Religion and Bioregionalism in Cascadia: The Trouble with Categories

by Paul Bramadat (University of Victoria)

Working Papers WP 20-05
June 2020
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

Full text: pdf

Sociologists, anthropologists, and others interested in the relationship between religion and contemporary society rely on conventional concepts such as religion, spirituality, irreligion, religious “nones,” secularization, and secularity that are bequeathed to us by previous generations of scholars. These are useful tools for our work, but from time to time we encounter a movement, an epoch, or a region that might make us question the adequacy of the concepts and methods we have inherited. In a major ongoing interdisciplinary study of the “Cascadia” bioregion of the Pacific Northwest of North America, I became convinced that the existing metaphors and tools at our disposal limited our ability to see and interpret the data we were collecting. In this Working Paper, I use the large data set my research team created to introduce the concept of “reverential naturalism,” a broad and naturalized schema or metanarrative which helps to explain the ways Cascadians think and talk about religion, spirituality, and nature. Although this metanarrative arguably permeates what we might call the dominant cultural rhetoric of the region, it is as yet so inchoate or subliminal that it is not easy to articulate. Here I identify some of this schema’s main features. At the end of this Working Paper, I address the ways in which this metanarrative generates additional questions that will enrich future reflections on religion both in this region and elsewhere.  

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