Spirituality, the Opiate of Scholars of Religion?

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This review discusses Craig Martin’s approach to religious individualism and more widely the ways in which social scientists can make sense of individuals’ identities, beliefs and practice, as these seem more volatile and eclectic than ever. In particular, it is interested in the ‘critical’ study of religion developed in Capitalizing Religion. This review underscores the convergence between this book and other recent works regarding epistemological weaknesses affecting the contemporary study of religion (and in particular the ‘paradigm of spirituality’). It discusses Martin’s original contributions – in particular, a critical analysis of the ideological origins and biases underlying the categorisation of freely chosen spirituality vs. coercive religion. Finally, this review tries to further Capitalizing Religion’s argument by drawing on my own empirical work on the popularisation of meditation, yoga and kabbalah, sharing Martin’s critical approach and interest for the ways in which social structure and cultural norms affect individuals’ religious life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-428
Issue number3
Early online date13 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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