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Transcending Methodological Atheism and Not Thinking Transcendentally: Nuns’ Understanding of Life within the Cloistered Monastery

Issue: Vol 14 No. 1 (2019)

Journal: Fieldwork in Religion

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/firn.39707


The main goal of the article is to propose an alternative approach towards the monastery, which relies on overcoming methodological atheism and is rooted in a lived, everyday religion approach. In order to do so, in the first section, I reconstruct Peter Berger’s methodological atheism, discuss its limits, and point to alternative methodological approaches. In the second section I present elements of my sociological study of a female, cloistered monastery, focusing on the dichotomy between obedience and autonomy in nuns’ experiences of life within a cloistered monastery. If understood from a classical perspective, the two traits seem contradictory. My research suggests that some nuns perceive these two characteristics as supplemental rather than contradictory. I propose that using an approach that focuses on lived, everyday religion, rather than an approach focused on religious experience (methodological atheism) allows for a comprehensive interpretation of how monasteries work and how monks and nuns operate in this specific environment. It also allows for the integration of social actors’ understanding of their environment into investigation.

Author: Marcin Jewdokimow

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