‘Religions of Practice’: The Case of Japanese Religions


  • Douglas Ezzy School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania




Japanese religions, ritual, embodiment, aesthetics


‘Religions of practice’ are religions that prioritize ritual practice, with little concern for creeds and belief. In these religions, ethical obligations are communicated through ritual practices and aesthetic responses to symbols. Some theories of religion characterize ritual practice and religious aesthetics as secondary outcomes of religious belief. Such characterizations misunderstand the significance of religious ritual practice. A neo-Durkheimian theory of religion that examines ritual practice alongside belief provides a more sophisticated understanding of religious experience. A range of ethnographies of Japanese religions are reviewed to illustrate the argument. Aesthetics and ritual performance are central to many Japanese religions. These generate a strong sense of relational and communal entwinement and are associated with an ambivalent or pluralistic moral ontology.

Author Biography

Douglas Ezzy, School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania

Douglas Ezzy is professor of Sociology at the University of Tasmania. He is President of the Australian Association for the Study of Religion (2015-2016) and editor of the Journal for the Academic Study of Religion. His research is driven by a fascination with how people make meaningful and dignified lives. His books include Sex, Death and Witchcraft (2014), Qualitative Analysis (2002), and Teenage Witches (2007, with Helen Berger).



How to Cite

Ezzy, D. (2016). ‘Religions of Practice’: The Case of Japanese Religions. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 29(1), 13–29. https://doi.org/10.1558/jasr.v29i1.30306




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