Sociology of Religion - SO736

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5) PROF CS Shilling







This module covers key issues and debates in the sociology of religion in order to interrogate the significance of religious practice and belief in the modern world. After an introductory lecture, the module is organised into two connected parts. Firstly, it explores classical statements on the sources, meaning and fate of religion in modernity by examining the writings of Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Georg Simmel, and using their analyses to interrogate current events (e.g. ‘prosperity Pentecostalism’, the rise of the supernatural in culture through such media as the Harry Potter novels, and violent responses to transgressions of what religions consider to be sacred). The emphasis here is on developing in students the knowledge and skills necessary to appreciate and engage critically with the significance of religion for the development of sociology, and with key statements about the modern fate of religion in and beyond the West. Second, the module explores core issues concerned with and associated with the secularisation debate. Here, we look not only at conventional arguments concerning secularisation and de-secularisation, but also at the significance of ‘the return of the sacred’ in society, civil religion, the material experience of religion, and the manner in which religious identities and habits are developed in the contemporary world. This enables us to develop new perspectives on the viability of religion in current times.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

11 weekly lectures, 11 weekly seminars, one hour each
40% coursework (One 3,000 word essay) 10% seminar contributions and 50% 3-hour examination (summer term)

Indicative reading

Davie, G. (2013) The Sociology of Religion. London: Sage. Chapter 1.
Mellor, P.A. and Shilling, C. (2014) Sociology of the Sacred. London: Sage.
Casanova, J. (1994) Public Religions in the Modern World. Chicago: Chicago
University Press

Butler, J. et al. (2011) The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere. Columbia University Press
De Vries, H. (2008) (ed.), Religion. Beyond a Concept. New York: Fordham University Press

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

How religion shapes human identities and social relationships
How religion constitutes a basis for the creation, reproduction and transformation of society and culture
The relationship between practice and belief in the contemporary era
Some of the major sociological theories which have explored the relationship between religion and society
How religious practices might be implicated in the construction, maintenance and reproduction of social inequalities
The area of ‘religious body pedagogics’ as explored through competing notions of the habitus
The relationship between religious experience and different modes of materiality and media

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