The book series
Religion in the Americas (REAM) is a series of publications devoted to the study of religious influences within and between South, Central, Latin, and North America. A particular focus lies on the interaction of different forms of religion with the societies, politics, religions, economies, symbols, and cultures of the variety of peoples in the Americas. The complex theologies, philosophies, and contributions of their expressions and experiences throughout the Americas have profoundly influenced not only Catholicism but many other religions - not just in the Americas but all across the globe.
Religion in the Americas seeks to bring to the forefront new and promising works that deal with these issues, particularly from the perspectives of Religious Studies, Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, History, Psychology, or Latin American Studies.
The series has published an average of one volume per year over the last 5 years.
The central question of this article — why people may change their religious affiliation or become disaffiliated — is relevant from both an academic and a practical point of view. The article makes first an inventory of existing literature on religious conversion. Next I sketch the contours of the new conversion careers approach I am currently working on. I make some comparisons with a region that is not usually mentioned in the literature on conversion: Latin America. These comparisons are based on my earlier fieldwork on Roman Catholicism, Pentecostalism, and Mormonism in Costa Rica and Guatemala (H. Gooren, Rich among the Poor: Church, Firm, and Household among Small-scale Entrepreneurs in Guatemala City, Amsterdam: Thela Thesis 1999).
The article gives a critical overview of the religious market model to assess its usefulness for analyzing religious conversion in a context of increasing pluralism. The model's central idea is that religious organizations are competing for adherents, who make (rational?) choices from the available options. I first present the main tenets, contributions, and possible short-comings of the religious market model at three different levels of analysis: micro, meso, and macro. The next section describes and assesses the conventional social science approaches to conversion. Then I describe and analyze the approach to religious conversion that follows from the religious market model, as developed in Stark and Finke (Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion, Berkeley etc.: University of California Press 2000, 114–138). I end with my own evaluation of the usefulness of the market model for empirical research in a situation of religious pluralism. The conclusion will sketch the connections between individual religious demand and the supply-side of competing religious organizations.
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) is the most important lay movement in the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, yet it has received scant academic attention. After describing the start of the CCR, I discuss its expansion into Latin America, its self-understanding, outsider criticisms, responses of national bishops’ conferences, and two country case studies based on my first-hand ethnographic fieldwork: Nicaragua and Paraguay. I end with some general conclusions, chief of which is my analysis of the CCR as a globalized revitalization movement that aims to (re)connect individual Catholics to the Roman Catholic Church.