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The Sociology of Religion

5. Religion in the Contemporary World

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In this lecture, we think about the role of religion in the contemporary world, focusing in particular on: (i) the rise of religious radicalism, and Anthony Giddens’ explanation for this is an attempt to find meaning in an increasingly complex world; (ii) civil religion, a concept developed by Robert Bellah to explore how religious ideas and symbols permeate wider social and political life; (iii) prosperity Pentecostalism, a modern religious movement which perceives material wealth as signifying divine favour, and whether this can been seen as a contemporary form of the Protestant ethic.


In this course, Professor Chris Shilling (University of Kent) provides an introduction to the sociology of religion. In the first lecture, we ask why sociologists continue to study religion despite the dominance for many decades of secularisation theory. In the second lecture, we discuss some key problems sociologists encounter when studying religion, including issues with its definition. In the third lecture, we consider some influential theories regarding the origins of religion. Next, we discuss its place in society. In the fifth and final lecture, 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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Shilling, C. (2021, November 26). The Sociology of Religion - Religion in the Contemporary World [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Shilling, C. "The Sociology of Religion – Religion in the Contemporary World." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Nov 2021,

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