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The Sociology of Religion

2. Issues in the Study of Religion

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In this module, we think about four sets of problems sociologists encounter when studying religion: (i) the issue of defining religion – sociologists have devised many definitions of religion which can be categorised as either functional or substantive in approach; (ii) whether the term “religion” is Eurocentric; (iii) whether the sociology of religion is based on western assumptions regarding the separation of the public and private spheres; (iv) whether religion consists only of propositional beliefs.


In this course, Professor Chris Shilling (University of Kent) provides an introduction to the sociology of religion. In the first module, we ask why sociologists continue to study religion despite the dominance for many decades of secularisation theory. The second module discusses some key problems sociologists encounter when studying religion, including issues with its definition. In the third and fourth modules, we consider some influential theories regarding the origins of religion and its place in society. In the final module we explore the role of religion in the contemporary world, focusing on three examples – religious radicalism, civil religion and prosperity Pentecostalism.


Professor Chris Shilling is Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent. He has written widely across a range of issues in sociological theory, including religion and the sociology of the body. His recent publications include Uncovering Social Life: Critical Perspectives from Sociology (2017, as co-author), The Body: A Very Short Introduction (2016), and Sociology of the Sacred: Religion, Embodiment and Social Change (2014, as co-author).

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APA style

Shilling, C. (2021, November 26). The Sociology of Religion - Issues in the Study of Religion [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Shilling, Chris. "The Sociology of Religion – Issues in the Study of Religion." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Nov 2021,

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