chapter  9
13 Pages

Village beliefs

While scholars have conducted a long and sophisticated discussion about the terms ‘religion’ and ‘animism’ and their relationship,1 in this chapter I make some observations about this relationship without entering fully into the debate. More precisely, I examine the repercussions of globalization on the attitude towards Buddhism and animism in a Lao village from a sociological perspective. I take it for granted that the beliefs of some adherents comply with orthodox Buddhism as laid out in the Pali Canon more than others’, and that some villagers’ beliefs should be classified as superstition or animism from the orthodox perspective. From a historical and philosophical point of view, it is impossible to draw a firm line between them, as is the case with pagan and Christian beliefs. For the kind of sociological enquiry I wish to undertake here, it is not necessary to draw a line at all. I argue that different social groups have different sets of beliefs which may be classified in various ways. While such differentiation is on the increase in Laos, it does not correspond to economic stratification.