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PPR.352 New Religions and Alternative Spiritualities

Tutor: Professor Christopher Partridge
Term: Lent

Course Description

Institutionalized religion is in decline, both in Britain and in northern Europe as a whole. But a great deal is happening 'beyond church and chapel'. The course explores what is taking place in this territory. Is Christianity holding its own among those who do not go to church? Or are 'new' experiential and 'gently' institutionalized spiritualities of life a growing force? Special attention is paid to the role played by 'new spiritual outlets' (NSOS), as well as the role played by the better known new religious movements (NRMS). Students will be encouraged to exercise initiative by incorporating case study research in their essay.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • You will be provided with the opportunity to become knowledgeable about new spiritualities of life, organized both as NSOS and as NRMS.
  • Acquire knowledge from secondary literature, case study research, or both.
  • Apply theories - drawn from the sociology of religion as well as more general socio-cultural theorizing - to explain the development and operation of new spiritualities of life.
  • Demonstrate learning and critically reflect on debates concerning how religion/spirituality is faring as we enter the 21st century.


40% coursework and 60% exam.
Coursework: 1 essay of 3000 words. Exam: 2 hours.

Teaching Method

Lecture (2 hours) weekly, and seminar (1 hour) fortnightly.

Introductory Reading

Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead The Spiritual Revolution

Paul Heelas The New Age Movement

Steven Tipton Getting Saved from the Sixties

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