Implicit Religion, Vol 18, No 1 (2015)

Atheism, Christianity and the British Press: Press Coverage of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2010 State Visit to the UK

James Crossley, Jackie Harrison
Issued Date: 25 Mar 2015


This study analyses the way twenty British newspapers (15th to 20th September 2010) covered Pope Benedict XVI’s 2010 state visit to the UK. We found that one important framing narrative used by the British press was an atheism/Christianity binary. This binary was characterised by mutual antagonism over the role of religion in civil society and yet this binary also existed alongside a call for calm and a defence of a ‘gentler secularism’ by journalists who, in the main, defended themselves (and ‘the majority of the public’) as having liberal democratic values. The net effect of which was that the British press simultaneously found itself in the position of framing the visit in terms of extreme views and mutual antagonism, whist at the same time endorsing both a civil space bleached of atheism/Christian contestation and ideals of Christianity and atheism as private and non-threatening, deprived of any problematic Otherness.

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DOI: 10.1558/imre.v18i1.18556


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