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The Sociology of Religion

3. The Sources and Origins of Religion

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In this module, we think about how sociologists have explained the existence of religion, focusing on: (i) explanations which focus on individuals’ needs, such as Weber’s argument that religion emerged as a response to humans’ inherent need for meaning; (ii) wider societal explanations, for example Émile Durkheim’s view that religions originate as the means through which societies are formed; (iii) accounts which centre around individuals’ religious experiences, including those of Mircea Eliade and Rudolf Otto.


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 - The Sources and Origins of Religion [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Shilling, Chris. "The Sociology of Religion – The Sources and Origins of Religion." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Nov 2021,

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