In 2007 I joined the Pilgrimage Project, a research team based at Oxford University’s Centre for Science and Religion. We tracked the motivations and experiences of Catholics and Pagans on pilgrimages to sacred spaces, and then looked at how they compared to each other. Along the way we also met many people who told us they were neither religious nor spiritual, instead identifying as atheist or agnostic, and so we spoke to them about their motivations and experiences too.
In 2018 I teamed up with a second group of researchers, this time at the University of South Wales, to look at how increasing numbers of people are building their own belief systems. This research builds on the data gathered from the Pilgrimage Project, including interviews with Pagans in Glastonbury and with atheists and agnostics walking the Camino de Santiago, a traditionally Christian pilgrimage route that has seen a significant increase in non-Christian visitors in recent years.
My research interests lie mainly within psychology of religion and spirituality, and particularly in how people bring ritual, transcendence and sacredness into their lives, either on their own or as part of a group. I am interested in the healing aspects of solitude and silence, and the ways in which these are challenged by the increasingly connected world we are building. As a teenager I read The Sickness Unto Death and fell in love with Kierkegaard, sparking a lifelong interest in how to apply his philosophy to non-Christian paths.
- Oviedo, L., de Courcier, S. & Farias, M. (2014) ‘Rise of pilgrims on the Camino to Santiago: Sign of change or religious revival?’ Review of Religious Research 56:433-442