Lived Religion

Meredith B. McGuire

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780195172621
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199851942 | DOI:
Lived Religion

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What are we to make of the Latina schoolteacher who considers herself a good Catholic, rarely attends Mass, but meditates daily at her home altar (where she mixes images of the Virgin of Guadalupe with those of Frida Kahlo, and traditional votive candles with healing crystals), yet feels particularly spiritual while preparing food for religious celebrations in her neighborhood? Diverse religious practices such as these have long baffled scholars of contemporary religion, whose research started with the assumption that individuals commit, or refuse to commit, to an entire institutionally-defined package of beliefs and practices. Social surveys typically ask respondents to self-identify by denominational or other broad religious categories. Sociologists attempt to measure religiosity according to how well individuals conform to the official religious standards, such as frequency of church attendance, scripture reading, or prayer. This book points the way forward toward a new way of understanding and studying religious behavior. Rather than try to fit people into prearranged packages, the book argues, scholars must begin to study religion as it is actually lived and experienced in peoples' everyday lives. Drawing on extensive fieldwork, as well as recent work by other scholars, the book explores the many ways that people express themselves spiritually and shows that they rarely fit neatly into the categories developed. Challenging those who see declining church attendance as the death of religion in the Western world, the book demonstrates that religion is as widespread and vital as ever, if you know where to look.

Keywords: Catholic; Mass; prayer; religious behavior; scripture reading; church attendance; religious celebrations; religious practices; contemporary religion; beliefs

Book.  302 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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