Religion, Emergence, and the Origins of Meaning

Beyond Durkheim and Rappaport


Why is religion so important to individuals and societies? What gives religion its profound meaningfulness and longevity? Enhancing perspectives taken from sociology and ritual theory, Religion, Emergence, and the Origins of Meaning describes how ‘emergence theory’ – developed to make sense of life and mind – explains why religious communities are special when compared to ordinary human social groups. Paul Cassell argues that in religious ritual, beliefs concerning unseen divine agencies are made uniquely potent, inviting and guiding powerful, alternative experiences, and giving religious groups a form of organization distinct from ordinary human social groups. Going beyond the foundational descriptions of Émile Durkheim and Roy Rappaport, Cassell utilizes the best of 21st century emergence theory to characterize religion’s emergent dynamics.

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Paul Cassell, Ph. D. (2012, Boston University), is Honors Faculty at Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, and Affiliated Faculty with the Center for Jewish Studies and Center for Biosocial Complex Systems at ASU.
"(...) there are a couple of really deep insights contained in the book and readers who are well-versed in Terrence Deacon’s works may find it of use." Arthur C. Petersen, University College London, in: Essat News & Reviews, Vol. 26.3 (2016).
Anyone interested in theories of religion, the scientific study of religion, ritual theory, and the sociological study of religion, as well as those interested in emergence and complex systems theory.