Megachurches must be understood as total environments. By providing programmes for nearly every stage of life, megachurches combine a sense of solidarity with a feeling of dependence. Employing Randall Collins’s theory of interaction ritual chains, this chapter shows that the desire for emotional energy (EE), which is interpreted as the physical manifestation of God’s love, has been embraced by megachurches and is the key to understanding their success. The chapter develops rational choice theory and show how megachurches charge attendees with their next ‘hit’ of EE, which becomes the life-blood of attendees that binds them together in a total environment.
This paper presents new research about spiritual experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim is to discuss the impact of spiritual experiences on people’s lives and relationships. Building upon William James’ four features of the “fruits” of religious experience as a conceptual frame, the paper presents data from two surveys in which participants narrated spiritual experiences and reflected on the impacts of those experiences. We start with a short presentation of James’ ideas about the fruits of religious experience. The next section outlines four themes that have emerged from the narratives of spiritual experiences during the pandemic: impacts on people’s relationships with their religious communities, shifts in one’s subjective sense of spiritual connection and intuition, encounters with spiritual figures and near-death experiences, and interpretations of COVID-19 as a spiritual contagion. The final section broadens the discussion from the impact of specific spiritual experiences to include spiritual responses to the pandemic more generally, leading to a discussion of the experiences within the wider debate in fruits of religious experience.