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Sociology of Religion


Admission requirements

This course is open to all students with an academic interest in the subject matter.


This course gives an overview of the most important themes in the sociology of religion. It is comprised of three parts.

The first part, “Religion and Society”, introduces both sociology and sociology of religion as academic disciplines and discusses the structural relationship between religion and society/social life. Central questions in this part include: ‘What is particular about the sociological approach to religion?’ ‘How do religion and society relate to and interact with each other?’ And, ‘Is religion an individual or a social phenomenon?’

The second part, “Modernisation and Religion: Secularisation or Transformation?”, substitutes the structural perspective for a more historical one. We explore the secularisation thesis, i.e. the notion that religion (necessarily) loses power, prestige, and plausibility as a result of modernisation, and evaluate alternatives to this master narrative. Drawing on historical and statistical material we assess the validity of the secularisation thesis for the Netherlands, and compare the Dutch situation with that of other Western countries (especially the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, and the United States).

The third part, “Contemporary Religious Pluralism”, tackles three issues of particular importance to the sociology of religion. These are: a) globalisation and its influence on religion, both in the West and elsewhere, b) the rise of new forms of late modern religion, such as fundamentalism and spirituality, and c) the challenges of multicultural society.

Course objectives

After successfully completing the course, students can
(1) reflect on the aims and perspectives of the sociology of religion as an academic discipline;
(2) explain the main points of a number of theories about religion by classic and contemporary sociologists of religion;
(3) adopt a well-argued position in the debate about processes of religious change in the (late) modern world – defending, for instance, the secularisation thesis or the transformation thesis;
(4) illustrate how the late modern religious field is structured by giving examples of where we can find religion today and of what types of religiosity and religious belonging characterise late modern religion; and
(5) critically test various sociological theories against empirical reality.


Timetable Religiewetenschappen
Timetable Minor Religion in a changing world

Mode of instruction

Students are given a few questions to go with the literature and expected to be ready to discuss the literature in class.

Course Load

Total work load: 5 × 28 = 140 hours

  • Time spent attending lectures: 2 × 13 = 26 hours

  • Time spent studying compulsory readings: c. 462 pages / 7 p/h = 66 hours

  • Mid-term exam = 18 hours

  • Take home exam = 30 hours

Assessment method

The final mark is a weighed average of two marks:

Written midterm take-home exam: 30%.
Written end-term take-home exam: 70%.

Resit: If the final grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), students may do a retake of the entire exam material. The grade for the retake counts 100%, and replaces both the earlier mid- and end-term grades.


The course makes use of Blackboard. All communication will take place via Blackboard, additional information about the course will be available via Blackboard, and assignments must be handed in via Blackboard.

Reading List

Students are required to buy Alan Aldridge (2013), Religion in the Contemporary World: A Sociological Introduction, Third edition, Cambridge & Malden, MA: Polity Press. A reader for the course will be available from the Copy & Print Shop in the Lipsius building. In August, you can order it from readeronline

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


For more information about the course, contact Dr W.R. (William) Arfman