Recently I was talking with a colleague about how to interpret a survey item on a major sociology study which asks respondents “How often do you pray?” He said that, as a person who doesn’t hold supernatural beliefs, he sometimes finds it hard to deal with life’s difficulties. However, since has nonetheless made it through many challenges without becoming a religious person, people who pray a lot must be people who are biologically more prone to anxiety and hence need to pray when life gets tough.
His hypothesis that people pray because they are biologically prone to anxiety and find comfort in prayer rests on a particular idea of what people are praying for. I must admit that when I started my fieldwork among Haitian Catholics some years ago, I also thought people must be praying to deal with anxieties and challenges, but my interviews taught me otherwise.
One day about a month into my fieldwork at Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church in Miami, I was feeling frustrated that, despite my warm acceptance into the community, [Read more...]