The last decades witnessed the rise of a new form of religiosity that is often referred to as spirituality. Whereas in scholarly research the idea dominated that spirituality poses an 'alternative' to religion, I want to argue that spirituality must not be necessarily conceived of in opposition to religion but rather transgressing the boundaries of the religious. By reason of this transgression spirituality becomes 'popular'. On the basis of a sociological definition of the spiritual that includes, among others, a decisive stress on the experience of great transcendencies, I want to back this view with empirical data. Since there is already a large amount of qualitative data, I am drawing here on large-scale quantitative data from a recent multinational survey. The data proves that huge numbers of people in various societies and religious cultures claim to have had experiences of great transcendencies. Thus the number of people who had such an experience indicates the quantitative aspect of what I call the popularity of spirituality.
Hubert Knoblauch, Grace Davie, Kim Knibbe, Manuel A. Vásquez and José Casanova
José Casanova’s Public Religions in the Modern World (1994) has transformed the study of religion quite considerably. As I recall, the book was received relatively slowly in its first years. Casanova’s thesis gained momentum with the escalating focus on religion after 9/11 and the ensuing publicity for Huntington’s (1996) thesis of an imminent clash of civilizations. While many only then turned to the study of religion, Casanova had already prepared the ground for a global comparative approach with his path-breaking diagnosis of the state of religion in the different modes of modernity. The growing reception of Casanova’s thesis was accompanied by the increasing interest of political science (and politics in general) in religion. In fact, Casanova has shed new light specifically on the role of religion in politics. Furthermore, his thesis on ‘public religion’ has had profound impacts on the long-lasting debate on secularization in the humanities as well as in the public domain. In this respect, there is no doubt that Casanova has contributed a major, classic work to the social study of religion.