According to Catherine Bell, "The popular contention that ritual and religion decline in proportion to modernization has been something of a sociological truism since the mid-19th century". Conventional wisdom maintains that ritual practices just don't hold central importance in the lives of those raised in the industrialized world as compared with the importance such things had for our distant ancestors or for our contemporaries in non-industrial societies. Some have contended that this is because ritual tends to be strongly correlated with pre-scientific cosmological beliefs that our society has for the most part outgrown. But for whatever reason, " [c]omparatively speaking," writes Ronald Grimes, "Western industrial societies spend less time and energy on rites than do people living in more traditional, small-scale societies and less than Asian, Middle Eastern, and African peoples".

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Copyright © 2004, Routledge. This chapter first appeared in Thinking Through Rituals: Philosophical Perspectives.

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