Today’s Western societies can be regarded as affluent societies that provide people with opportunities beyond basic necessities. These opportunities for individual self-realization are largely related to and facilitated by consumption. Modern affluent societies have been brought about by material and ideological changes, by industrialization and advances in the means of production, and by the ideas of enlightenment, which attempted to make material goods, at least in principle, legitimate for everyone and not only for the privileged few. However, affluence has not straightforwardly led to material wealth for all. It has not eliminated social problems; it has altered the context in which they emerge and has created new challenges (Lorenz 2015, pp. 2–4
Contemporary society marks a historically exceptional situation in which a considerable number of people live in profusion rather than paucity, and in which the central everyday question is not how to make ends meet but rather: How much is enough? This is demonstrated in many current commercial and communal trends that call attention to clearing, organising and living with material belongings. However, even though we are faced with abundance and excess, social theory has taken scarcity as its self-evident point of departure (e.g., Abbott 2014
The abundance of everyday life manifests particularly in food and eating. Excessive food consumption and wastage of food have been traditionally considered reprehensible, or even a sin. However, food excess also has a positive side; it enables virtuous acts, such as care, hospitality, communality, and charity (cf. Salonen 2016
; Evans 2012
; Miller 1997: 92
). Food consumption enables us to both care for and mistreat ourselves, others, the environment, and society. In everyday food consumption, we constantly face the question of how to lead an ethically sound life in the midst of a culture that is characterized by excess and waste.
Meanwhile, in recent decades, significant changes have been taking place in the field of the sociology of religion. As the traditional approaches within the discipline cannot cope with the state of affairs of religion in the contemporary world, it has been suggested that we ought to expand this field by looking, for example, at our research object from alternative perspectives (e.g., Spickard 2017
) and focusing on meaning systems other than religious ones (e.g., Dobbelaere 2014
). It seems insufficient to study religion as a belief system, as an institutional affiliation, or as an individual’s sense of the sacred or transcendent. In this article, I take these notions into account by distancing myself from the traditional approaches that primarily look at religion as a belief, and by engaging in thinking about this-worldly everyday practices that do not explicitly fall into the category of religion. In particular, I suggest that a great deal could be learned about the current dilemmas in the scholarly field of the sociology of religion through research that explores the moral underpinnings of everyday food consumption within contemporary society, which is characterized by abundance.
This article concentrates on post-Christian, Western consumer societies, where most of the food waste is produced on the household level, and were the implicit societal norms to which people still are invited to respond, descend historically from Christian theological heritage. Yet, I acknowledge that much could be learned by studying other contexts; for example, non-Christian cultural and religious traditions and the uneven distribution of food between the global North and South.
2. Reaching Outside the Belief Box
According to Vasquez
(2013, p. 23
), the issues currently facing the field of the sociology of religion are rooted in the history of sociology and modernity. Modernity has replaced faith and revelation by rationality and empirical observation. Social theorists’ conceptual separation of society and religion led to the idea of religion as a contingent, rather than fundamental matter in human social life. Even though religion played a central role in the writings of early social theorists, such as, for example, Max Weber, Émile Durkheim, and Karl Marx, their works construed religion as a perishable phenomenon, and thus its presence needed explanation (Vasquez 2013
; Beckford 1989
). As a consequence of the concomitant rise of the secularization paradigm, religion was cleared from the public sphere to the domain of the inessential (Vasquez 2013, pp. 27–28
), and it became defined as “individuals’ beliefs about matters that don’t matter politically” (Harvey 2014, p. 65
The idea(l) of religion that resulted from modernity was, according to Vasquez
(2013, pp. 30–32
), one in which Christianity—particularly in its Protestant form—became the paradigm for modern religion. This paradigm primarily considers religion as a deeply held set of beliefs that orient and shape the behaviour of groups and individuals. Harvey
(2013, pp. 41, 54
) states that the pivotal problem in the contemporary study of religion, which dates back to these early modern premises, is the “scholarly belief in belief”, that is: the idea that religion is about believing. Both Harvey and Vasquez argue that overcoming this bias would enhance scholarly attempts to understand the rich reality of religion entwined in human life (Harvey 2013
; Vasquez 2013, p. 38
In their search for other ways to approach religion, many researchers have turned to mundane, everyday life. Harvey
) suggests that, instead of approaching religion as a belief in God or as a representation of ultimate concerns, it should be understood as an everyday matter: “Religion has everything to do with the relationships that constitute, form, and enliven people in everyday activities in this material world” (Harvey 2013, p. 2
). According to this view, religion is about negotiated practices of embodiment, about materiality rather than transcendent ideas and ideals; about power, discipline, and relationality between people and between human and nonhuman animals (Harvey 2013, p. 71
; cf. Beaman 2017b
In recent decades, in the field of the sociology of religion, many similar efforts have been made to rethink the study of religion “outside the belief-box”. In this regard, a particularly significant research tradition is “lived religion”. The lived religion approach deals with the manifestations of religion in the everyday life and the lived experiences of individuals. Instead of placing religion in the realm of official religious doctrine, clear-cut religious affiliation or pre-formulated and postulated beliefs and formal religious practice, this approach focuses on rituals, identity, mundane practices, and fluid, variable experiences. The study of lived religion emerged as a response to the inability of the theories of rational choice and secularization to explain the manifold reality in which religious manifestations occur in the contemporary world (McGuire 2008
; Ammerman 2014
). In the past three decades, lived religion approaches have significantly influenced research. According to Ammerman
(2016, p. 95
), “by insisting that we begin with experiences among ordinary people in everyday life, our field has been magnificently transformed”.
The shift in the research focus from beliefs and formal religious practices to everyday life has resulted in many suggestions of how and where one ought to study religion. For example, in her quest to revise the scholarly approaches to the study of religion, McGuire
(2008, p. 4
) suggests that, instead of studying affiliation or organizational participation, one should focus “first on individuals, the experiences they consider most important, and the concrete practices that make up their personal religious experience and expression”. In a similar vein, Ammerman calls for an integrated definition of religion that would incorporate various sorts of spiritualties. Instead of oppositions and sharp divisions between the sacred and the profane, the notions should be seen on a continuum, or as different ways of looking at and interacting with the world (Ammerman 2014, pp. 290–91
(2005, p. 2
), in turn, encourages “[t]hinking of religion as relationships between heaven and earth with the specific shapes that relationships take in particular times and spaces” in research. All in all, the research on lived religion calls attention to individual experiences, practices, and actions, to intermingling rather than distinguishing between the sacred and the profane, and to relationships and relationality between beings.
In addition to lived religion, another significant thread in the recent academic discussions on religion has been the question of nonreligion. Recently, sociologists of religion have started to pay close attention to the fact that in many parts of North America and Europe, a growing population of people are identifying themselves as “nons” (Woodhead 2017
; Beaman and Tomlins 2015
). Empirically, the growth of nonreligion is evident in many survey results, which show that people are increasingly reporting that they follow no religion, as opposed to affiliating with any particular religious organization of tradition. According to Woodhead
), nonreligion is the new normal; a noteworthy option in expressing a (non)religious identity in many European and North American societies.
It is important to note, however, that nonreligious people do not constitute a unified group. The category of nonreligion comprises atheists, agnostics, and humanists, together with those who do not wish to define themselves at all in the line of traditional religious categories. It has been suggested that the most significant characteristic of nonreligion in today’s societies might be indifference (Beaman 2017b, p. 16
). Be that as it may, in Woodhead’s (Woodhead 2017, p. 250
) words, “[o]ne of the most striking findings of research on the nons in liberal democracies is just how indistinct they are from the wider populations in their home countries in many respects”. She continues to argue that nonreligious people “tick the ‘no religion’ box on surveys as a way of clearing the ground for a unique identity and refusing to be classed with those who are willing to see themselves as examples of a category” (Woodhead 2017, p. 253
). This characterization of nonreligion aligns with wider cultural tendencies that emphasize authenticity, reflexivity, and the individual self as the primary locus of authority in forming personal identity.
Despite the growing interest in nons and nonreligion as a phenomenon, there is still much to explore in terms of the diversity of nonreligion, particularly in the context of everyday life. According to Beaman
(2017b, p. 10
) specific challenges are provided by “those spaces of flexibility, indecision, life course, and relational interaction that defy categorization and measurement”. Such spaces have in recent decades been meritoriously occupied by scholars of lived religion. However, the lived religion approach has been delimited to a search of expressions and forms of religion in everyday life, and, in a sense, has become defined by what it excludes (cf. Ammerman 2016
). Thus, there is a need for research on lived (non)religion, that is, the everyday expressions and manifestations of nonreligion and the ways in which people or communities who do not necessarily or primarily identify as religious, see the world, and their own and others’ place in it (cf. Beaman 2017b, p. 11
3. Everyday Ethics and Food Consumption in the Study of Religion
If one agrees with the suggestion that there is indeed a need to study lived (non)religion, then the question inevitably arises as to how and where this should be done. This section presents two spheres of everyday life which, in my view, might prove instructive: everyday food consumption and everyday ethics. The selection of these two domains as potential targets of research is based on insights from previous research, but also on the notion that both of these spheres provide unique possibilities to transcend and outdo crucial distinctions within social sciences in a way that can feed the sociological imagination in relation to research on (non)religion.
First, focusing on ordinary ethical conduct can provide an arena for research that exceeds the clear-cut boundaries between religion and nonreligion. Previous research on lived religion and nonreligion suggests that these research fields are closely connected to leading an ethical life. According to Ammerman, for example, lived religion is about our everyday decisions on how to live. In her study of religion in the everyday life of ordinary Americans, almost all of the study participants agreed that real spirituality is about living a virtuous life (Ammerman 2014, pp. 3, 45
), in turn, discusses nonreligion in the light of “living well together”. In her study of sea turtle rescue as a site of shared human experience that moves beyond specific religious or nonreligious beliefs and practices, she investigated lived nonreligion by asking what motivates people and how they understand their place in the world and in the environment in which they live. The study suggests that lived nonreligion concerns everyday ethics, particularly when contextualized to sites that involve actions toward bettering or repairing the world (Beaman 2017b
). Together, research of lived religion and research of nonreligion enter a territory that has a pervasive ethical dimension. Importantly, however, it is not only pursuing good that falls into their purview. Religion, or nonreligion, is not always about doing good things or being nice; it also involves the possibility of harm and violence (Harvey 2014
Taking ethics as the starting point for a study of lived (non)religion is also akin to the perspective of ongoing boundary work between academic disciplines. Recently, critical notions have been expressed about how empirical research has failed to pay attention to the moral and ethical dimensions of social life, and how sociology has broken away from the research of morality. There is a need for sociologists to (re)consider questions of ethics and practical philosophy (e.g., Sayer 2004
; Honneth 2010
; Hitlin and Vaisey 2013
), and in the field of social sciences, sociologists of religion are especially well equipped for this task. As an example, in his effort to restore the moral dimension of sociology, Sayer
) starts by asking the reader to reflect on questions such as “What do you care most about?” and “How do you feel you should be treated by others?” These questions are at the heart of research traditions within the sociology of religion which emphasize the lived experiences of ordinary people. Scholars studying religion (may) occupy a niche of sociology in which questions of morality and practical philosophy are particularly relevant. Beaman describes this momentum in the sociology of religion elegantly, by recounting how studying sea turtle rescue provides “insight into an emerging way of engaging with and conceptualizing the world that sociologists of religion are uniquely positioned to describe, measure, and understand” (Beaman 2017b, p. 9
Second, food consumption is an intriguing topic through which to study lived (non)religion, since food is such a prevalent topic in everyday discussions and practices. Food consumption consists of the practices through which people acquire, process, eat, and dispose of food; the meanings they give to these practices; and, the ways in which these practices construct meanings (cf. Dallam et al. 2014, p. xviii
). It relates to multiple moral issues in ordinary life, including caring, identity, health, and aesthetics (Grauel 2016
), for example, refers to certain foodways, such as veganism and locavorism as quasireligious, since they serve as individual and group identity markers and enable people to engage in discourses of meaning and community.
Eating is also an interesting arena for social research, since it surpasses the dichotomy between individualism on the one hand, and sociability and collective action on the other. As Simmel
( 1997, p. 130
) puts it, eating is an exceptional sphere of life in that it involves having to absolutely forego that which the other person eats. Actually, according to Simmel, it is only the Eucharist that enables participants to eat the same, mysterious, unbroken whole. At the same time, despite its banal individualism, eating is universal, as everybody must eat, and this fact creates a space for social interaction, community, aesthetics, and norms. The trivial fact that we all consume it enables food to have such tremendous social significance. In a similar vein, Wirzba
(2013, p. 376
) describes the dual significance of food by stating that, from the theological perspective, food “matters because eating is the most regular and intimate way in which we place ourselves in the world. It is the most fundamental way in which we connect our lives with others”.
However, despite the pervasiveness of food and eating in everyday life, in the history of theological thinking, Christianity seems to have held an ambivalent view on food. The sinfulness of food is evident in the narrative of Adam and Eve and in the positioning of gluttony as the cardinal sin that stimulates others. On the other hand, in the Eucharist, food and wine become the body of Christ and are thus given the utmost role in Christian liturgical life (Grummet 2014
). Nevertheless, outside these extremes, the role of food in Christian theology seems to be indistinct, even though eating has been religiously significant in many everyday practices and for several religious groups throughout the history. Grummet
) outlines three structural reasons why Christianity’s stance toward food is ambivalent. First of all, the early Christian theological thinking that focused on the relationships between the body and food influenced later theological outlooks, and food-related practices became considered as either a sin (according to the anti-assimilationist view that deemed the functions that food sustained as sinful) or indifferent (based on thinking that religious virtue primarily concerned internal prayer and not physical life). According to Grummet
(2014, p. 15
), the view of the soul as detachable from the physical body still inspires attitudes that consider dietary matters as unimportant in Christian life. Second, even though eating and drinking are at the heart of Christian thinking in the form of the Eucharist, Grummet
(2014, pp. 15–16
) suggests that the understanding of the Eucharist as primarily representing liturgy led to diverting theological attention away from everyday acts of eating. Paradoxically, food and drink have gained significance in the Eucharist by becoming something else. Third, the differentiation of Christianity and food is related to the differentiation of Christianity from other religions, particularly from Judaism. This boundary-making by taking distance from food rules might still have an effect on the indecisive relationship of Christian culture with food and foodways. Thus, while the contemporary secularized Western societies no longer explicitly adhere to such theological notions, they nevertheless in their part form the historical backdrop against which also current ambivalences regarding religion and food can be understood.
Regardless of this ambivalent legacy of theology, food and eating share strong connections with religion, and this is also true to some extent in today’s Western, secularized world. Previous literature on lived religion shows that in many ways, food practices incorporate personal religious or spiritual meanings. Courtney Bender’s study Heaven’s Kitchen
) gives an example of the ways in which cooking and care provide avenues for people to assign personal meaning to everyday practices. Similarly, Ammerman’s study participants spoke about food and eating in relation to frugality, inequalities, eating together, and caring for the earth; some referred to disciplined eating as a spiritual practice (Ammerman 2014, pp. 232–37, 254
). In Beaman’s (Beaman 2017a
) scrutiny of accepting religious differences in everyday life, some ordinary moments and encounters over a meal turned out to be significant. All in all, these studies hint that everyday ethics, food consumption, and lived (non)religion share a common basis.
In his effort to seek a way out of modernist tendencies to cognitively define religion in terms of beliefs and believing, Harvey goes as far as to suggest that “[p]erhaps religion (as a locus of scholarly attention) ought to be defined not as believing but as eating” (Harvey 2015, p. 32
). In other words, the study of food not only tells us about religions; it helps us to understand religion. So far, research on religion, food and eating has mainly concentrated on specific foodways or specific religious groups and communities (Zeller 2015, p. 12
). The collection of articles in the book Religion, food and eating in North America
(Zeller et al. 2014
) provides a timely example of the multiple ways in which these issues are connected and studied. In this article, I propose a slightly different approach: a shift from how and what certain religious groups or individuals eat to how eating constitutes and reflects the ethical worlds of secular societies and people who may or may not be religious.
In the next section, I present three selected insights into food consumption in contemporary society. None of them are explicitly related to religion. However, I suggest that they still (or hence) might assist us in understanding lived (non)religion. I have selected studies that operate on different levels of analysis. These include research into the ways in which individuals negotiate ethical food consumption, an analysis of contemporary public and scientific discourses of food and health, and research on societal practices in which surplus food is utilized for eating purposes. Importantly, all of the selected viewpoints provide insights into the responses towards the abundance of food in contemporary affluent societies.
The rise of nonreligion as a significant social phenomenon blurs the categories of the religious and the secular (Woodhead 2017, p. 249
). It forces us to rethink both the object of our research and the contexts of our studies. In her article about sea turtle rescue and lived nonreligion, Beaman
(2017b, p. 27
) called on sociologists of religion
“to reimagine our research in ways that extend our focus from religious groups, to the interaction between religion and nonreligion and to the environment that supports us and with which we are intimately connected. By so doing we are better able to capture the ways in which religion is folded into everyday life. These crossroads of increased nonreligion intersecting with religion in the context of a necessary reconfiguration of our relationship to the natural world not only opens a space of uncertainty, but also a space of opportunity for social scientists”.
In this article, I have tried to sketch a preliminary, suggestive answer to this call by presenting some insights from studies of food consumption that have the potential to educate us in this emerging field.
The examples above first suggest that studying the ethics of everyday food consumption could provoke further thoughts regarding the research of lived (non)religion, by showing how people navigate between outspoken commitments and lived practices, or between ethical ideals and indifference. As stated above, indifference to religion might be the most significant characteristic of contemporary nonreligion. However, this indifference does not mean ethical indifference or moral unconcern. People—whether religious or not—are today as interested as ever in the surrounding world and give meanings to everyday incidents and perceptions of the wider whole in a way that makes reference to good and bad, or to right and wrong. In the words of Andrew Sayer, “our relation to the world is not merely causal and interpretative, but one of concern” (Sayer 2011, p. 20
). The participants of Evans’ study rejected being indifferent to everyday foodstuffs; instead they invested in their actions with profound concern, even though the food was eventually wasted. On the other hand, when asked to reflect their foodways, the participants of Grauel’s (Grauel 2016
) study seemed to adhere to the ideals of responsible consumption, while their everyday practices were possibly toned by ethical indifference, or by taste and desire, rather than responsibility. However, as Johnston and Baumann
(2007, p. 199
) note, following Bourdieu
), in culinary consumption, even disinterestedness is a form of taking a stance. In traditional approaches to religion, people have the opportunity to opt out by ticking the “no religion” box. In the context of food consumption, withdrawal is not an option. The study of food consumption can thus teach the sociology of religion about people’s everyday struggles of being both concerned and indifferent towards ethically laden matters in ordinary life, in both religious and nonreligious contexts.
Second, the above studies on public health discourse suggest that food consumption is a discursive realm on which health is given the role of a qualitative and quantitative measuring rod that determines how we ought to live. Studying food consumption can educate the sociology of religion in the legitimate sources of authority and discipline in the contemporary world. On the level of public discourse, contemporary lived (non)religion calls for living a virtuous life that is centred around embodied practices of moderation and self-control, with references to nutrition and health sciences rather than divine authorities. The discourses of food aim to respond to abundance both with regard to the governance of food consumption and in terms of moralizing excessive physical bodies. In Grummet’s (Grummet 2014, p. 4
) words “[d]ietary practices are increasingly prominent as secular spiritual disciplines, being an area of everyday life in which practitioners seek to recover order, meaning, and purpose without making any personal commitment to Christianity or any other institutional religion”. In a similar vein, but with additional reference to the scientific knowledge regarding nutrition, Coveney
(2006, p. xvi
) states that
“nutrition functions for modern subjects […] as both scientific and spiritual […] discipline. In other words, its serves a dual function by providing a range of scientific knowledges about food and the body through which individuals can be ‘objectified’, and by providing them with rapports á soil, or ‘spiritual’ discipline. ‘Spiritual’ here does not necessarily equate with ‘theological’ but refers to the means by which individuals are required to construct themselves with a ‘correct’ concern for the ‘proper’ way of behaving in relation to eating”.
These disciplines do not only have the ability to provide insights into the individual, privatized forms of contemporary lived (non)religion, but into the ways and means by which they are materialized, produced, and reproduced in various public institutions, including scientific discourses.
Third, at the level of institutional practices, studying food consumption can instruct the sociology of religion by making the point that both food consumption and religion are lived, everyday matters that go beyond individual meanings and experiences and collective moral discourses, to the things that we do and value as communities and societies. Wirzba
(2013, p. 378
) outlines the theological value of food by stating that it “nurtures by building a community of responsibility and care, a community in which life together is affirmed as good”. In other words, communal and societal food practices reflect societies as caring communities and expose their ideals of living together. However, it is not necessarily only the good side of living together that is affirmed in food consumption. Neither food consumption or religion are only nice things; they can—and often do—also involve harm. The above examples of surplus food reuse suggest that, at the societal level, in an affluent society, everyday food consumption brings forth responses to abundance that blur the boundaries between the vice of gluttony and the virtue of charity, and between legitimate and illegitimate (or illegal) actions. At the same time, the institutional practices feed back to the individuals by providing or imposing identities on people who participate or are influenced by them.
In the above sections, I have concentrated on studies that operate on different levels of analysis. I have provided examples from individual, discursive and institutional perspectives to illustrate how the everyday ethics of food consumption could help researchers to understand the currents of lived religion and nonreligion in a way that evades the idea of religion as a certain set of practices or beliefs, or as a specific religious affiliation. The discussion has left outside many questions concerning gender and race, as well as regional and food access issues. However, I acknowledge that a lot could be learned from these perspectives, too. The questions of gender, ethnicity, and social class would deserve more room than is possible to provide within the limits of one article in a way that would do justice to them. However, I hope that this article prompts new research that takes these themes seriously into account. At the individual level, for example, women still often bear the greatest responsibility for obtaining, managing, and disposing of food in many households, and the pressures caused by public health discourses about the representations of ideal bodies are unevenly distributed between class, gender and race (see, e.g., Cairns and Johnston 2015
). Moreover, even in societies that are characterized by affluence, the questions concerning food access and equal distribution of food remain important, begging to take into account various social and societal divides.
In this article, I have tried to unveil some potential sites that can prove insightful, if we take seriously the idea that religion is about living a virtuous life (Ammerman 2014
), and the suggestion that religion might better be defined as eating than believing (Harvey 2015
). As an opening, I suggest that food and eating provide one interesting avenue for research that transcends the boundaries between belief and practice, dogma and ethics, and religion and nonreligion. Eating can be seen as a lens through which to explore lived (non)religion; first, because of its ability to reveal how we engage in promoting good, and second, because it also reveals how we live and deal with or ignore the fact that our everyday practices cause harm, suffering, and violence. In other words, studying the ethics of everyday food consumption at various societal levels can guide us in studying how people either justify their deeds in order to take care of themselves, despite the acts of harm, or restrict their actions in order to take care of the well-being of others, as both individuals and societies, in both discourses and actions.
I consider the ideas presented in this article as preliminary suggestions that merit much further theoretical reflection and empirical research. By way of conclusion, I wish to point out some limitations and make some critical remarks. To begin with, as regards the linkages between food consumption and (non)religion, I do not claim that food consumption and foodways are equal to religion, or that they constitute a new religion in any way. There are many similarities between food consumption and the traditional conceptualizations of religion, such as their relations to rituals, beliefs, and practices. However, despite these resemblances, it would be a grave simplification to state that religion either reduces to foodways or that foodways merely “reflect” or “symbolize” religion as a tangible, this-worldly representation of something intangible and transcendent. Instead, I confine myself to suggesting that food consumption can serve as a point of departure for sociological research to understand the currents of lived religion and nonreligion in a way that evades the idea of religion as certain set of practices or beliefs or as a certain religious affiliation, yet allowing the study of matters, such as practices, beliefs, meanings, and belonging, as well as distancing, withdrawal, and indifference.
In addition, understanding lived (non)religion as everyday ethics requires two ancillary notions. First, such an approach entails recognizing people as both moral and rational beings. This stance relates to the Aristotelian view of human beings as striving for excellence and well-being (cf. Lambek 2010, p. 2
). Moral sentiments have a rational, referential aspect: people tend to justify what they think and do, and monitor or sense what they and other people do on a scale of right and wrong, or good and bad (Sayer 2004
). However, acknowledging that people are inclined towards moral reasoning need not mean that people have coherent moral or normative ideas; these are in fact often inconsistent, disparate, carried in stories and rituals, and are mixed with various situational logics rather than dogmatic tenets (Sayer 2004
; Ammerman 2014, p. 7
Second, understanding lived (non)religion as everyday ethics requires perceiving ethical conduct as situational, socially produced and reproduced, and inherent in speech and action. To paraphrase Askegaard et al.
(2014, p. 1802
), individuals and communities cannot escape moralising, just as they cannot escape communicating (or eating, I am tempted to add). I adhere to the idea of everyday ethics in a similar way to that of Michael Lambek and others, considering ethics as a part of the human condition, and “as relatively tacit, grounded in agreement rather than rule, in practice rather than knowledge or belief, and happening without calling undue attention to itself” (Lambek 2010, p. 2
). These tacit ethics become explicit, for example, through breaches, problems, and issues in which the right thing to do is unknown or contested (like when research participants struggle to present themselves as responsible consumers), through attempts to rationalize or educate (as in the scientific discourses on food and health) and through movements of social or ethical renewal (such as the incongruent efforts of food charity to fight food waste and food poverty). Everyday ethics is embedded in what individuals, communities and societies do as they deal with questions of good and bad, right and wrong; and when they respond to the challenges posed by the world around them. In contemporary society, this includes a necessary response to abundance. Routine everyday life is filled with ethical perspective-taking. Much of this becomes explicit in the situational contexts that require us to explicate or reflect our ordinary routines and practices. Hence, there are many opportunities for research.
Finally, the scene for lived (non)religion needs to be set with caution. This is particularly because such a task bears the danger of entrenching the division between religion and nonreligion, whereas based on what can be learned from the lived religion research tradition, the focus ought rather to be on reimagining, if not dissolving, such fixed boundaries. Moreover, Harvey
(2013, p. 65
) notes that the modern formation of categories in terms of religion has been accompanied by efforts to define the nonreligious, an undertaking that can itself be considered part of promoting particular (Protestant Christian) religious ideals as universal models for conceptualizing religion and the religious. However, I maintain that when studying particular western Christianity-influenced contexts, the concept of nonreligion has explanatory power; first, because it seems to serve as a point of reference on which many people can base their self-proclaimed identity, and second, because it aids in avoiding the impasse that is sometimes witnessed in inclusive lived religion approaches that seem to impose the category of religious on almost everything between heaven and earth. When dealing with individuals, religion is only one part of identity, and when it comes to society, religious traditions and histories lurk inevitably behind much of seemingly secular culture. With brackets, the concept of lived (non)religion can blur the boundary between religion and nonreligion and help to acknowledge the fuzziness, in-betweenness, and indecision regarding these terms, hence helping to steer the research focus on this-worldly affairs and “the real world religion” (cf. Harvey 2013