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The Sociology of Religion

1. Why Do Sociologists Study Religion?

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In this lecture, we think about why sociologists are interested in religion. We begin by outlining secularisation theory, as developed by Karl Marx and Max Weber, focusing in particular on: (i) secularisation theory has been widely challenged; (ii) religion forms many people’s worldviews; (iii) it is necessary to understand contemporary conflicts; (iv) it helps to understand other areas of sociology, such as gender; (v) it is central to two core sociological issues - the problem of order and the problem of meaning.


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).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Shilling, C. (2021, November 26). The Sociology of Religion - Why Do Sociologists Study Religion? [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Shilling, C. "The Sociology of Religion – Why Do Sociologists Study Religion?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Nov 2021,

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