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5. Secularisation or Change?

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about alternative approaches to understanding religion in modern society which argue that rather than simply declining, religion is changing in form. In particular, we focus on: (i) the rise of personal spirituality over institutionalised forms of religion; (ii) approaches to understanding this phenomenon, including Luckmann’s work on invisible religion and Professor Woodhead’s idea of the subjectivisation of religion; (iii) debates around the strength of these new forms of religion and Claire Wanless’ work on new spiritual communities; (iv) religion in the digital age, such as the use of social media as a teaching and recruitment tool by new forms of spiritual community.


In this course, Professor Linda Woodhead (Lancaster University) explores secularisation theory and evidence around the decline of religion in modern society. In the first module, we consider three classical theories of secularisation provided by Auguste Comte, Émile Durkheim and Max Weber. In the second, we focus on the more recent approaches of Peter Berger, Bryan Wilson and Steve Bruce. In the third module, we look at the empirical evidence around the extent to which religion has declined in modern Britain, before turning in the fourth module to some challenges to secularisation theory. In the final module, 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 - Secularisation or Change? [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Woodhead, Linda. "Secularisation – Secularisation or Change?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Aug 2021,

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