Sociology and Anthropology
Three problems beset Ann Taves’ thought-provoking book. The ﬁrst is her failure to recognize that her focus on “experiences deemed religious” makes just as many metaphysical claims as does the focus on “religious experiences” that she seeks to replace. Second, her building-block deﬁnition of religion drops her into the middle of controversies over the nature of religion, rather than rescuing her from them. Third, her approach embodies a peculiarly North American cultural ambiguity about religion: on the one hand, it contains an abstract democratic afﬁrmation of the importance of studying people’s beliefs and practices on their own terms; on the other hand, it pairs to this a concrete sense of horror at what those beliefs and practices actually are.
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