Theology and Religion Dissertation Topics

Religion and Marriage

A very popular and interesting subject within theology and religion is that of the union of two people which is categorised as marriage. Each religion has different teachings and practices that could be explored in the subject of marriage which could lead to a fascinating dissertation. Take a look at some of our suggestions:

Example religion and marriage dissertation topic 1:

Towards schism: Gay marriage and the Anglican Communion.

The decision – in 2012 – of the American Episcopal Church (part of the Anglican Communion) to acknowledge gay rights and devise a special liturgy for same-sex blessings has had world-wide repercussions within the Anglican Communion. These have been further complicated within the UK domestic sphere by the Coalition’s proposals to legislate same sex marriages. This dissertation asks whether the failure to find a ‘way forward’ that can accommodate traditionalists and progressives within not only the Church of England but also the world wide Anglican Communion means that a schism and formal separation between differing wings of the church is now inevitable – and permanent.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Brittain, C.C. (2011). ‘Homosexuality and the construction of “Anglican orthodoxy”: The symbolic politics of the Anglican Communion’, Sociology of Religion, Vol. 72(3), pp. 351-373.
  • Milbank, J. (2012). ‘After Rowan: Priorities for the Anglican Communion’, ABC Religion and Ethics, 28th September 2012.
  • Vanderbeck, R.M., Valentine, G., Ward, K., Sadgrove, J. and Andersson, J. (2010). ‘The meanings of Communion: Anglican identities, the sexuality debates, and Christian relationality’, Sociological Research Online, Vol. 15(2).

Religion and Gender

Gender in religion is something which could make for a great dissertation subject. If you are interested in the roles of different genders and how they are represented in religious teachings, this topic could be for you!

Example religion and gender dissertation topic 1:

Mary: ‘Blessed art thou amongst women’ – but not as a bishop.

The ongoing debate within the General Synod of the Church of England as to the enthronement of women bishops has theological repercussions not only within England but also the wider global Anglican Communion. Given the ‘rejuvenation of Rome’, as Anglican priests opposed to the movement for women bishops prepare to leave the Church of England (in seemingly greater numbers than when women were first ordained to the priesthood), this dissertation seeks to analyse, through both interviews and the use of existing texts, the effects of an evangelical ‘victory’ with regard to women bishops on both the Established position of the Church of England within England and its wider repercussions, especially within Africa, for the Anglican Communion.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Hassett, M.K. (2007). Anglican Communion in crisis: How Episcopal dissidents and their African allies are reshaping Anglicanism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Jones, T.W. (2012). ”Unduly conscious of her sex’: Priesthood, female bodies, and sacred space in the Church of England’, Women’s History Review, Vol. 21(4), pp. 639-655.
  • Radford Ruether, R. (2011). ‘Should women want women priests or women-church?’, Feminist Theology, Vol. 20(1), pp. 63-72.

Religious Leaders and Figures

If you are more focused on specific leaders, figures and roles in religion then deciding to complete a dissertation based on one individual may be the way to go!

Example leaders and figures dissertation topic 1:

An Archbishop of Canterbury and a global CEO?

The resignation of Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury and his subsequent comments as to the role of the Archbishop being too big for one man has opened up a number of governance issues within the Established Church. Chief amongst these is whether the traditional assimilation of roles (in the body of the Archbishop of Canterbury) between being Head of the Church of England in England – notwithstanding the role of Her Majesty the Queen, and Head of the Anglican Communion globally, should be retained. Has the time come, therefore, this dissertation discusses, for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be merely the Head of the English Church with another Bishop representing the views of the Anglican Communion globally, or would such a separation result in communal-fragmentation globally?

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Cumper, P. and Edge, P. (2006). ‘First amongst equals: The English state and the Anglican Church in the 21st century’, University of Detroit Mercy Law Review, Vol. 83(601).
  • Lloyd, G. (2005). ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury: On the facts and values of religion and globalization’. In, Capaldi, N. (ed.), Business and religion: A clash of civilizations?. Salem, MA: M&M Scrivener, pp. 428-436.
  • Pitcher, G. (2012). ‘Between church and state’, The New Statesman, 13th September 2012.

Religion and Politics

This would make for a captivating topic for a dissertation as the roles between religion and politics within society has always been something up for debate. There will be lots of research and references available for a topic with this subject.

Example religion and politics dissertation topic 1:

Blindly shuffling towards disestablishment? The Church of England, internal discord and the reform of Parliament.

This dissertation starts from a hypothesis that the present lines of fracture within the Church of England between traditionalists and progressives (as epitomised in issues relating to gay marriage and the enthronement of women bishops) have never been greater. From this starting point it further hypothesis that with such levels of internal dissent to and an ever-growing number of conversions to the Roman Catholic Church, that the Church of England has lost its credibility to present itself as a unified force and that it should rather be viewed as a loose confederation of conflicting interests. Given this, increased secularisation, the expanding influence of evangelical groups, and issues of multiculturalism, this dissertation asks whether, in the proposals to reform the upper chamber of the Houses of Parliament, the time has come to remove all official religious positions and thereby truly separate Church from state.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bonney, N. (2012). ‘Established religion, parliamentary devolution and new state religion in the UK’, Parliamentary Affairs, DOI: 10.1093/pa/gsr067.
  • Iannaccone, L. R., Finke, R. and Stark, R. (1997). ‘Deregulating religion: The economics of church and state’, Economic Inquiry, Vol. 35, pp. 350-364.
  • Morris, R.M. (ed.) (2009). Church and state in 21st century Britain: The future of church establishment. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Example religion and politics dissertation topic 2:

The mutual obligations of ‘Church and State’: A rejoinder.

According to Lindsay (2011, p. 113), ‘Church and state [within the UK] have mutual obligations. Each must respect the other’s integrity, which includes the state’s formal recognition of Christianity and of one or more churches [whilst] the Church cannot, without betraying Her Mission, renounce the pastoral and prophetic opportunities thus provided’. Such a view implies that, without validation from the state, churches (whether established or not) cannot fully carry out their ministry. This raises a number of theological questions not least of which is the role of the Catholic Church in ministry and faith within English spiritual life and the philosophy of ultramontanism. This is a dissertation that questions the validity of Lindsay’s assertions through the use of a substantive review of existing secondary literature as well as primary interviews with church leaders of a range of Christian and other denominations within the UK.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Lindsay, D. (2012). Essays, radical and orthodox. Raleigh, NC: Lulu.
  • Avis, P. (2001). Church, state and establishment. London: SPCK.
  • Smith, G. (2004). ‘Faith in community and communities of faith? Government rhetoric and religious identity in urban Britain’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 19(2), pp. 185-204.


If you are more interested in the spiritual side of things, then maybe you should consider writing a dissertation based on spirituality within religion. Whether you are interested in life after death, religious experiences or communication with higher powers, spirituality may be the way to go!

Example spirituality dissertation topic 1:

Perceptions of spirituality: The irrepressible rise of evangelicalism within the Anglican Church.

Within the established church, numbers attending traditional services are declining and the average age of active parishioners are increasing. In contrast, within those churches that are unaffiliated numbers of worshippers are rising. In addition, the nature of such services is markedly different with less formality, a greater emphasis on personal worship and an embracing of more modern techniques for incorporating music in services from those of organ and be-gowned choristers. Using qualitative and quantitative data gathering techniques this dissertation seeks to evaluate (within the 18 – 24 year old age range) what it is that attracts younger worshippers to these ‘more modern’ styles of worship and to evaluate how – given the realities of demographics, more traditional established congregations need to adapt to their ‘worship needs’ if they are to attract such worshippers to their own services.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Gilliat-Ray, S. (2001). ‘The fate of the Anglican clergy and the Class of ’97: Some implications of the changing sociological profile of ordinands’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 16(2), pp. 209-225.
  • Randall, K. (2005). Evangelicals etcetera: Conflict and conviction in the Church of England’s parties. Aldershot: Ashgate.
  • Williams, J. (2011). ‘Twenty-first-century shapes of the Church?’, Theology, Vol. 114(2), pp. 108-119.

Comparison of Religions

Another option which may be good for you is looking at the teachings of different religions and comparing them in relation to another topic. Maybe you could take a topic above and apply it to a religious comparison.

Example comparison of religions dissertation topic 1:

‘Standing up for faith’: Lessons from Radical Islamism for Christianity.

Portrayals of the prophet Mohammed, especially in either film or cartoon form, are not tolerated within Islam. The reaction is one of condemnation for such portrayals are viewed as defamatory and inappropriate. In contrast, ridiculing aspects of the Christian faith (such as within The Life of Brian), or belittling aspects of faith (with regard, for instance, to not being allowed to wear a crucifix at work) seem to be almost tolerated or indeed expected. This dissertation accordingly seeks to address the notion that the leaders of the Christian faith should become more robust in their condemnation of inappropriate and offensive representations of Christ and in so doing seeks asks whether in adopting a more ‘muscular’ tone, the Christian faith could learn much from its Islamic brothers.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Cowan, D.E. (2005). ‘Episode 712: South Park, Ridicule, and the cultural construction of religious rivalry’, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, Vol. 10.
  • Miera, F. and Sala Pala, V. (2009). ‘The construction of Islam as a public issue in western European countries through the prism of the Muhammad cartoons controversy: A comparison between France and Germany’, Ethnicities, Vol. 9(3), pp. 383-408.
  • Norenzayan, A., Dar-Nimrod, I., Hansen, I. G. and Proulx, T. (2009). ‘Mortality salience and religion: Divergent effects on the defense of cultural worldviews for the religious and the non-religious’, European Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 38, pp. 101-113.

Example comparison of religions dissertation topic 2:

The Jewish attraction to Buddhist philosophy: An exploration of Judaism in America today.

Americans Jews today are largely segregated into three streams: Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. Many rabbis in the Reform and Conservative movements are open to influence from many other schools of philosophical and religious theory, with a significant proportion of modern American Jews being attracted to Buddhist philosophies such as ‘mindfulness’ and meditation. This dissertation explores the attraction for such philosophies and incorporates the rise of neo-Hasidic mystical practices. Judaism, Buddism and neo-Hasidism all reflect a desire to improve the human condition through wisdom, the refinement of character and self-knowledge for a higher aim; whether the practices are compatible is also considered in this paper. Finally, the thesis evaluates whether such cross-disciplinary searching is unique to American Jews, or is found in other Jewish cultures around the world.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Ariel, Y. (2011). ‘Jews and new religious movements: An introductory essay’, Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Vol. 15(1), pp. 5-21.
  • Kamenetz, R. (1994). The Jew in the lotus. New York: Harper Collins.
  • Marks, G. (1999). ‘Jewish-Buddhist meetings: Review essay’, Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. 17(1), pp. 93-98.

Historical Religion

If the origins of religion and the way the world has been shaped over time is something which you are interested in, we would recommend exploring the option of looking at the history of religion for your dissertation topic. If you are struggling to think of an avenue to go down, take a look at these suggestions:

Example historical religion dissertation topic 1:

Richard Hooker and his legacy: Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie (1594).

Hooker’s emphases on reason, tolerance and the value of tradition came to exert a lasting influence on the development of the Church of England as well as political philosophers including John Locke. Building upon the work of Brydon (2006) this dissertation seeks to address two distinct issues. First, it considers the extent to which it is still appropriate to see Hooker as the first systematic defender of Anglicanism. Secondly, the thesis explores the extent to which his reputation as a founding father of Anglicanism was an ‘invention’ of the Oxford Movement. This is a challenging dissertation subject area which requires, at the very least, a solid knowledge not only of High-Anglicanism but also the religious political realities of the seventeenth century, as well as those associated with the Oxford Movement within the nineteenth century.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Brydon, M. (2006). The evolving reputation of Richard Hooker: An examination of responses, 1600-1714. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Faulkner, R.F. (1981). Richard Hooker and the politics of a Christian England. Berkeley, CA: University of California.
  • Nockles, P.B. (1996). The Oxford Movement in context: Anglican High Churchmanship 1760-1857. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Example historical religion dissertation topic 2:

Vatican II – a popularisation of Catholic understanding?

The Second Vatican Council lasted from October 1962 until December 1965. Addressing issues of how the Catholic Church should relate to the modern world, it brought lasting changes to, amongst other issues, liturgy. It is this aspect of the work of the Second Vatican Council with which this dissertation is concerned. Though not abolishing Latin as the liturgical language of the Roman Rite, Vatican II nevertheless resulted in greater lay participation in liturgy. The result was not only that, from the mid-1960s onwards, Mass could be celebrated in vernacular languages, but that celebration of the traditional Latin mass has, since that time, dwindled. This dissertation reviews the reasoning behind the changes that Vatican II empowered and also records the opinions of worshippers on both sides of the liturgical divide.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Hahnenberg, E. (2007). A concise guide to the documents of Vatican II. Cincinnati, OH: Saint Anthony Messenger Press.
  • Linden, I. (2009). Global Catholicism: Diversity and change since Vatican II. London: Hurst and Co.
  • Sinke Guimarães, A. (1997). In the murky waters of Vatican II. Metairie, LA: MAETA.

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