CESNUR - Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni diretto da Massimo Introvigne

londonThe 2008 International Conference
Twenty Years and More: Research into Minority Religions, New Religious Movements and 'the New Spirituality'

An International Conference organized by INFORM and CESNUR in association with ISORECEA at the London School of Economics, 16-20th April 2008

Notes on Urban Multireligiosity in Mexico

by Daniel Gutiérrez Martinez (El Colegio Mexiquense a.c.)

A paper presented at the 2008 International Conference, London, UK. Preliminary version. lease do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author.


Our objective is to analyze, in a systemized fashion, contemporary urban multireligiosity from the perspective of the sociology of religions. This study is based on the results obtained by the authors from a survey conducted in Mexico City. The data concerns the way in which followers of historically dominant institutionalized religions in Mexico, such as Catholicism (and its different branches, including Christianity and Judaism) have borrowed beliefs and rituals from other religions or religious traditionsa concept we will label marginal religiosity. Marginalized from the historically central belief systems of Mexican religiosity, these beliefs and practices were propagated by spiritual traditions, which include esoteric, oriental, ethnic-indigenous and rationalist-secular belief systems.

Multireligiosity: a long-established historical phenomenon

Multireligiosity is a notion that has earned great importance in current studies on the relationship between the sacred and the transcendental within the different groups that exist today.[1] This notion clearly illustrates the behavior trends that have become manifest amongst different “modernized” societies over the last few decades with respect to cultural values and faith. Multireligiosity is also proof of the cultural aspect that has accompanied man, from his relationship within the simplest groups to the most complex among collective groups in today's society. In other words, multireligiosity is the essential characteristic of the hommo-credos,[2] which involves relating and interchanging different spiritual values that are sacred in nature and without which people would not be able to survive in or understand today’s world.

In modern society, many major changes have emerged in recent times: the digital technology boom, policies to promote tolerance and pluralism, the break from metadiscourse and absolute truths, which are engraved in the development of Cartesian modernity. Given these changes, multireligiosity becomes an acceptable or even appealing option, in both academia and regular day-to-day life. From this viewpoint, we can say that multireligiosity is not only a new spiritual dynamic, but also the result of the current and temporary context of shying away from old practices of clandestinity or apparent inexistence, and thus, revitalizing the historical presence of multireligiosity.

The social sciences in Mexico, and particularly anthropology, hold that, in a vast medley of religious concepts, the combining and mixing of various religious beliefs have led to the creation of different religious mosaics. This resulted in constant fluctuations of rituals and beliefs between popular indigenous callings and those of the centralized and institutionalized religions. This logic has been generally defined as Mexican religious syncretism, which, in addition, has been grouped with popular religiosity studies. This type of religiosity has been mainly linked to symbolic aspects of the Mexican spiritual conquest (Catholicism) that have been re-appropriated by popular ethnic groups and transformed by adding indigenous religious elements.

This religious nuance, which is already being developed in the social sciences within Mexico, proves that there are many different ways to connect to the divine. Symbols originating from other spheres have enriched Mexican religious everyday life; the majority of these are linked to the spiritual conquest led by the Catholics. Thus, studies on Mexican religiosity generally focus on three main areas of analysis: indigenous beliefs, popular religiosity and the Mexican Catholic religion.[3]

Few studies, however, analyze aspects outside of the elements mentioned above, which in our opinion could prove equally as important in order to fully understand all of the components of Mexican religiosity. We are referring to practices and beliefs of salvation-based religions in urban zones, primarily Christianity, its variants as well as Judaism, which exist in conjunction with religious elements originating from outside these traditions. We refer to this dynamic as urban multireligiosity.[4] It is, in fact, the exchanges between different belief systems that are constantly creating new forms of spiritual expression and religious sociability. This entails spaces in which new ways of understanding the intimate reality of each group or individual combine, blend, interrelate and connect; spaces in which new religious forms are established, forms that perhaps were once unrecognized or criticized, but over time, during moments of great unrest, these forms can occasionally be perceived as re-emerging elements that appear only momentarily, but frequently.

Metaphorically speaking, one could interpret multireligiosity as the main characteristic of the hommo-credos. The process of multireligiosity involves linking and interchanging different spiritual and religious values; while the central focus remains to be the established belief system and its rituals, the system is enriched by elements that are from outside of its confines. Thus, there is multireligiosity when a set of rituals simultaneously combine and become part of the daily practices of a group or individual.

We can now establish some differences between multireligiosity, syncretism, hybridization and religious plurality. Religious plurality is when different spiritual and sacred elements co-exist at a specific time and place and never truly blend with each other. Depending on the geo-historical context, some belief systems can dominate others, forming different levels of domination.[5] This involves an interrelation of different elements that do not blend with each other or affect one another, but are rather remain in their predetermined space. Consequently, several elements can exist at one time and there are three terms that describe the different relations: polytheism, henotheism and monotheism. It is called polytheism when no element truly dominates; henotheism when one tends to dominate the others; and monotheism when a society centers the entire belief structure on one system, remaining unaffected by other religions.[6] When the boundaries of religious pluralism are crossed and religions start to incorporate similar or opposing religious elements, we then have religious syncretism.

Generally, syncretism refers to the complexity of elements: a combination of indigenous elements (still existing or revitalized) and foreign elements (many times referring to Christian elements in the modern world). In syncretism, these foreign elements do not appear to be sufficiently assimilated or are reinterpreted and adapted to mythical structures of indigenous traditions, giving form to a specific religiosity with nuances of the original religion. Therefore, all religions, during their formation, are syncretic if they borrow doctrinal, ritual or structural religious elements from other religious spheres. As we will see, one of the problematic aspects of religious syncretism in analyzing multireligiosity is that, most of the time, there are strong references to the indigenous factor, leaving aside the reverse process, which is the dynamic involving the dominant religion of the Spanish Conquest. In fact, Catholicism was strengthen and consolidated by the incorporation of external religious elements[7] and consequently, through the interrelation of symbolic elements, a product was created. At one point, these symbolic elements were opposing; however, over time, they were transformed and reinterpreted creating a symbolic and permanent product that will live on in history.

Lastly, there is the hybridization process, which primarily concerns identity. Generally speaking, religious hybridization refers to the moment when a system is shaped by concatenation and/or a union of various spiritual products that do not combine with each other, but rather reunite as spiritual tools used separately or for specific purposes, depending on the moment they are required. The rituals used in New Age Religious Movements serve as an example, amongst many, to illustrate the hybrid dynamic.[8]

In this respect, the difference between these definitions of multireligiosity is that this last definition clearly reflects a combination of various spiritual and sacred elements (as is the case of syncretism); however, these combinations are short-lived, malleable and changeable, in other words, they constantly vary. As the term indicates, multireligiosity refers to multiple: the existence of a given element which contains a diversity of correlations. Thus, by adding to the discussion the idea of multiples of three or four, and so forth, we can extrapolate an image and talk about religious multiples of Catholicism, Protestantism or Judaism, etc. Moreover, similar to pluralism, multireligiosity contains an interrelation of different religious elements; however, this does not simply imply that these elements co-exist, but that they combine and influence each other, provided that there is a central religious system. Similar to what occurs in syncretism, multireligiosity involves borrowing other doctrines, methods of how the sacred and spiritual elements are structured in order to enrich and shape the belief system in question. The difference is that multireligiosity does not involve followers of indigenous belief systems reinterpreting, rejecting or re-appropriating foreign elements, but rather followers of the dominant and/or central religion appropriating external religious elements, giving rise to a product that is spontaneous, mobile and without a specific, long-term objective. Thus, the definition of multireligiosity does not deny the central aspect of the dominant belief system. In fact, this aspect enriches multireligiosity; the dominant religion borrows external elements in order to subsist.

Similar to what occurs in hybridization, multireligiosity can consist of a reunion of various religiosity elements in a specific time and space and implemented according to the practical needs of the moment and the group. The difference lies in that this reunion is associated with the overall strengthening of the central religious element. In other words, it involves the reuniting of elements, the center of which is reinforced by this process. Therefore, multireligiosity is defined according to the combination of various conceptual elements pertaining to religious pluralism, syncretism and hybridization. Nonetheless, the main difference is that multireligiosity is centered on preserving the main belief system. It involves a multitude of elements united into one, in which one element predominates.[9] As previously mentioned, this trend has always existed; however, recently it is more apparent owing to the digression of religious discussions in modern times (based on Augustine universalism of the City of God[10]) or of the strengthening of laic ideas that promote neutrality with respect to society’s rejection of different rituals and belief systems. This trend will undoubtedly continue to expand with cultural globalization.

Although multireligiosity exists in a variety of social contexts, we will only focus on contemporary urban multireligiosity. This phenomenon has not been fully analyzed within the field of sociology of religions, and theoretical and methodological tools from religious syncretism, plurality and hybridization studies are not entirely suitable for the same type of study in the area of multireligiosity, in this case, contemporary urban multireligiosity. However, perhaps adapted forms of these tools and specific methods for this study can be created. In this paper, we propose only a few new investigative ideas for both theoretical/methodological and the interpretative approaches to this area.

Popular rural Christianity (popular religions) and Catholicism[11] (as a whole) have both appropriated different outside elements, not only as a way of promoting change, but also as a way of introducing complementary ideas and of bringing religion up-to-date with the times. Therefore, our objective is to analyze contemporary urban multireligiosity—an area that has received little attention—from a sociology of religion viewpoint. Our study is based on descriptive observations made from collected data and an initial empirical study (ethnography) about the way in which followers of the historically dominant religions (including institutionalized, official and historical religions such as Spanish Baroque Catholicism and different variants of Christianity) in Mexico perform rituals and have faith in belief systems, which contain elements of Marginal Religions. We remind the reader that marginal religions are those whose rituals and beliefs are generally absorbed by religiosities labeled as esoteric, oriental, ethnical-indigenous and/or rational-secular, which do not historically constitute the central belief systems in Mexico.[12] All of these systems have incorporated practices and beliefs that are marginalized from the dominant ones, but are just as important in creating interpretative methods and spiritual satisfaction. We produced an initial empirical definition in the form of recorded data and a classification of statistical elements that we deem pertinent in understanding multireligiosity in the urban context (ethnographic monography).[13] Our methodology used for this study involves analyzing quantitative surveys, both academic studies and opinion polls, to take an inventory of the values, beliefs and rituals of the people living in Mexico City over the past four years.

We analyzed and interpreted the results of these surveys using the quantitative ethnographic method and found a series of theoretical issues that have permeated the field of sociology of religions for the past two decades.

One of these issues is the need to implement a systematic approach, which would allow researchers not only to analyze aspects of urban religiosity, but also those of religiosity in general. We are referring to the study of what the human sciences in general have defined as magic, myth and religion, but in this case, what is key is the interdependence or close relationship (direct or indirect, tangible or symbolic) that exists between these aspects, namely the constitution, consolidation, preservation and/or transformation of beliefs in different societies. This study would allow us to test the model that is based on the existence and interdependence of religious, magical, mythical and rational beliefs related to institutionalized, pragmatic, imaginary and functionalist relations in day-to-day life. Within society, it is difficult to interpret the meaning behind people’s actions without considering these spheres within a complementarity dynamic, and in which, depending on the context of time and space, one sphere may dominate over the others, without affecting the relationship with other spheres. For example, the preservation, propagation and strengthening of the Catholic religion in Mexico are concepts that are difficult to understand if one does not take into account the close relationship and systematic reinforcement of Pagan and esoteric magic or native myths, regardless if these concepts are accepted or not by the official religion.[14]

Other issues in recent debates within the sociology of religion that can also be observed in our collected data, is the explanation proposed by secularization theories in an effort to clarify or interpret religiosity phenomena in modern times.[15] Amongst these theories is the debate between various sociologists on the pertinence of speaking in terms of the secularization paradigm (Kuhn).[16] The main observation we can make after having assessed the ethnographical aspect of multireligiosity in Mexico (which we will address further on) is that this issue does not involve new or postmodern processes that have re-emerged from secularization or modernization processes. Instead, it involves phenomena that have always existed. Today, due to the waning and/or the revitalization of the secularization debate, these elements play a more significant role and are now integrated into scientific studies on social processes.[17] In short, we are dealing with an element that has always existed, and subsequent to debates on belief system plurality and tolerance, this element became legitimized, both academically and socially. Therefore, in the current context, membership, practices, belief systems and enriching elements originating from other sacred realms (magic, myth, rationality) in collective or individual spiritual systems (religion) are accepted. Both the population and the members of the field of science do not reject nor disapprove of these aspects, which extend beyond the confines of the dominant institutionalized belief system.

In analyzing social relationships (often impersonal in large cities), we have found extensive evidence of the diversity of rituals and beliefs, which are in some cases individualized and private, in others collective, but always present and in constant transformation. Given the complexity of Mexico City, new ways of inhabiting the urban zone emerge, which consist of inherent dynamics that surpass the political and territorial framework. Within the city, a set of socio-religious lines of reasoning developed. Their dynamics respond to elements such as, ethnic, oriental, esoteric, neo-rational elements and are united with aspects that were defined by the Church through tradition over the course of the history of Mexico. From this perspective, processes of social and economic fragmentation are brought about by the social and religious practices of the people who search for points of reference with respect to identity and ways in which to deal with public, local and regional life, all of which leads to the creation of other processes that become integrated into the urban realm.

Ethnographical assessment of multireligiosity in Mexico City

In our survey, we asked the people of Mexico City about their liturgical rituals (for example, being a member of a religious group, attending church, praying and pledging oath) and about their religious beliefs (faith in one God, the Holy Spirit, Messiahs, virgins, sacred books, heaven, hell and resurrection), which are linked to the main religious institutions recognized in Mexico, such as: Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism and Evangelism.[18] We also included individuals that consider themselves atheist in our survey.

We also consider that the definition of religious practices also includes certain spiritual activities that are carried out consciously, even if the individual does not deem them acts of faith, but rather as a regular activity, that conjure feelings of belonging. These could simply be deemed by these people as social get-togethers or a break from the daily hustle and bustle. Faith in a belief system is considered to be an affiliation to specific values, ethics and ways of life that constitute an important element for a group or individual in order to understand the social environment—a spiritual support.[19] This is the way in which we were able to identify the rituals and beliefs of the people of Mexico City that are linked to religious institutions, as well as to other spiritual practices that are not historically related to the Churches recognized in Mexico. These include oriental belief systems (such as Tai Chi, yoga, acupuncture, Feng shui, meditation, etc.); magic (horoscopes, card, hand and coffee reading, tarot, numerology, witchcraft, Shamanism and Santeria); myth (cleanses, herbal medicine, ethnic dance rituals, vampirism and Satanism) or even those that we refer to as the neo-rationalist type (vegetarianism, New Age beliefs, bio-agriculture and organic products, Dianetics, Scientology, etc.). These are beliefs or rituals that are referred to as marginal because they are found outside of the confines of the traditional, institutionalized belief systems and practices in Mexico. All of these systems undeniably belong to a religious tradition or culture—magic, myth—but, within the history of religious culture in Mexico, they were not always considered concrete beliefs or practices on par with the dominant religions.

Moreover, we also investigated belief systems and spiritual elements related to UFOs, extraterrestrials, astral projection, astrology, spiritualism, amulets, telepathy, energies, apparitions, ghosts, fairies, goblins, vampirism, gnosis, angels, meditation, cults of devil worship, reincarnation, etc. Lastly, during our survey, we asked participants their opinion about combining official and marginal religious practices and/or the possibility of combining these practices in their daily life.

Results and perspectives

One of the main results of our survey indicates that 98% of the Catholics in the Mexico City, which corresponds to 83% of those surveyed, practice at least one religious ritual that is considered part of an institutionalized religion, for instance praying, attending church, pledging oath, etc. Among these practicing Catholics, there are 62% that carry out spiritual rituals that are considered marginal. Some 8 out of 10 believe in at least one element that pertains to a marginal religion. Similar to Catholics, the majority of Protestants strictly follow the religious practices established by the Church; unlike the Catholics, only a third borrow marginal spiritual rituals and 6 out of 10 believe in some of the marginal spiritual elements analyzed in this study.

In Table I, we can see these trends. Marginal rituals are classified according to affiliation to one of the main religions. Thus in Mexico City, 62% of Catholics borrow rituals from marginal religions. Only 33% of Protestants and 78% of atheists follow this trend.

As previously mentioned, we have included atheists, in the strict sense of the term, meaning the negation of the existence of a God or gods. An atheist practicing or believing in any type of sacred entity may seem contradictory; however, most atheists are not defined by a total negation of all sacred beliefs, but a negation of the Christian and Jewish God or in believing in the Catholic Church. Atheism is better defined as the negation of any type of dependence on an institutionalized religion, leaving more freedom to believe and practice any type of religiosity. From this perspective, it would be more accurate to say that the majority of Mexicans that define themselves as atheists are closer to being agnostics.

Table 1

Percentage of followers according to religious affiliation having marginal beliefs or practices[20]

Institutionalized affiliation to a dominant official religion
(or negation of such)

Percentage of people who fulfill at least one religious duty of an officially recognized religion but that also practice at least one element from a marginal spiritual religion









In an effort to have a greater understanding of marginal religious practices in Mexico City, we focused our analysis strictly on Catholics, the majority of the surveyed population, owing to the size of this group. This way we were able to breakdown the information to be further analyzed. As one can observe, neo-rationalist (35.5%) and magical (29.6%) rituals make up those that are most practiced among Catholics in the Mexican capital.[21] If we analyze these same results according to level of education, we find that Catholics with post-graduate education (Master’s or Ph.D.) are those that practice neo-rationalistic rituals more frequently (23%), compared to 14% with a minimum education, 10% with a high school education and 15% with a Bachelor’s degree education or the equivalent. As for magical rituals, 42% of Catholics having a minimum education practice these types of rituals against 41% of those with postgraduate studies. Firstly, these results show, as previously mentioned, that the educational structure of Mexico is part of a system of “scientific” beliefs,[22] particularly neo-rationalist practices. When this type of system is implemented, it intrinsically generates religious elements that pertain to this system. One of the main points addressed in secularization theories dictates that this process leads to the decline of religions, or at least to the decline of the number of people who practice these religions. This is true if we take into account that this process leads to favoring rationalist-type practices and beliefs. If the secularization process (via a transformation of beliefs) is accepted by society, newly transformed beliefs would replace the old beliefs of the dominant system. In addition, among Catholics in Mexico City, people with lower education are more inclined to practice institutionalized religions, yet at the same time, they are also more inclined to use complementary elements from other systems, in this case, magical and esoteric. We can also deduct from this information that Catholics with a low level of education feel closer to religiosity forms defined as popular or pagan (chthonic), rather than those linked to spiritual forms that are based on rationality or calculability (Apollinarian), that is, pseudo-psychoanalytical beliefs, rationally corporeal, which are linked to technology and science. To verify this last point, one would not need to look further than at groups of people who are fierce aficionados of Star Trek and Star Wars.[23]

Next, we asked the surveyed population whether they believed in marginal beliefs in addition to the beliefs professed by their main religion. In Table II, we can observe that most people in Mexico City tend to believe in energy, astrology and/or angels, as opposed to other beliefs, such as extraterrestrials, UFOs, telepathy, apparitions, etc. The belief in angels is particularly significant, since it is largely linked to Mexican Catholicism, the dominant religion in the country. There are also esoteric beliefs; in the words of Ganon, some groups have distanced themselves from the Catholic Church and have used channeling methods, “a type of spiritualism” to communicate with light beings, or angels. Over the last few years, there has been a big trend toward the belief in angels, which people see as agents that determine the fate of life missions. The most pragmatic of angelologists are called New Age, but there are also ones that appear in a more aggressive form in media, such as video games.

Angels are also associated with theosophy (general doctrine characterized by an esoteric knowledge of God and of the divine) that started in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This belief system, whether it is practiced in the eastern or the western hemispheres, is essentially related to (in this context) the existence of invisible protectors.[24]


Percentage of Catholics having rituals or beliefs of marginal spiritual systems

Marginal religious practices or beliefs


Type of practice









Type of belief













If we observe these same belief criteria in relation to schooling, we find that the ratio of Catholics living in Mexico City with high school or higher education who believe in energies is higher (40% and 47% respectively), compared to lower levels of education. If we look at this aspect from an age perspective, 42% of Catholics between 21 and 35 age believe in energies (the highest percentage) compared to 38% in the 36 to 50 age group and 22% for those over 50 years of age. In summary, Catholics living in Mexico City in lower age groups with higher education tend to be the group that most believes in energies. Conversely, Catholics with no formal education or basic education believe in angels, 63% and 65% respectively, that is to say 10% more than Catholics with university or post-graduate education. In addition, 77% of Mexico City Catholics over 50 years of age believe in angels, compared to 52% in the 36 to 50 age group and 63% for the 21 to 35 age group. Therefore, the higher the age and the lower the education, the higher the tendency is to believe in angels. We don’t have to dig too far to understand these results. Energies represent flowing, obscure entities whose existence is more plausible or at least harder to deny. The belief in energies is very linked to trends characteristic of post-modernity that have more influence on younger generations.[26] In contrast, angels appeal more to levels of society having less education, given the historical connection with Christian institutions. Angels have the responsibility of enforcing moral principles and values, such as kindness, sharing and individual belonging (guardian angels), aspects which appeal to less educated stratums.

Both the belief in energies and the belief in angels answer to a similar dynamic. Angels are beings of light, or in a way, energies. However, believing in one or the other depends on generation, thus social context and symbolic connection to an institutionalized religious system. The generation effect simply involves the moment in which a generation lives as well as the values that are promoted at that time. In summary, it is the calling of the spirit of the times along with the effect of higher education within the population that influence primarily the younger generations. This phenomenon is generally referred to as laicization of the population[27] (in terms of education) or the secularization of society (in terms of culture), which refers to the consolidation of values adopted by the laic State representing neutrality and tolerance, as well as rationality and scientificity.

We also asked the people of Mexico City for their opinion on combining officially recognized religions and marginal religions. Some 53% were against the idea, even though the majority does, in fact, intermix various religious practices. If we compare practicing Catholics and those that are not, we would notice that the people who do not carry out any rituals established by the Catholic Church (but that consider themselves Catholics) represent the group that less accepts combining religious practices of this type (60%). Practicing Protestants in Mexico City who do not agree with combing institutionalized and marginal religious practices represent 84%.[28]

Atheists who do not agree with combining religious aspects from different religions represent 31.7%. Some 18% are disinterested and 50% of them declared that they agree with combining practices from institutionalized religions and marginal religions. There is also a difference between genders. Men are more inclined to agree with combining religious aspects: 36% of men compared to 26% of women. According to age group, the group with the highest tendency to accept combinations is the 36 to 50 age group, some 33%. Mexico City dwellers with post-graduate education also agree with combining religious elements, 15% more than lower education levels.

Lastly, there is a difference between agreeing with an issue and actually being willing to experience it. When we asked the surveyed population if they would be willing to combine religious practices and beliefs with other systems, we found that less than a third of Catholics were willing to combine elements of different religions, namely officially institutionalized and marginal religions. Only 8% of Protestants and 43% of Atheists would be willing to combine both of these religious categories. The results were different for non-practicing Catholics; half of them would be willing to combine religious practices, including the practices advocated by the Catholic Church. Mexicans, on the whole, are starting to move toward new symbols and no longer only adhere to one single church or belong to a single church. In Mexico, faith no longer involves believing in divine dogmas; but rather the search for forms that are based on solidarity.[29]

Exploratory epistemology, comprehension and analysis

As can be observed, the results obtain through our study show that Mexican religiosity, in this case urban and specifically religiosity within Mexico City, is composed of a mixture of interdependent elements. These elements are associated with a multitude of spiritual activities that constitute a complex and diverse landscape that cannot be analyzed solely through conventional methods. Multireligiosity implies that Mexico City dwellers can easily change practices without questioning their membership to an institutionalized religion. Consequently, these are broad and syncretic forms, where the rituals of different belief systems intermingle. This not only involves a large multitude of religiosities and spiritual practices that coexist in urban zones, but a constant intermixing of them–some lasting more than others. In fact, this process is necessary in order to harmonize the complexity and heterogeneity that exist in large cities like Mexico City. Today, Mexicans are witnessing a trend toward the diversification of religious affiliation in the capital’s population, which works as a normative complementarity for individuals in areas where adhering to the rigidity of a religious institution has not provided satisfactory answers to the problems and uncertainties of the times, as well as to the need for new religious alternatives that fuel a sense of belonging and give meaning to daily life.

This dynamic also involves a combination of religious, magical, mythical and scientific ways of reasoning, which contain local and regional specificities that spread throughout the current context. Today, they are more widely accepted and taken into consideration, most importantly in relation to the role they play in compensating social disappointment and effusiveness that urban sociality can, at times, generate. Thus, multireligiosity is a metaphor, which explains the acceptance of an archaic reality, in the sense of being first and foremost. This refers to the powerful expression employed by Max Weber on polytheism of values, which is a consensus associated with an emotional adjustment, which exists in our daily lives.


This case study first leads us to conclude that we need to reconsider the way in which we define and analyze different concepts and notions related to the sacred and transcendental. Firstly, let us consider within the scope of our study that in order to understand phenomena linked to the sacred, we must speak in terms of religiosity. Religiosity can be defined as all practices and beliefs linked to the supernatural or the transcendent that offer interpretative parameters and ways of reasoning to comprehend the invisible and symbolic world that materializes in the visible and concrete world.Religiosity mainly implies a sense of belonging, an ‘anthropological togetherness’ (imaginary or real) and it is where the existing relationship between the sacred and the profane becomes narrower within the social environment–in our private and public lives, in institutions and in the conduct of individuals and even across humanity.In short, religiosity involves a sociability-socializing-socialized process. Therefore, it can be said that it is present in all levels of society (hommo credos).

Religiosity is shaped by a system of beliefs, which is associated with a set of symbolic relationships linked to communication and to the transcendental that are created within society. This system is based on a logic having a high degree of emotion, a subjective communal experience, but at the same time, on a set of pre-established elements (standards, rules, boundaries) in order to be able to coordinate and shape group and individual beliefs and their relationship with the social environment.

This system of beliefs is theoretically formed by interdependent spheres and is constantly fuelling itself via these elements, which include magic, myth and religion (and more recently science, which is, to a certain extent, a contemporary mix of the first three). The magical sphere is composed of temporary, immediate, private and individualized aspects the informal and pragmatic aspect of belief systems. Religion is more related to the institution, frequency and historical accuracy of belief systems, as well as to the public, dogmatic aspect the functional-structural part of the system. The mythical sphere has more to do with the imaginary aspect of belief systems and its meaning. This is the part that links and legitimizes belief systems, allowing for a connection, exchange and communication between the magical sphere and the religious sphere in transcendental and symbolic processes of the human being. In the past, these three spheres (magic, religion, myth) were generally studied separately from traditional methods of study within the field of religiosity.[31] Belief systems find their interconnectivity in each and every sphere through rituals. This is found in all aspects of social daily life within towns, groups and that of individuals. We are referring to practices or rituals in a strict sense, such as how people eat, exchange knowledge, take care of themselves, heal themselves, as well as in a broad sense, mainly pertaining to historical and symbolic elements. These types of rituals, therefore, entail a collective consensus (ethics) that communicates the sacred and the profane. It offers explanations of the social environment and, above all, an accepted legitimacy for those who practice it, whether the system is institutionalized or imaginary.[32]

Thus, in order to understand phenomena such as multireligiosity, or simply religiosity in general, from a sociological perspective, it is essential to study the interconnectivity between these four previously mentioned spheres (magic, myth, religion and science), both in daily life and as an historical process. It is also important not to limit oneself to trying to find a particular essence of each of these spheres and their genetically causal relationship with social events. This issue is therefore not exclusively a problem with defining religion as suggested by Hervieu-Léger. To understand this phenomenon, the focus needs to be entirely reconsidered. In this respect, we would propose speaking in terms of sociology of religiosity and sociology of religions when one is referring to studies that associate levels and impact of institutionalized belief systems within the social dynamic. To speak in more technical terms, we would say that the sociology of religiosity is a meta-sociology of the sociology of religions. This epistemological proposal is not entirely unrelated to the various discoveries made since the classical period to present times concerning elements linked to the sacred, the profane and social behavior. The pivoting point in all of this is that today, in the contemporary or post-modern world, the approaches used must come from various perspectives, and not just from one. Secularization theories have attempted to provide tools to assist in understanding this point.[33] Moreover, we believe that in light of these theories, it is necessary to continue reflecting upon this issue on par with religiosity phenomena that are being introduced into today’s dynamic. We also need to build epistemological elements in order to fully understand how belief systems work in the current context. Before briefly analyzing these theories, it is important to mention that to our knowledge, there are two reasons for the inconsistency of these theories.

A) Secularization theories have more of an analytical approach because they implicitly inherit the universalism of Saint Augustine Christianity. This tendency is due to using a single, mono-causal analysis approach and to searching for answers using one sphere, restricting the study by failing to take into account the interactive combination of the different spheres. That is to say, the theories of secularization generally do not analyze religiosity in terms of its internal logic as a belief system (magical, mythical and religious), but instead from a perspective of confrontation, replacement and opposition of different realms that have sprouted during the history of civilizations, in terms of religiosity and not in terms of the combination of these spheres. These theories analyze religiosity from an approach that does not view secularization as part of an active belief system in society. Beliefs are thus analyzed in terms of evolution, starting with magic, then myth, religion and lastly, science. They are then analyzed in terms of dynamics, including transposition, replacement and separation of the spheres that compose the belief system, instead of in terms of complementarity. For the same reason, the presence of the other spheres in religiosity issues is not considered (polytheistic logic). Instead of analyzing religions from the point of view that belief systems are connected to various spheres, by taking into account the anthropological aspect of belief systems, most researchers have wanted to explain them as consequences of other events, such as individualization, the decline of religion, differentiation, pluralization, etc.

To put it in direct terms, modern secularization has led to a religiosity dynamic that oscillates between monotheistic universalism and polytheistic relativism. Secularization as a belief system, therefore, breaks from the monopolies and opens the path to pluralization that can lead to challenging theories that, at one time, were considered untouchable. This does not necessarily mean, however, that religiosity will disappear all together, but the contrary; implicit processes will have more weight and will even strengthen religiosities that pertain to legitimate institutionalized religions. As we have seen, the impact of secularization as a dominant belief system in the current context has even led to strengthen religions and resulting in a greater diversity of beliefs and practices that today are tolerated and even completely accepted.

B) Secularization theories have tried to explain religiosity phenomena (particularly modern and contemporary religiosity) by taking a supposed “objective” step back, without taking into account the Eurocentric slant (social centrism) of modernity that is based on secularization theories. Berger refers to this as Eurosecularity. In other words, only a few secularization theories take into account that secularization is also a belief system, its earliest days being when archaic religions were taken over by world religions. This entailed the mental and cultural step from immanent Gods to nature, both dominated by a single God. This is the basis of all later processes of secularization that have occurred in the modern world.

There are two consequences to these approaches. First, it is naive to think that secularization is a type of ideology that is separate from religiosity and consequently, considered as a neutral process in relation to religiosities. Researchers analyze the impact of secularization on religions and not the dynamic of religiosity existing within the framework of secularization. From this perspective, the private vs. public debate becomes the focus (and not the historical movement of religious roots before modern times) and the main factor which has led to the replacement of other belief systems and to primarily dominating in the era of modernization. In short, secularization is not analyzed as a process of religiosity in combination with other religiosities, but rather as a historical dynamic that has an impact on social phenomena that is not linked to the sacred and symbolic. Secondly, secularization theories attempt to peg emerging and/or established religiosities as historical processes and not as symbolic entities that have an internal logic within the belief system and in which secularization has participated to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the period. These processes are analyzed through taking the same theories, as objective tools, and viewing the issue as an historical process and not as a religious transfiguration labeled “secular.” This method does not take into account that the focus has a specific perspective, which involves secularization principles and outlook. In other words, researchers have not considered the gradual influence of secularization on the modern way of thinking. In order to understand this concept, it is important to consider that the secularization of society was initiated when the first Christian prophets advocated the separation of the religious, political and economic powers (Jesus and the traders of the temple).[34] Therefore, subsequent to this event, the mentality of the times started to secularize within Christianity (Augustine and Platonism, Aquino and Aristotelianism) and after the post-reform weakening of the clergy, reason succeeds in becoming independent from theology to open the way to modern philosophy and science. This event, thus, opened the door to modified forms of beliefs and rituals originating from early Christianity.[35] It is, therefore, difficult to see a temporal correlation between modernization and secularization, given that secularizing effects always emerge afterwards. Modernization does not drive secularization nor were there other influences or sub-products of modernization, because they were not present in the initial stages of secularization. Therefore, on numerous occasions, proposed theories concerning secularization phenomena become tautological.

Epistemology in the making

As observed in the case of contemporary urban multireligiosity in the City of Mexico, we do not detect a decline of religion with the incursion of secular beliefs a concept referred to as Rationalization (Weber). Despite that rational thinking as grown in popularity among researchers in terms of values and end results and despite that numerous social spheres have become intellectualized, religiosity still exists, and even more so, multireligiosity. To a certain extent, religiosity and religion have become stronger. There are definitely believers that prefer religion from the secular era over religion from the “dark” periods of the past. The dominant religiosity of religion in Mexico no longer has the same influence on social and cultural spheres as before; notwithstanding, other modified forms of religiosity still persist. The institutional affiliation decline it is not a matter of modernization or even secularization. As can be observed through history (from a Medici Pope selling a place in Paradise to the recent cases of pedophilia in the clergy and passing through the Ancien Régime and the Catholic Church in Spain ruled by Franco), the Church has, in fact, distanced itself from its parishioners. In addition, one cannot say that science and technology have helped to marginalize religiosity, because, as mentioned in other articles, multireligiosity is closely related to techniques that go beyond material existence (i.e. neo-technologized beliefs and practices). Technology has not had a strong impact on the decline of religion either. We can also say that the Globalization of secularization has not necessarily dispelled spiritual concerns to allow people to focus on material elements, although beliefs have become individualized and psychologized to please the consumer. As seen with the belief in angels and amulets, religiosity can be associated with commodification and marketing of the sacred and transcendental; however this does not mean that religiosity has disappeared or that these occurrences have led to its disappearance.

This also does not involve social differentiation, in which religious institutions function in an autonomous and specialized way, that is, separate from the enveloping aspect of religiosity (magic and myth, for example), becoming intertwined within society, as Wilson has forwarded in the classic theory of secularization, along with other specialists from the sixties. In fact, we can observe a complementarity and refortification of the first (church and religion) via the second (magic).

The individualization of beliefs (Luckmann) is an important factor. However, this does not imply that religiosity is becoming individualized, but rather the opposite. As can be observed, the choice to combine belief systems and practices continues to be closely linked to the sense of belonging within a group and among peers; this event leads to the shaping of new tribes, sects and cults (irrespective of their duration). Belief systems and practices provide an outlet to this feeling of belonging that is characteristic of religiosity. One could certainly find self-realization dynamics through modern therapies, such as oriental or New Age syncretism, that do not necessarily lead to a loss of the sense of a transcendental community.

Furthermore, one can also observe that the process of secularization has led to the emergence of marginal belief systems and practices and their acceptance in society. We can also say that religious practices have not automatically gone from the public to private lives of people, but that, in a more intrinsic way, there is an oscillating movement between the two within the religious sphere of society. Therefore, this is proof that contradicts the Privatization of religion theory, in which practices are thought to be moving toward the private sphere owing to the undermining of marginal religiosity practices; in fact, on the contrary, many of these religiosities are realized in the public realm.

As Berger has stated, secularization has probably affected the level of subjectivity and awareness, similar to what has happened with other historical processes; however, it is not certain, as our case has illustrated, whether this means that individuals are moving away from the domination of institutions and from central religious symbols. There is no doubt that the incursion of secularization, as part of a belief system, has led to the elimination of religious monopolies. Nevertheless, we can confirm, at least in the case that we have presented, that contemporary religiosity is defined like a menu or religiosities à la carte (similar to Rodney Stark’s “religious market economy model” based on and proven by the Rational Choice theory), which are available to people to choose at their own free will. The Pluralization of the religious “market” within the context of the liberalized market and free competition is not entirely pertinent in the case we are addressing. Instead, returning to the menu metaphor, we could say that some individuals or people of different groups choose an apéritif, an appetizer, a side dish and a dessert that would go well with the main course and in accordance with their social and economic level.

In addition, it is important to underline here that David Martin’s theory[36] is a bit questionable. This theory claims that the Catholic monopoly is a method of uniting or dividing societies and groups, given that it is a constant in all generalized discussions regarding belief systems. This does not mean that believers seek to break the monopoly in order to generate religious pluralism. As seen in our study, during the secularization process, the fact that historical religions monopolize the system, does not prevent people from abandoning institutionalized beliefs and practices of monopolizing religions in order to believe in or practice marginalized religiosities.

Karel Dobbelaere proposed a very promising but somewhat incomplete multidimensional definition of secularization and suggested that people are moving toward religiosity elements of our time. In Dobbelaere’s opinion, the secularization concept is linked to the subjectivization of religion, the de-institutionalization of beliefs, the transformation of religious groups, the emergence of a variety of religious options (that debilitate the former monopoly of institutionalized religions) and the re-localization of the sacred within society. All of these assertions, to some extent, are true, although his perspective continues to lean too much toward Unitarianism. There is a subjectivization of religious elements, but there is also a clear objectivization of people in society, meaning that people consciously externalize the internal aspect of religion within different groups and communities. We can certainly speak about the de-institutionalization of beliefs, only in the case where the dynamic of interrelation and interdependence that exists between the religious, magical and mythical spheres (and in today’s context, the secular sphere) is not taken into account. It is more accurate to speak in terms of new and consistent re-institutionalizations of religiosity. There is undoubtedly a variety of religious options; however, we propose to speak in terms of multi-localization of the sacred and/or of religiosity through the constant redistribution and renewal of religions.

This way, the issue concerning where to situate the tension between the profane and the sacred is left open, thus, no longer addressing the issue in terms of categorical separation, but rather in terms of two entities that complement each other in an oscillating dynamic. Moreover, the case of multireligiosity forces us to reconsider two concepts: the decline of adhesion of individuals based on past standards (the process of laicization or separation of institutions between the Church and the State) and religious change involving the transformations that occur within organizations, leading to the emergence of new groups and the decline of others. Perhaps we would also need to analyze the historical dynamic in which religiosity is considered eternal and innate in groups and communities (sociability-socializing-socialized). This aspect is generally created within the geo-temporal context by a specific belief system, having an internal dynamic that will always be shaped by the religious, magical and mythical spheres of society.

Our objective in this article was to define some reflective and empirical elements of religiosity forms, which, despite their importance, tend not to be the focus of studies in the field of sociology. In this case study, we have proposed a series of critical elements with respect to the virtues as well as inconsistencies of current secularization theories. The aim was to prove that discussions related to this topic show signs of a quasi sacred character, as though it were dealing with a type of secularization of the secularization theory, the latter transforming into the fate of belief systems. Consequently, "believers" of different “secular churches” confront each other in order to legitimize the appropriation of the generation of symbols and the interpretation of the transcendental. Focusing on the subject in this fashion hinders the scope of research in this area, thus limiting it to an evolutionist analysis, rather than in terms of interdependent spheres, including the topic of our article, the study of contemporary urban multireligiosity in Mexico. Religiosity should be viewed in terms of the combination, blending or complementarity of elements and not the accumulation of elements. Thus, there is much work to be done in order to build heuristic elements that would provide a different perspective on religiosity, other than the one proposed by secularization theories.

[1] In the IX Latin American Congress on Religion and Ethnicity in Lima, Peru, hosted by the Latin American Association for Religious Studies (ALER), symposium No. 18, coordinated by Francisco Diez de Velasco, addressed the topic of Multireligiosity in Latin America. During this symposium, new and past contributions regarding this topic were addressed. Multireligiosity was considered as a plausible definition of the diversity or plurality of religions, similar to multiculturalism in the field of culture. During the symposium, participants did not address general religious diversity (and the diverse character of religions throughout the world, although there are no important interrelations), but rather the combining of this diversity in specific contexts. Analyzing multireligiosity requires statistic data analysis (and in general, a socio-geographical analysis of religions) within the region in which the study is being carried out, in order to be able to gauge the importance of the elements and their dynamic. The key aspects that have led to the tremendous development of multireligiosity today are immigration, conversion and tradition.

[2] From the perspective of Saint Augustine, the characteristic part of beliefs and faith is that we are dealing with an act of trust vis-à-vis divine truths, which entails believing without necessarily understanding. What one understands is not essential in order for Faith to have value and merit. Understanding does not mean believing, but rather seeing, and faith only exists when there is no visual proof. Thus, belief makes the invisible, visible. Cf. The Gospel according to Saint John, chapter VIII, vol. XXXVII.

[3] The studies conducted by Lopéz Austin, Miguel León Portilla, Jacques Soustelle and Fernando Benítez among others, are emblematic of indigenous, native or Meso-American religiosity. Félix Báez-Jorge, Saúl Millán, Johanna Broda and many others, as well as the collection of INI texts, Fiestas de los Pueblos indígenas de México (Celebrations in Mexican Indigenous towns) address popular religiosity and exemplify this field. Lastly, a book by Roberto Blancarte called The History of the Catholic Religion in Mexico, FCE/El Colegio Mexiquense, Mexico, 1992, is one of many examples of studies done on Mexican Catholicism.

[4] Rural multireligiosity also exists, which is similar in some respects to what is known as popular religiosity, as Gramsci has coined.

[5] By domination, we refer to the legitimate existence of an entity (in this case, a sacred entity) that exerts power over the other entities that exist in the same space. This type of domination can manifest itself in various ways, such as imposition, tolerance, indifference, etc.

[6] For some researchers, pluralism is only defined with respect to polytheism, because pluralism contributes to the relativization of all values and morals that were originally perceived as stable and well established. This undoubtedly involves divergences in the definition, which in our opinion, are linked to the idea of power relationships that exist in all social interactions. Cf. Patricia Fortuna Loret de Mola (Ed.), Creyentes y creencias en Guadalajara, Antropología CIESAS, CONACULTA, INAH, Sep-Conacyt, Mexico, 1999, p.25.

[7] To learn more about the synthesis of the syncretic, see Claude Rivière, Socio-anthropologie des religions, Cursus, Armand Colin, Paris, 2003, pp. 123, 166 and 171.

[8] One of the main observations that have been made about Nestor García Canclini, in his book Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving Modernity, (Mexico, Grijalbo, 1990, translation by Christopher L. Chiappari and Silvia L. López, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), was precisely the lack of systematic reflection in order to define hybridization and the use of the same concept for all cultural interrelations that are produced in a globalized world. In the new edition, 2001, the author recognizes that this aspect was insufficiently handled in the previous publication, for which he provides a more systematic definition of hybridization. He understands this concept as “socio-cultural processes in which structures or practices that exist separately combine with each other to generate new structures, objects and practices”, pp. III, op., cit. Nonetheless, there are still some elements lacking in order to use this theory in analyzing multireligiosity.

[9] Taking elements from an exogenous religiosity (multireligious combining) would lead to strengthening a follower's faith, rather than challenge it, and this would apply to all groups: Catholics, Protestants, Jews, atheists, etc.

[10] Cf. Alain Badiou, Saint Paul: La fondation de l'universalisme, "Les Essais du Collège international de philosophie" collection, Paris, PUF, 1997. (Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, trans. by Ray Brassier, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003).

[11] As the reader will see later on, owing to the little data obtained within different religious groups among Mexico City dwellers, we have only used the data collected from Catholic followers. Given that this group is much larger than the rest, more information was gathered, allowing for a complete quantitative analysis.

[12] For some time now various researchers have studied what is called civil religions, which are belief systems and practices that are related to new religiosities that have emerged mainly as a result of the French Revolution and the foundation of the secular State. During this period, parallel to the anticlericalism movement, certain cults emerged, including the Goddess of Reason, of Progress, etc. Cf. Jean Baubérot, Histoire de la laïcité française, Paris, PUF (Que sais-je?), 2003; Marcel Gauchet, La religión dans la democratie, parcours de la laïcité, Le Débat, Paris, Gallimard, 1998; and José Maria Mardones, Para comprender las nuevas formas de la religión: La reconfiguración postcristiana de la religión, Editorial Verbo Divino, Navarra, 1994, pp. 31 and over.

[13] The predominance of anthropological studies of the English-Speaking world has led to directly associating ethnography with qualitative research. Qualitative research is, in fact, a separate field. It entails using all tools linked to participative observation, extensive interviews and field journals (in which usages and customs are recorded qualitatively) and then putting all the quantitative tools into one box and using them for different methods of observation. Cf. Claude Rivière, Introduction à l’anthropologie, Hachette, Supérieur, Les fondamentaux collection, Paris, 1995.

[14] A vivid example of this approach, which has made progress in the academic world, is the classic study by Danièle Hervieu-Léger in collaboration with Françoise Champion, Vers un nouveau Christianisme? (Éditions du Cerf, Paris, 1986), in which the authors de-mystify the idea of homogenization of the Catholic religion in Europe, to the detriment of Pagan cults during the Middle Ages. The authors emphasize the participation (generally in an intrinsic fashion) of these cults in consolidating Catholicism, resulting in the range of nuances that, today, are a part of institutional liturgy of French Catholicism. Moreover, the authors speak in terms of a transfigured, incomplete or ruined Christianity. See mainly chapter III. We would also like to mention the concept of the same Eucharist in Catholic liturgy: was this sacramental event (miracle) not challenged by the Calvinists, precisely in order to hinder the aspects that are too close to the magic realm, such as, the spontaneously transforming of the blood and body of Christ into sacred bread and wine?

[15] We are mainly referring to the secularization theories that make reference to Rationalization (Weber, Bryan, Wilson), Globalization, Differentiation (functionalism), Pluralization (Berger), Privatization (Luckmann), Generalization (the Durkhemian current: Parsons, Bellah), Deterioration (Wilson), Utilitarianism (Rodney Stark). Cf. Stephen J. Hunt, Religion in Western Society, Palgrave, New Cork, 2002 and José Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1994.

[16] It is clear that given all of these theoretical interpretations and explanations regarding secularization, it is too early to speak in terms of paradigms. What is certain is that many analyses, laboratories in social science, sociological theories, and so forth, are related to this topic, using secularization to explain concepts of modern and contemporary society, including religious concepts, Ibidem.

[17] Claude Rivière, Socio-anthropologie des religions, Cursus, Armand Colin/Masson, Paris, 1997. In this book, the author underlines the need to observe religious phenomena from a perspective other than the secularization theory viewpoint. He mentions the importance of deciphering beliefs through mythical stories, ritual theories and through reinterpreting magic and Shamanism.

[18] Both in Mexico and the Federal District, Catholics make up 83% of those surveyed, thus the majority of religious followers in the country. Over the past 10 years, the number of Evangelist groups registered has exceeded that of Catholic groups. According to Sub-Secretary of Religious Issues, Evangelist churches have registered 3,130 groups and have 36,776 ministers, while Catholic churches have registered 2,799, and have 19,195 ministers (churches of non-Christian religions barely reaching 137 ministers). In the Federal District, there are 12,228 buildings registered for religious purposes. Of these buildings, approximately 7,000 are used by the Catholic Church, and some 5,000 are used by Evangelist groups. In the last 5 years, Evangelists have opened approximately 2,000 new temples. This does not imply, however, that there is a threat to the Catholic religion (that continues to be by far the majority) owing to the Protestant and Evangelist proliferation, but rather a substantial increase in these practices and beliefs in certain regions of the country, including Mexico City. According to the World Values Survey, op. cit., the people of Mexico in recent years have been in search of the divine and the spiritual. After family and work, religion is the most important element for Mexicans. The belief in God is almost unanimous and today, 98% of adult Mexicans declare that they believe in God. They all believe in the concept of the soul, heaven, hell and even life after death. Therefore, over the past few years, the presence of institutional religious beliefs has not weakened, but significantly strengthened in Mexico.

[19] On this point, we agree with P.F. Loret de Mola’s (op. cit., p. 21) proposal that claims that the subjectivization of belief systems consists, in part, in transforming the objective or institutionalized dogma into something emotional or experimental, and that religious content, therefore, becomes relativized.

[20] Source: The data was obtained from the survey conducted by the author and the students of the research workshop “Ethnicity, Development and Religion” of the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, during the last trimester of 2002 and the first trimester of 2004.

[21] See the World Values Survey, op., cit., and Los mexicanos de los noventa (The Mexicans of the Nineties), op., cit., for more general and complementary information.

[22] Pierre Thuillier claims that Science in the western world appears to be building a “religious” type of institution that promotes scientific faith, ethics, hope, scatology and myths. Cf. Science et société, Essais sur les dimensions culturelles de la science, Fayard, Paris, 1988, p.12-13.

[23] See the reflections made by E. Morin, in the context of mass consumption, in his book entitled, El espíritu del tiempo, Taurus, Madrid, 1966, or the ideas of Gilbert Rist and Marie Perrot Dominique in Les Mythologies programées, PUF, Paris, 1992. All of these works confirm beyond a doubt the main characteristic of man: the hommo-credos.

[24] Cf. C. W. Leadbeater, Ángeles custodios, protectores invisibles, Berbera editores, Mexico, 2001. The fact of believing in angels does not categorically separate these people from hegemonic and institutional belief systems of the same religion. Angels are a part of practically the majority of historical religions, such Christianity, Islam and Oriental religions, even though angels are external elements of institutional religiosity (or those perceived as such). In any case, one would need only to conduct a single survey to see the importance of angels for Catholic Mexicans. The esoteric element of believing in angels, as has been observed, also entails angel believers using crystals and gems, the same ones that are found in markets in Mexico City. In addition, this element has gone as far as entering into associations, such as the archeological zones like Teotihuacan Tepoztlán, Uxmal, among others. See Marco Lara Klahr, “Mercadotecnia y Angelomanía: ecos del esoterismo de la New Age a fin de Milenio”, in Ritos y creencias del Nuevo Milenio, una perspectiva transcultural, Revista Académica para el estudio de las religiones, vol. III, Mexico, 2000.

[25] Source: The data was obtained from the survey conducted by the author and the students of the research workshop “Ethnicity, Development and Religion” of the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, during the last trimester of 2002 and the first trimester of 2004.

[26] It is interesting to observe the quantity of films, television series, esoteric programs, publications, stores and cable television stations dedicated to esoterism that refer to the existence of energies in our daily lives. The belief in energies is closely related to unidentifiable, anonymous symbolism, that is more universal and less hierarchical and centralized, given that it appeals to the leading upper classes of educated people from a specific age group (in terms of generation) that is affiliated with the contemporary cultural revolution of the twentieth century. In other words, we are referring to the offspring of the generation of 68, with their cultural ups and downs and contemporary mysticisms (the Regina Phenomena).

[27] This term is distinct from the laicization process, proposed by K. Dobbelaere to define secularization. Cf. K. Dobbelaere, Secularización: un concepto Multi-dimensional, UIA, Mexico, 1994.

[28] This figure coincides with the percentage in the first chart concerning less common practices and beliefs of the reformed versions of marginal religiosities. See Martínez Assad, (“Diversidad religiosa”, Revista semestral de estudios regionales Eslabones, issue No. 14 July/December, 1997, pp. 5-15), where the author claims that “the process of modernization separates society from standards and values promoted by the Catholic Church to adopt a secular way of living, which involves at least two aspects. Firstly, Catholicism loses the influence it once had in being the spiritual guide of society; and secondly, it becomes more present in debates regarding temporary issues. However, new forms of religiosity emerge, which are linked to organizations. Although these organizations have collective goals, generally speaking, they are subject to individual experiences that bring on new ways of expression in Catholicism," p. 9. Cf. E. Morin, El espíritu del tiempo, op., cit.

[29] In a survey (Alducín and associates, Estudios sobre valores, opiniones, expectativas y mercados, Mexico, November, 1996), the researchers found that 16.8% of those surveyed in metropolitan municipalities and in the Federal District, participate in what is known as new religions, Cf. Martínez Assad, op., cit. In the surveys conducted by the team led by P. F. Loret de Mola, op., cit., p. 21, they demonstrated that similar to the city of Guadalajara at the end of the twentieth century, important changes within the area of religion had occurred. A resistant and anchored Catholicism became a multiform Catholicism, in which beliefs incessantly move from orthodoxy to heterodoxy.

[30] There is a difference between rationality, rationalism, rationalist and scientific. The last two constitute types of belief systems.

[31] The strongest trend in academia was to unite all belief spheres, from a religious perspective, which, in our opinion, makes it difficult to analyze the symbolic processes of the different societies, particularly today.

[32] Unquestionably, this heuristic approach is similar to the discussion around the definition proposed by P. F. Loret de Mola, op., cit., p. 18, with respect to religion according to which it is not only the “system of beliefs and practices that are found within an institution, but also the religious beliefs that exist in the private sphere (family and/or small groups) originating from outside of traditional institutions” or individualized and subjective practices combined with magical and mythical elements that do not stem from the religious structure. (Section in italics is the opinion of the author of this article). Even though there are aspects in this citation that should be taken into consideration, this definition is still not sufficiently precise in order to be able to analyze religiosity phenomena. As we have claimed in this section, we feel that beliefs and acts of faith should be approached in terms of religiosity and a distinction should be made in terms of religion and the religious. While religiosity can be found in both the institutional and the non-institutional, religion (along with institutional beliefsdogma) the religious (together with institutional practicesliturgy) essentially deal with the institutional aspect of beliefs.

[33] On one hand, secularization could be considered as a process inscribed in a belief system characteristic of scientific or rationalist occidental modernity that has developed on par with other systems. On the other hand, secularization theories represent the analytical and scientific debate within the system. The issue is when these theories are considered absolved from any religiosity schema or linked to institutional religious beliefs. From this point on, we will pursue the discussion of this topic based the following texts: D. Hervieu-Léger, Vers un nouveau christianisme?, op., cit. pp.187-227; Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion, Anchor Books Edition, 1990, originally published in 1967; Karel Dobbelaere, Secularization, op., cit., Stephen J. Hunt, op., cit., pp. 14-32; Michel Manson, Secularisation is Alive and Well and living in Australia, World Congress of Sociology, Brisbane, July 7-13, 2002.

[34] Catholicism represented a subsequent fallback in this respect. Reforms (with certain exceptions) took on renewed vigor and the fallibility of the Church, as a human creation, became once again apparent, leading to the beginning of the protestant sovereignty of God (and not of the Church), surpassing the ecclesiastic and institutional idolatry. Thus, the Church's political status was weakened, religious and economic (business) spheres and services became divided, which today, are primarily in the hands of the state (health, education and social well being).

[35] The main secularization movements in the history of mankind have religious roots and took place before the modern occidental era (according to Weber). Secularization does not have an intrinsic relationship with modernization, but rather with a specific belief system and with an historical process. However, the reverse situation is not valid. Modernization, at least according to some theorists, has an intrinsic tendency to produce secularization processes.

[36] D. Martin, A General Theory of Secularisation, Oxford Blackwell, 1978.

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