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Popular and Lived Religions

This article discusses the sociological understanding of popular religion by first exploring the theories of Gramsci. It then critiques this approach by arguing that the social construction of popular religion in contrast to institutionalized religion is not as clear cut in our late modern, multi-faith and global world as it was in the early modern period. Indeed, through consumer culture, some institutionalized religions are now reaching for the popular. Through the use of new Internet methodologies (e.g. Ngram Viewer), the article explores the various understandings of the words popular religion, mysticism and spirituality. It discovers that the usage of these words has evolved over time and reflects wider socio-cultural changes. The article then argues that spirituality (technical or unchurched) can be sociologically understood as an outcome of two processes that intertwine within late modernity; that is the gentrification of popular religion and the democratization of mysticism.