Believing in Fate: Covering the Cracks in Belonging

Abby Day

in Believing in Belonging

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199577873
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731143 | DOI:
Believing in Fate: Covering the Cracks in Belonging

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Some scholars claim there is an enduring religiosity or ‘common religion’ based on surveys where people say that they believe in fate, destiny, ghosts, or life after death. What those surveys do not reveal is what such phenomena and concepts mean to people. This chapter discusses how, through an open-ended, conversational method, such concepts appear variously as pre-destination (‘we can’t change fate’) or random events (‘bad luck’) or self-determination (‘I am master of my destiny’). Those different meanings occur sometimes within the same individual in a single interview and often appear at the cracks in narratives of belonging.Beliefs in fate, or things that are ‘meant to be’, were often expressed with specific reference to specific social situations, most commonly related to disappointments, crisis, alienation or a sense of vulnerability. Data from larger, quantitative surveys suggest that people who are most vulnerable in society – women and people from lower socio-economic groups, for example - are most likely to believe in sources of control they variously call fate, destiny, or ‘the universe’.Analysis here shows how those beliefs are usually expressed in non-committal, vague, detached terms, markedly different from the vivid, emotionally-charged belief narratives about what people ‘believe in’. Fate-belief has a provisional, propositional quality as if it will be dismissed as soon as the person finds something or somebody more meaningful to ‘believe in’ and belong to.

Keywords: belief; belonging; fate; luck; destiny

Chapter.  6572 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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