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Religion and Modernity

2. The European Story of Religion and Modernity

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In this module, we think about the relationship between religion and modernity in the European context. In particular, we focus on: (i) the emphasis of the Enlightenment on science and freedom from religious belief, as exemplified by eighteenth-century philosopher Voltaire; (ii) the impact of the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century on economic and social life, particular regarding urbanisation; (iii) how these factors produced a “downward spiral” towards secularisation, as the Enlightenment produced ideas critical of religion and urbanisation moved people away from the predominantly rural institutions of the church.


In this course, Professor Grace Davie (University of Exeter) considers the relationship between religion and modernity. In the first module, we clarify the meaning of the term “modernity”. In the second and third modules, we look at the different trajectories of religion in Europe and the USA, noting that whereas in Europe modernisation entailed secularisation, in the US religion and modernity have been mutually reinforcing. The fourth module explores changes to modernity in the late-twentieth century, how they influenced religion, and whether the terms “late modernity” and “post modernity” are useful in characterising them. In the fifth module, we interrogate whether there is a universal narrative of religion and modernity through Shmuel Eisenstadt’s notion of “multiple modernities”, before concluding with Professor Davie’s thoughts on this question in the final module.


Professor Grace Davie is Professor Emeritus in Sociology at the University of Exeter. She is a leading sociologist of religion and has written widely on religion in the modern world. Her publications include Religion in Public Life: Levelling the Ground (2017), Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox (2015), and The Sociology of Religion: A Critical Agenda (2013).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Davie, G. (2021, October 06). Religion and Modernity - The European Story of Religion and Modernity [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Davie, G. "Religion and Modernity – The European Story of Religion and Modernity." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 06 Oct 2021,

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