How Deeply Does One Internalize Their Religion’s Beliefs

As I read McGuire’s chapter 4, I am struck by the fact that she blatantly says that sociological studies of religion are often inaccurate because people’s personal beliefs are not typically synonymous to the religious organization that they identify with. Attempting to understanding an individual’s meaning system through their religious affiliation seems slightly counter-productive because most people do not strictly conform to a particular religion’s ethics. This is can be case for a number of scenarios, and the author highlights a couple of them. One being that of which a person affiliates with a religious organization but does not accept the organization’s stance on social issues. An example of this would be a Catholic who differs with the Catholic Church concerning particular social issues such as abortion, homosexuality, women’s rights etc. Another scenario could be when people who identify with an official religion adopt practices or beliefs from nonofficial religions or draw on bits and pieces of other official religions. An example of this might be someone who considers themselves Christian but engages with Zen Buddhism, modern psychology and meditates. Religious beliefs and following on an individual scale are clearly very complex and difficult to pinpoint, thus, I wonder: “Why try to understand humanity on a large scale through surveying them on their religious beliefs or affiliations if there are so many possibilities and inaccuracies?” It seems that the purpose of understanding religion and the people’s following through a sociological view is to better explain people’s opinions, beliefs, and behaviors. I suppose I am left confused with how productive this can be when research is relatively incapable of drawing accurate representations of people’s true inner beliefs.