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Religion and Identity: The Canadian, American, and Brazilian Cases

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Changing cultural conditions in three quite different settings-a highly industrialized Canada, an increasingly post-industrial United States, and an industrializing Brazil-have led many observes to assert that the religious markets in the three countries are fairly open. However, an examination of affiliation patterns reveals that the traditionally strong religious groups in the three societies are succeeding in maintaining monopolies. Identification with the long-established mainline churches remains both very stable and high, despite the activities and claims of religious competitors. Religious affiliation continues to be largely inherited, complete with important social, psychological, and emotional associations. Nevertheless, general cultural specialization has contributed to an accelerated inclination on the part of Canadians, Americans, and Brazilians to look to religious groups for highly specific services. These include programs with spiritual and social justice emphases, and rites of passage pertaining to birth, marriage, and death. Religious groups have responded to such market demands by expanding their religious menus and, in the process, largely neutralizing the offerings of religious competitors. The result is very tight specialized religious markets in all three countries. Identification prevails, but the related impact of religion at the level of the individual is extremely specific and limited.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada T1K 3M4; 2: Department of Sociology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5C2; 3: Department of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, U.S.A.

10.1163/002071598X00161
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/content/journals/10.1163/002071598x00161
1998-01-01
2016-12-05

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