethics and Society’s Religion and Global Ethics program. She is a sociologist of religion who researches religion and spirituality in grassroots politics and movements for social change.


Past events

Scholarship at the Cathedral: Promoting Catholic Education

Tuesday 17 May 2022 @ 6:00pm-8:30pm
St Mary's Cathedral, St Mary's Rd, Sydney, 2000, NSW, Australia

This edition of Scholarship at the Cathedral will be presented by the University of Notre Dame Australia's own Vice Chancellor, Professor Francis Campbell. Promoting Catholic Education in today’s society means proposing a view of the human person as a truth-seeker who thrives in community. Catholic educators have an opportunity to form virtuous communities where human persons can thrive because they strive to pursue the truth virtuously. The real challenge for the Catholic institution is to foster such community so that the world can witness communities of salt and light. A recording of the event, along with a Q&A is available on the Catholic Archdiocese Of Sydney YouTube Channel.

2022 Bioethics & Healthcare Ethics (BHE) Annual Lecture

Shaken to the Core: Addressing Spiritual Struggles in the Context of Healthcare    ​.

19 May 2022 (via Zoom)

Does my life have any deeper meaning? How can I find my moral compass? What do I do when my faith is shaken to the core?

This presentation will introduce the audience to the growing body of research and practice on spiritual struggles (i.e. tensions and conflicts about sacred matters within oneself, with other people, and with the supernatural). We will see that spiritual struggles are not at all unusual, take a variety of forms, and hold important implications for health and well-being. More practically, this presentation will consider how spiritual struggles can be assessed and addressed in healthcare. We will underscore the importance of multi- disciplinary cooperation and collaboration in working with spiritual struggles.

A recording of the lecture is now available.

2022 Winning at what cost? The role of character in sports

Panel jointly hosted by The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, and The Institute for Ethics and Society.

22 March 2022 (via Zoom)

To celebrate the Commonwealth Games Queen's Baton Relay passing through Australia, this panel discussed and explored ethical and moral questions associated with sport.

The speakers for this event were: Prof Andrew Peterson (University of Birmingham), Dr Adam Piovarchy (University of Notre Dame Australia), Dr Alexandra Consterdine (University of Birmingham), and Paralympian Liz Wright, with Dr Laura D’Olimpio (University of Birmingham / University of Notre Dame) acting as moderator.

Sport – watching it, participating in it, discussing it – is an incredibly popular pastime. It is also very valuable – not just physically and mentally, but also socially and in economic terms. Elite athletes earn big bucks and gain international profiles. Our sports heroes are adored and often labelled as role models. This is a lot of pressure to place on individuals who are good at a particular game or succeed in certain competitions. This virtual panel discussion interrogated the role of sports and athletes in ethical and moral terms – asking whether character matters when it comes to sport. Is it right that sports people be held to a high moral standard? That we expect them to exhibit virtuous behaviour? And what should we do when they fall short of our ethical expectations?

2021 Notre Dame School of Virtue and Character

23 November - 2 December (via Zoom)

The Institute for Ethics & Society is delighted to host the 2021 Notre Dame School of Virtue & Character.

Held over two weeks, the second NDSVC allows selected participants to engage with new research on the topic of cultivating good character. NDSVC features five keynote sessions, each running for 1.5 hours. The sessions are structured around a pre-read paper and provide participants with the opportunity to engage directly with the speakers in a rigorous but friendly discussion of their work. The 2021 NDSVC will focus on the theme of The Virtues and Vices of Moral Criticism.

The keynote speakers are: Daniel Hutto (University of Wollongong), Michael Lynch (University of Connecticut), Linda Radzik (Texas A&M University), and John Lippitt (IES).

An initiative of the Moral Philosophy & Ethics Education program within the Institute for Ethics & Society.

For details about the inaugural Notre Dame School of Virtue & Character held in 2020, read more here.

Screening Virtue, Screening Vice – What can films and television shows teach us about virtues and vices?

Thursday 7 & Friday 8 October (via Zoom)

This two-day Zoom workshop hosted by The University of Notre Dame Australia in Sydney will explore the philosophical, cinematic and educational aspects of exploring virtue through fictional film and television programmes.

Fictional films and television programs can entertain, uplift, distract and educate us, but could they also help to make us better people? This workshop is part of an ongoing research project that aims to bring together moral philosophy with film and television studies in order to demonstrate how fictional film and television can help us deepen and expand our understanding of the virtues and how they can be cultivated.

Keynote: Prof Joseph Kupfer, Iowa State University - Joseph Kupfer has published a number of books exploring ethics and the virtues in cinema, including Virtue and Vice in Popular Film (2021), Feminist Ethics in Film: Reconfiguring Care through Cinema (2012) and Visions Of Virtue In Popular Film (1999).

This workshop is part of a collaborative project between researchers in the School of Arts and Sciences and the Institute for Ethics and Society.

Voluntary Assisted Dying and Suicide Prevention

2021 Bioethics & Healthcare Ethics (BHE) Annual Lecture

Tuesday 21 September, 6-7.30pm AEST (via Zoom)

This lecture will address the relationship between actions legalised by the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (VAD) and suicide.

  • *Is VAD a form of suicide, i.e. physician assisted suicide?
  • *Even if VAD is classified as a form of suicide, might legalising VAD help prevent suicide overall?
  • *Might it at least help prevent unassisted suicide?
  • *How can those in jurisdictions which have legalised VAD remain committed to suicide prevention among people who are now eligible for assisted suicide?

Keynote: Dr David Albert Jones MA (Cantab) MA MSt DPhil (Oxon) FHEA - David Albert Jones is Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford; Research Fellow at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford University and Professor of Bioethics at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

The lecture will suggest that the prohibition on encouraging or suggesting VAD remains of great importance in relation to helping prevent suicide, both assisted and unassisted.

Symposium - Refuge Reimagined: Biblical Kinship in Global Politics

Wednesday 15 September 2021 (via Zoom)

What resources might Christian scripture bring to the political challenge of displaced persons in the world today? This symposium will discuss an important new book Refuge Reimagined (IVP 2020), written at the intersection of the disciplines of theology and international relations. Join us for a conversation with the authors, A/Prof Mark Glanville (Regent College, Vancouver, CA) and A/Prof Luke Glanville (Australian National University), with responses from Dr Jayme Reaves (Sarum College, Salisbury, UK) and Marianne Rozario (St Mary's University, Twickenham, UK). Moderated by Prof John A. Rees (Notre Dame Australia). The symposium is hosted by the Religion & Global Ethics program of the Institute for Ethics & Society as part of a research initiative focusing on religious literacy in international relations.

Book launch for Love’s Forgiveness by Professor John Lippitt, IES Director

Thursday 19 November, 8pm (via Zoom)

The Institute for Ethics & Society is delighted to host an online book launch for Love’s Forgiveness: Kierkegaard, Resentment, Humility, and Hope (OUP) by IES Director, Professor John Lippitt.

Published by Oxford University Press, Love’s Forgiveness explores key questions raised by recent philosophers of forgiveness, and connects their discussions with New Testament passages on forgiveness and reflections from the Christian tradition, especially in the writings of Kierkegaard. The book draws on philosophy, theology, memoirs, and fiction to argue for a view of forgiveness as a 'work of love', and shows the connections between forgiveness and such qualities as humility and hope.

John Lippitt is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Institute for Ethics & Society at The University of Notre Dame Australia. His research for Love's Forgiveness was supported by a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship (2018–2020).

Christopher Cordner, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne and author of Ethical Encounter: the Depth of Moral Meaning, will give a response to the book on the night.

C. Stephen Evans, University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Baylor University, and currently directing a three-year US$2 million Templeton Religion Trust grant on ‘Accountability as a Virtue’, will also offer brief comments via video on the book.

The launch will conclude with an interactive Q&A time.

To register and receive the Zoom meeting link, please email

2020 Religion and Global Ethics Annual Lecture

Wednesday 11 November, 5pm (via Zoom)

The release of Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis in 2015 was hailed as a major milestone for ecology and environmental action across the world: the encyclical offers a framework for Catholics to both understand the contemporary climate crisis and take action. With a new social encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, recently released, we return to the themes of Laudato Si’ and examine how the new encyclical deepens Catholic Social Teaching on our environment. In this timely and interactive event, Dr Celia Deane-Drummond (Laudato Si’ Institute, Oxford) and Fr. Peter Smith (Sydney Catholic Archdiocese), discuss the successes, challenges, and possibilities of Catholic responses to the climate crisis.

2020 Bioethics and Healthcare Ethics Annual Lecture

Thursday 29 October, 12pm (via Zoom)

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised a myriad of ethical issues. One of the most troubling has been, at least in some jurisdictions, the way vulnerable persons such as the elderly in care homes and persons with disabilities have been de-prioritized in societal responses to COVID as well as in resource allocation policy proposals. In this talk, Dr Scott Kim will review these events and policies and reflect on what lessons bioethics might draw from them.

Scott Kim is a Senior Investigator in the Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health, USA. Prior to joining NIH, he was a Professor of Psychiatry and Co-Director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan. Dr Kim received his MD from Harvard and PhD in Moral Philosophy from the University of Chicago, and trained in adult psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He is the author of Evaluation of Capacity to Consent to Treatment and Research (Oxford, 2010). More information on Dr Kim can be found at

Margaret Somerville will give a response to Dr Kim’s lecture. Margo Somerville is a Professor of Bioethics in the Sydney School of Medicine at The University of Notre Dame Australia and an affiliate of the Institute for Ethics and Society.

2020 Notre Dame School of Virtue and Character

The Institute for Ethics & Society is delighted to host the 2020 Notre Dame School of Virtue & Character. Held over two weeks (29 September – 8 October), the NDSVC allows a small group of selected participants to deeply engage with new research on the topic of cultivating good character.

NDSVC features six keynote sessions, each running for 1.5 hours. The sessions are structured around a pre-read paper, and provide participants with the opportunity to engage directly with the speakers in a rigorous discussion of their work.

The keynote speakers are: C. Stephen Evans (Baylor University), Heather Battaly (University of Connecticut), Christian B. Miller (Wake Forest University), Michael Lamb (Wake Forest University), Anne Snyder (Comment Magazine), and John Lippitt (IES).

We welcome applications for participation via email. Due to COVID-19, the 2020 NDSVC keynote speakers will appear via Zoom.

The 2020 NDSVC will focus on two topics: new accounts of overlooked virtues and vices, and practical questions related to how institutions can be designed to foster virtue.

For details on how to apply, please email Tim Smartt ( or Dr Annette Pierdziwol ( Applications are open now and will close on 7 September 2020. Places are limited. Selected participants will be provided with the draft papers two weeks prior to the conference.

An initiative of the Moral Philosophy & Ethics Education program within the Institute for Ethics & Society

Read about the 2020 Notre Dame School of Virtue & Character.

Professor William T. Cavanaugh (DePaul University) at Notre Dame Australia

The Institute for Ethics & Society is delighted and honoured to announce that we will be hosting Professor William T. Cavanaugh (DePaul University) as a Visiting Professor to the University in November 2019!

Professor Cavanaugh is one the world’s leading researchers working at the intersection of ethics, politics, and the Catholic intellectual and moral tradition. His work has influenced an entire generation of scholars interested in using the resources of the Catholic tradition to develop fresh alternatives to moral and political reflection than those provided by secularism.

He is currently Professor of Catholic Studies and the Director of the Centre for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology at DePaul University in Chicago. He has also held substantial research fellowships from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame, and the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study.

A prolific researcher, Professor Cavanaugh is the author of The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (Oxford University Press, 2009), Torture and the Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ (Blackwell, 1998), Theopolitical Imagination (T&T Clark, 2003), Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire (Eerdmans, 2008), Field Hospital: The Church's Engagement With a Wounded World (Eerdmans, 2016), and Migrations of the Holy (Eerdmans, 2011). He is the co-editor of three volumes, including The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology (Blackwell, 2003), and co-editor of the journal Modern Theology. His books have been published in 12 languages.

During his time at the IES, Professor Cavanaugh will take part in a number of research, ethics education, and public engagement activities on both Notre Dame Australia's Broadway and Fremantle campuses.

The IES is committed to fostering greater ethical awareness in professional and social life, and we’re thrilled and humbled that Professor Cavanaugh will be sharing his expertise with the NDA community in November.

Stay tuned for more details!

For inquiries related to Professor Cavanaugh’s visit, please contact Tim Smartt (

2019 IES Research Seminar

2019 IES Research Seminar

The Institute for Ethics & Society Research Seminar exists to foster rigorous, creative and collaborative research on our three research focus areas: (i) Moral Philosophy & Ethics Education, (ii) Bioethics & Healthcare Ethics, and (iii) Religion & Global Ethics.

Professor Christian B. Miller (Wake Forest University) at Notre Dame Australia

The Institute for Ethics & Society is delighted to announce one of its international visiting scholars for 2019!

Professor Christian B. Miller, the A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University, will be visiting the Institute from 3-7 June 2019. During his visit, Professor Miller will deliver the 2019 Moral Philosophy and Ethics Education Annual Lecture and instruct a 5-day masterclass on philosophy of character.

Professor Miller’s research focuses on virtue ethics, empirically informed moral psychology, and the philosophy of religion. His prolific research output in recent years has focused on developing connections between findings in empirical psychology and the philosophical study of character and moral development.

Professor Miller is the author of The Character Gap: How Good Are We? (OUP, 2017), Character and Moral Psychology (OUP, 2014), and Moral Character: An Empirical Theory (OUP, 2013). He is the co-editor of Character: New Directions from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology (OUP, 2015), Moral Psychology, Volume V: Virtue and Character (MIT Press, 2017), and Integrity, Honesty, and Truth-Seeking (OUP, forthcoming). His books have been reviewed in major philosophy journals, such as Ethics, Mind, and Analysis, as well as in popular media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today, and Christianity Today.

His commentary and public philosophy has appeared in Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Slate, Salon, Newsweek, NPR, The Dallas Morning News, Aeon, Christianity Today, The Veritas Forum, Psychology Today, Nautilus Magazine, and many other venues.

Professor Miller’s research has been generously support by a number of research grants from the John Templeton Foundation and the Templeton Religion Trust. Most recently he was the Principal Investigator of the AU$5.1M “The Character Project: New Frontiers in Psychology, Philosophy, and Theology,” the Principal Investigator of the AU$1.3M “The Developing Character Project,” and the Philosophy Director and Co-Investigator of the AU$5.5M “The Beacon Project: Founding a Field of the Morally Exceptional.”

We are thrilled that Professor Miller will be visiting us, and we hope that you might be able to participate in some of the research activities associated with this visit.

Professor Miller’s visit is an initiative of the Moral Philosophy and Ethics Education program within the IES.

2019 Moral Philosophy and Ethics Education Annual Lecture

Becoming Virtuous: Masterclass in Philosophy of Character

Annual Highlights


Happy Christmas - from all at the IES.  Here are our IES 2020 highlights.


Happy Christmas - from all at the IES.  Here are our IES 2019 highlights.

Happy Christmas - IES 2019 Highlights