Why Do Humans Embrace Rituals? Disease and Danger May Be at the Root of the Behaviors

Recently, researchers have come to suspect that before rituals became purely social and highly peculiar, many may have started out as attempts to avoid disaster. Ritualization may have helped human cultures maintain behaviors that people thought would keep them safe, even after the initial reason for a behavior was forgotten, according to the authors of a number of recent research papers published in a special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Ritualized ways of preparing food or cleaning the body, for example, may have emerged as ways to prevent disease. Many rituals also provide psychological comfort during times of hardship, and after they become common practice, they help to bring people together by reinforcing a sense of community.

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