This groundbreaking project explores how urban, contemporary Latin Americans, both believers and non-believers, from different social classes and generations experience transcendence in everyday life. This study will not rely on past approaches to studying secularization in North America and Europe, but rather it will bring a new perspective—that of ordinary people acknowledging their free will and creativity in the religious/spiritual realm. How do people articulate free will within their religious/spiritual traditions and exercise their creativity and talent for innovation in prayer or in other religious/spiritual practices? How have everyday life dynamics and religious competition affected lived religion?

We will explore the quest for the divine at the borders of religious institutions and in relation to them, in 3 different cities which have experienced significant religious pluralization and competition: Córdoba, Argentina; Lima, Perú; and Montevideo, Uruguay. We will sample people from different SES groups, self-identified as ‘nones’ (agnostics, non-affiliated, atheist, etc.), Catholics, Evangelicals (including main line Protestants, Evangelicals, neo-Evangelicals), and Other Traditions (including Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Afro cults, Native American spiritualities, New Age, etc.), collecting ‘religious/spiritual narratives’ through in-depth interviews of life histories and ‘object-elicitation’ meetings about pictures of significant places, symbols, and meaningful artifacts. We will focus on the story itself, using the interviewees’ spontaneous narrations as our main resource to develop a grounded theory of Latin Americans’ lived religiosity/spirituality.

The project will contribute to a growing understanding of human nature and its relationship with the divine by disseminating the findings to scholarly audiences (conferences, papers, book), religious/spiritual leaders and journalists (workshops), and the general public (press releases, trade book).