Certainty and uncertainty in contemporary spirituality and Catholicism: Finding proof versus destabilizing certainties in popular religion in the Netherlands

Knibbe, K., Dec-2014, In : Social Compass. 61, 4, p. 537-549 13 p.

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  • Certainty and uncertainty in contemporary spirituality and Catholicism Finding proof

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This article is based on several years of ethnographic research in the Netherlands on contemporary spirituality and Catholicism. The emphasis within the networks of contemporary spirituality discussed here is on finding ‘proof’ of ‘the other side’. This quest for certainty is compared to another religious context, dominated by a discourse of liberal Catholicism, where the emphasis is on learning to deal with uncertainty (previously discussed in this journal: see Knibbe, 2008). Here, uncertainty is experienced as liberating. This comparison is the basis for the development of a theoretical approach to understanding both the quest for certainty and the quest for uncertainty, based on Jackson’s essay ‘Minima ethnographica’ (1998). The article ends with a reflection on the implications of these findings in relation to the tendency within the sociology of religion to look for causal links between societal changes and changes in religion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-549
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Compass
Issue number4
Early online date12-Nov-2014
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2014


  • Catholicism, Contemporary spirituality, CERTAINTY, ETHNOGRAPHY, RELIGION, Netherlands

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