Re: Origin of Religion

From: Gudmundur Ingi Markusson (
Date: Wed 25 Dec 2002 - 13:58:38 GMT

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    Hi meme list. I have only listened in until now. I am a graduate student at the Department of the Study of Religion University of Aarhus Denmark.


    Just this about religion and group selection. It is interesting that Blackmore has precisely this thought in her M.Machine (pp. 197ff), i.e. (if my memory isn’t failing) that religion via its power to create cohesion and shape group identity (and ipso facto distinguish groups sharply from one another) might provide a non-genetic (i.e. memetic) way for group selection to work.


    Such ideas are not new. The French anthropologist Rene Girard (protagonist of mimetic theory) has ideas akin to these, i.e. that those groups that had functioning religious-ritual institutions had a better survival potential than those without such institutions.


    The American anthropologist Roy A. Rappaport, with his semiotic-ecological-cybernetic approach to culture, also emphasized the role of ritual and religion in sustaining integrity in cultural groups. His work might be of interest to memetics since he focuses on cultural discourse (rules, norms, taboos, ritual prescriptions, etc.) as an organism that has to adapt to environmental conditions. His theory is that ritual and religion is the factor that enables cultural discourses to adapt, in the same way organisms do, to environmental perturbations. Should anyone find this interesting then check out:


    Roy A. Rappaport:

    1999: Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity, Cambridge.


    The main ideas in this book are summarized in this article:


    1979: “The Obvious Aspects of Ritual”, in R.A. Rappaport: Ecology, Meaning, and Religion, Richmond, pp. 173-221.



    Gudmundur Ingi Markusson





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