This article, based on the author’s fieldwork in a Catholic context, aims to theorise the dilemmas of taking seriously religious worlds at precisely those moments when they may be in tension with academic worldviews in terms of epistemology and ontology. The lived religion approach has emerged as a critical enterprise which serves as a corrective to more text-based or macro-sociological approaches, developing a form of radical non-reductionism and a preference for ethnographic approaches. This article aims to explore this critical edge of the lived religion approach further to address the modernist legacy in the study of religion. It will do so by bringing two anthropological approaches into the conversation that both challenge, albeit in different ways, the modernist underpinnings of studying religion within anthropology: phenomenological anthropology and what is called ‘the ontological turn’. The second part of the article centres on the question whether critique is possible in the pursuit of a non-reductionist approach to studying lived religion, taking up the question ‘is critique secular?’ posed by Talal Asad et al. This article suggests ways to take the impossibility of critique forward by following up some directions within the anthropological approaches already presented and linking this with feminist thinking on the status and role of academic knowledge.