Lived Religion: Faith and Practice in Everyday Life

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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. In this book Meredith McGuire points the way forward toward a new way of understanding and studying religious behavior. Rather than try to fit people into prearranged packages, she argues, scholars must begin to study religion as it is actually lived and experienced in peoples' everyday lives. Drawing on her own extensive fieldwork, as well as recent work by other scholars, McGuire explores the many ways that people express themselves spiritually and shows that they rarely fit neatly into the categories we've developed. Challenging those who see declining church attendance as the death of religion in the Western world, McGuire demonstrates that religion is as widespread, potent, and vital as ever, if you know where to look.