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4. Challenges to Secularisation Theories

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About this Lecture


In this lecture, we think about challenges to secularisation theory, focusing in particular on: (i) the critique of the Eurocentrism of traditional secularisation theory and the failure of secularisation theory to explain religious change globally; (ii) the continued importance of religion in politics in the western world and Jürgen Habermas’ idea of post-secularism; (iii) the continued importance of belief in the western world, as whilst belonging and behaving have declined, personal religious or spiritual belief remains relatively high.


In this course, Professor Linda Woodhead (Lancaster University) explores secularisation theory and evidence around the decline of religion in modern society. In the first lecture, we consider three classical theories of secularisation provided by Auguste Comte, Émile Durkheim and Max Weber. In the second lecture, we focus on the more recent approaches of Peter Berger, Bryan Wilson and Steve Bruce. In the third lecture, we look at the empirical evidence around the extent to which religion has declined in modern Britain. Next, we think about some challenges to secularisation theory. In the fifth and final lecture, we look at an alternative approach to understanding religious change which argues that religion is not declining, but rather shifting from an institutionalised to a personal, spiritual form.


Professor Linda Woodhead is Distinguished Professor of Religion and Society at Lancaster University. She has written widely on religion in modern society. Her recent publications include That Was The Church That Was: How the Church of England Lost the English People (2016) (as co-author), Christianity: A Very Short Introduction (2014), and Everyday Lived Islam in Britain (2013) (as co-author).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Woodhead, L. (2021, August 23). Secularisation - Challenges to Secularisation Theories [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Woodhead, L. "Secularisation – Challenges to Secularisation Theories." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Aug 2021,

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