Why “Ritual and Religion”?

Rituals are obviously important to the study of religion.  Indeed, the sociologist Emile Durkheim and the anthropologist Roy Rappaport locate the origins of religion in ritual.  It is, however, a mistake to equate or conflate ritual with religion.  They are not the same.  Not all rituals are religious and not all rituals are sacred.

Having said this, there is an intriguing school of thought which asserts that ritual is a form of communication and that this communication or signaling forms the core of religion.  Some of these theorists see this signaling simply as a form of prosocial behavior that ultimately is conducive to individual fitness, while others are group level selectionists who see view ritual communication as costly and hard to fake signals which solidify one’s status as a member of a distinct social unit.  These religious groups, in turn, provide their members with various fitness enhancing benefits.

This Category will examine all these arguments and many others involving the relationship between ritual and religion.

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