What is the relationship between postmodernity and religion?

A level sociology textbooks focus on four theorists of postmodernity and religion – Giddens, Bauman, Heelas, and Lyon. They discuss how religion adapts to postmodernity. Giddens and Bauman discuss religion’s role in providing moral guidance in an uncertain society. Lyon highlights religion’s adaptation to consumer culture, while Heelas explores the New Age movement’s fit within a postmodern society.

Last Updated on October 5, 2023 by Karl Thompson

A level sociology text books seem to focus on four theorists of postmodernity and religion: Giddens, Bauman, Heelas and Lyon. This post is a bare bones summary of what they say about how religion changes to ‘fit’ postmodernity.

Mind map summarising four postmodern theories of religion.

Anthony Giddens: High Modernity and Religion 

There has been a religious revival in high modernity according to Anthony Giddens.

Giddens argues the shift to late modernity has created what he calls ontological insecurity. We are uncertain about the nature of society and our relation to it, because of constant change.

Giddens argues religion can help us deal with this sense of uncertainty. Religion provides answers to life’s big questions and can give us moral direction.

Zygmunt Bauman: Postmodernity and Religion

Bauman’s view on the nature of religion in postmodern society is similar to Giddens’ .

All external sources of moral guidance have been abolished in postmodern society. For example politics and science are no longer sources of certainty and no longer provide reliable guidance for how we should live our lives.

Religions increasingly try to fill this morality gap by claiming that they are moral experts.

David Lyon: Jesus in Disneyland 

In Jesus in Disneyland Lyons argues the shift to postmodernity means the rise of consumer culture and religions have adapted to this.

People now expect a choice of religion and to be able to use it selectively in their lives.

Traditional religions are thus unable to impose norms on people and people expect a choice.

Paul Heelas: Postmodernity and The New Age Movement

The New age movement seems to fit postmodern society. It appears individualistic, allows choice and accepts diversity.

However if you drill down, many New Age practitioners believe they have found the truth. In fact, the New Age is a metanarrative.


This material is relevant to the Beliefs in Society module. This post has been written because postmodern theories of religion are nuanced.

To return to the homepage – revisesociology.com

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from ReviseSociology

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading