|Reason to Believe: Cultural Agency in Latin American Evangelicalism|
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Evangelical Protestantism has arguably become the fastest-growing religion in South America, if not the world. For converts, it emphasizes self-discipline and provides a network of communal support, which together have helped many overcome substance abuse, avoid crime and violence, and resolve relationship problems. But can people simply decide to believe in a religion because of the benefits it reportedly delivers? Based on extensive fieldwork among Pentecostal men in Caracas, Venezuela, this rich urban ethnography seeks an explanation for the explosion of Evangelical Protestantism, unraveling the cultural and personal dynamics of Evangelical conversion to show how and why these men make the choice to convert, and how they come to have faith in a new system of beliefs and practices.
"This book masterfully combines ethnographic description with sophisticated theoretical analysis of the role that religion plays in the lives of men who are struggling with alcohol, drugs, and gambling in Venezuela. Based on three years of in-depth interviewing and observation in Caracas, David Smilde's study beautifully portrays the dynamics of male culture in a violent city and describes why some individuals decide to convert to the Pentecostal faith. Smilde makes a major contribution to our understanding of human agency, cultural empowerment, and the role of conservative religion."
-Donald E. Miller, author of Reinventing American Protestantism: Christianity in the New Millennium
David Smilde is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Georgia. He is co-author, with Margarita Lopez Maya and Keta Stephany, of Protesta y cultura en Venezuela: Los Marcos de accion colectiva en 1999.