Religion and the Whole Human Experience

Nancy T. Ammerman

Nancy T. Ammerman
Boston University

Date: April 10, 2019
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road

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Social scientists and commentators are fond of pointing to signs that religion is declining or disappearing, citing everything from membership losses to fewer people who believe in a literal hell and the number of church buildings that are empty. But what if those aren’t the right measures? Scholars have increasingly been answering that question by pointing to ”lived religion.” Religion as lived encompasses all the ways we experience life – through our bodies, emotions, and aesthetic sensibility, by making things and telling stories that remind us of the sacred, and by finding a moral center to live by. All those things happen inside churches and synagogues and mosques, but they also happen in everyday life. They can be very personal, but they are also shaped by communities and traditions.

Speaker Bio

Nancy T. Ammerman

Nancy T. Ammerman joined Boston University's School of Theology faculty in 2003 as professor of sociology of religion, after having previously taught at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology (1984-95) and at Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research (1995-2003).  Since coming to Boston University, she has also served the College of Arts and Sciences as associate dean of the faculty for the social sciences (2015-18), as chair of the department of sociology (2007-13), and director of the graduate division of religious studies (2014-15). This spring marked her last semester of teaching before retirement.

Ammerman’s earliest work explored grassroots Fundamentalists and analyzed the organizational architecture of the 1980s conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. Her most recent research has focused on everyday lived religion across a wide religious and geographic spectrum, including working with Grace Davie (University of Exeter) to coordinate an international team of scholars to assess “Religions and Social Progress” for the International Panel on Social Progress.

Event Photos

Boisi Center event

Nancy Ammerman, professor of sociology of religion at Boston University, begins her April 10, 2019 luncheon colloquium, entitled "Religion and the Whole Human Experience."

Boisi Center event

Ammerman answers a question from the audience about populations who refer to themselves as "spiritual but not religious."

Mark Massa, S.J., at Boisi Center

Boisi Center director Mark Massa, S.J., introduces Professor Ammerman. (Photos by MTS Photography)

Read More


Brown, Callum G. Religion and the Demographic Revolution: Women and Secularization in Canada, Ireland, UK, and USA Since the 1960s. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Chaves, Mark. American Religion: Contemporary Trends. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011.

Hummel, Leonard M., James Frances Maynard and Mary Clark Moschella. Pastoral Bearings: Lived Religion and Pastoral Theology. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010.

Peterson, Paul Silas. The Decline of Established Christianity in the Western World: Interpretations and Responses. New York, NY: Routledge, 2018.  

Santana, Richard W. and Gregory Erickson. Religion and Popular Culture: Rescripting the Sacred. Second ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2016.

Seamon, Erika B. Interfaith Marriage in America: the Transformation of Religion and Christianity. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012.

Winston, Diane, ed. Small Screen, Big Picture: Television and Lived Religion. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009.    


Ammerman, Nancy T. “Finding Religion in Everyday Life.” Sociology of Religion 75, no.2 (2014): 189-207. 
DOI: 10.1093/socrel/sru013.

Brauer, Simon. “The Surprising Predictable Decline of Religion in the United States.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 57, no.4 (December 2018): 654-675. DOI: 10.1111/jssr.12551.

Denton, Melinda Lundquist. “Family Structure, Family Disruption, and Profiles of Adolescent Religiosity.” The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 51, no.1 (March 2012): 42 (23). DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5906.2011.01619.x.

Ellison, Christopher, Amy Burdette, and Terrence Hill. “Blessed Assurance: Religion, Anxiety, Tranquility Among U.S. Adults.” Social Science Research 38, no.3 (September 2009): 656-667. DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2009.02.002.

Stuaffer, Dana. “Tocqueville on the Modern Moral Situation: Democracy and the Decline of Devotion.” The American Political Science Review 108, no.4 (November 2014): 772-782. DOI: 10.1017/S0003055414000458.

Schwadel, Phillip. “Age, Period, and Cohort Effects on Religious Activities and Beliefs.” Social Science Research 40. No.1 (2011): 181-192. DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2010.09.006.

In the News

On February 24,2019, Derek Thompson published an article in The Atlantic titled “Workism Is Making Americans Miserable”, where he argues that one’s identity today revolves around one’s professional career and not one’s religious community.