Contemporary Sociological Approaches to Spirituality

  • Andrew SingletonEmail author


This chapter examines contemporary sociological definitions and approaches to the study of spirituality. It begins by examining how and when spirituality found its place in sociology, and then considers how sociologists have defined and studied spirituality in recent decades. A review of various definitions reveals that most sociologists understand that spirituality involves experiences of ‘transcendence’ or ‘sacredness’. This can be religious or otherwise. Next, the chapter discusses sociological explanations for popularisation of the notion that people are increasingly ‘spiritual, but not religious’. It is argued that post-1960s social changes have led to the expansion of spiritual options outside the bounds of organised religion and that a reasonable proportion of people in the west might aptly be termed ‘spiritual seekers’. The chapter concludes with a discussion of further prospects for the sociological study of spirituality, and examines the view that there can be a ‘secular spirituality’. It is argued that there has been a paucity of study of the actions, activities and motivations of non-religious people and how this aligns with current understandings of spirituality.


Sociology ‘Spiritual marketplace’ Nancy Ammerman Wade Clark Roof New Age ‘Spiritual not religious’ Atheism Spiritual experiences 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Humanities and Social SciencesDeakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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