The Functions of Ritual in Religion?

Over on Religious Forums yesterday, I stated, “Anthropologists have identified rituals in every religion they’ve studied”, and then asked, “Why are rituals so wide-spread in religions? What function(s) do they serve?”

Laurie, who blogs at “Just Another Day“, answered:

Rituals raise the ordinary to the extraordinary by imbuing them with greater significance. Repetition of actions and words fix the rituals deeply into our brains so we access the meaning of the ritual without really even thinking about it. It also creates a shared experience which bonds a community together and taps into the history of the people and gives them a unified context from which to talk about their religious experience.

It occurs to me that’s the best explanation of how rituals function in religion that I’ve yet to hear.

5 thoughts on “The Functions of Ritual in Religion?

  1. In my experience, many of the rituals that we (Hindus) have are the result of a systematic effort by the priestly class to keep others at bay and create some kind of exclusivity :p
    PS: Since I was born in a priestly class, I learnt them too. It pays off very well here in Canada 🙂

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  2. I suspect a further mundane aspect of rituals. Religious structures are often rather complicated and nebulous networks of information. To deal with this, you have to anchor it well, and rituals, those repetitive actions or phrases, do that. As was already said, the ritual takes you into the heart of it, back to where you have been, without having to reconstruct the complicated map that got you there before. Also as you add more depth to the ritual, more information, it frees you to deal with the rest of it.

    Just a theory.

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  3. I can give you another aspect of a ritual…a ritual can give the person doing it a sense of peace. I have personally seen it…its like chanting prayers…its repetitive and can be mindless but makes you concentrate on God. I myself do not get any sense of peace with rituals but I almost envy those who do.

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