My Books

Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland (forthcoming, Oxford University Press)

This is the first major book to explore the dynamic religious landscape of contemporary Ireland, north and south, and to analyse the character of Ireland’s religious transition. It confirms that the Catholic Church’s long-standing ‘monopoly’ has well and truly disintegrated, replaced by a complex religious ‘market’ featuring new and growing expressions of Protestantism, as well as a range of non-Christian religions.

This book critically analyses religious change on the island of Ireland, focussing on the period beginning around the Celtic Tiger years in the Republic and the IRA ceasefires in Northern Ireland (mid/late 1990s), to the present. Its scope is broad and deep, featuring a review of the literature on religion on the island, and drawing on original empirical data including: a survey that was distributed to every faith leader on the island that I could locate, an open, online survey for laypeople, and eight in-depth case studies of ‘expressions of faith.’

The book’s primary aims are:

  • Describing religious change on the island in terms of the development of a ‘post-Catholic’ religious ‘market.’ The book engages critically with the theoretical literature on religious ‘markets,’ explaining how the concept of extra-institutional religion fits in and illuminates areas that cannot be fully explained by conventional religious market theories.
  • Explaining how extra-institutional religion is well-suited to the individualistic religious practitioner of 21st century Ireland, providing them with creative spaces to live out their faith outside of already existing religious institutions (often perceived as ‘dead’), while at the same time having the potential to transform such institutions.
  • Analysing how faith communities are responding to increased ethnic and religious diversity.
  • Exploring how people of faith define and practice reconciliation.
  • Identifying how people perceive ecumenism and the extent that they practice it.
  • Identifying possible directions of change and development for religion on the island.

The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity co-authored with Gerardo Marti

Oxford University Press, 2014 — ORDER ON AMAZON!

deconstructed cover“Christianity is the only mad religion; which is perhaps, the explanation for its survival—it deconstructs itself and survives by deconstructing itself.”  — Jacques Derrida

The Emerging Church Movement (ECM) is a reform movement within Western Christianity that reacts against its roots in conservative evangelicalism by “de-constructing” contemporary expressions of Christianity. Emerging Christians see themselves as overturning out-dated interpretations of the bible, transforming hierarchical religious institutions, and re-orientating Christianity to step outside the walls of church buildings toward working among and serving others in the “real world.”

Drawing on ethnographic observations from emerging congregations, pub churches, neo-monastic communities, conferences, online networks, in-depth interviews, and congregational surveys in the US, UK, and Ireland, this book provides a comprehensive social scientific analysis of the development and significance of the ECM. Emerging Christians are shaping a distinct religious orientation that encourages individualism, deep relationships with others, new ideas around the nature of truth, doubt, and God, and innovations in preaching, worship, Eucharist, and leadership.

More than other expressions of Christianity, the ECM simultaneously reacts against modernity while drawing on distinctly modern conceptions of self and community to produce a form of religiosity well-suited to our era. The significance of the ECM extends far beyond the individuals and congregations that identify with the movement as the imperatives that drive this movement accentuate what is driving the future of Western Christianity.

Comments about the Book:

“As growing numbers of Americans say they are ‘nonreligious,’ observers note a comparable shift among those who are religious toward looser, more individualistic, anti-institutional, experimental expressions of faith. Marti and Ganiel have done a superb job of examining these emerging expressions, illuminating both the practices and beliefs of individuals and the innovative congregations they are forming.”

Robert Wuthnow, Gerhard R. Andlinger ‘52 Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University

“In the midst of a polarized landscape, where ‘religion’ and ‘church’ signal a lack of vitality and authenticity, Emerging Churches are putting together something new out of the debris. Marti and Ganiel show us why we should pay attention. They describe the faith found here as neither shopping nor seeking, but a conversation carried on in congregations that are determinedly open and inclusive. This book provides a careful analysis of this much-discussed movement and shows why it is so well-suited to our times.”

Nancy T. Ammerman, author of Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes: Finding Religion in Everyday Life

Review by William H. Willimon in The Christian Century

Review by James Wellman on Patheos

Review by Ryan Burge in The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 

Review by Alan in Belfast, including audio of a discussion at Fitzroy Presbyterian on ‘What can Northern Ireland Evangelicalism Learn from the Emerging Church?’

Review on Patheos by Bradley Wright

Review on Temoins (Witnesses) Blog (in French)

Authors Meet Critics Session at the 2014 Association for the Sociology of Religion Meeting, San Francisco

Click here to read our interview about the book in Bearings magazine

Feature on Temoins (“Witnesses”) Blog (in French)

Feature on Jesus Dust blog

Feature on Religion in American History blog

You can order the book on:

Amazon UK

Amazon USA

Evangelical Journeys: Choice and Change in a Northern Irish Religious Subculture, co-authored with Claire Mitchell


This book, co-authored with Dr Claire Mitchell, was published by UCD Press in 2011. It draws on interview material with more than 100 evangelicals. We ask why do people born into the same religious community turn out so differently? We tell the stories of pro-life DUP picketers, liberal peace-campaigning ministers, housewives afraid of the devil, students deconstructing their faith and atheists mortified by their religious past. We explore why people have chosen to go in one religious direction or another, and how their religious journeys have unfolded.

A review of the book in the academic journal Journal of Contemporary Religion, by Neil Southern

A review of the book in the academic journal Irish Journal of Sociology, by Mary Gethins

A review of the book in the academic journal Evangelical Quarterly, by Patrick Mitchel.

A review of the book in the academic journal Sociology of Religion, by Kevin McElmurry

Click here to access remarks by Glenn Jordan at the launch of the book at East Belfast Mission in 2011.

Click here to access remarks by Dr Patrick Mitchel and the launch of the book at the Irish School of Ecumenics in Dublin in 2012

A review of the book by ‘Alan in Belfast’ on the Slugger O’Toole blog

An interview about the book on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence

A review of the book from the Church of Ireland Gazette

You can order the book on the UCD Press Website

Evangelicalism and Conflict in Northern Ireland

imagewas published by Palgrave in 2008.

Prof. John Brewer of the University of Aberdeen has written about the book:

“This is a remarkable first book by an excellent young scholar. It recognizes the importance of religion to Northern Ireland’s sectarian conflict, while not reducing it to a religious war. Above all, it sees religion as a site of reconciliation as much as contest. It is based on impressive empirical analysis that displays the qualities of her insider knowledge, deriving from Ganiel’s extensive period of fieldwork in the North of Ireland and her own evangelical beliefs, but also her outsider status as a North American social scientist, which gives the volume enormous sensitivity as well as a sense of balance. Evangelicals are a key sector of Northern Irish Protestantism, perhaps the dominant theological position within the Reformed tradition there, and Ganiel documents the transitions that are occurring in evangelical identities in Northern Ireland. The arguments are optimistic for Northern Ireland’s future and fully consistent with the country’s latest political developments. Politics, theology and ethnography elide in this volume in wonderfully fertile ways that make it a pleasure to read.”

Writing in Anthropology News, William Girard says:

“Ganiel presents the world of Northern Ireland’s Evangelical communities in an engaging and convincing manner…The fact that Ganiel documents how these Evangelical communities transform in response to policies of the state underscores her larger critique of the modern secular vision of autonomous social spheres…Ganiel’s book offers an important contribution to the theoretical categories in the anthropology of Evangelicalism.”

The book was launched in Belfast on 15 September 2008 by Canon David Porter, the director of the Centre for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral. Porter said the book challenged evangelicals to think about their commitment to social justice and Christian unity.  He urged evangelicals in Northern Ireland not to retreat into pietism or moralism. The book was launched in Dublin on 26 November 2008 by Prof. Jennifer Todd of the School of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin. She praised Ganiel’s book for documenting important changes in evangelicalism, demonstrating how change occurs at the micro-level, and recognizing the impact of this on politics.

You can order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon USA