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date: 14 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

All religions change over time. Although tradition and innovation used to be seen as opposites, it is now generally recognized that there is a close connection between the two. Examples of how religious narratives and actions are transmitted over time illustrate some mechanisms by which a historical tradition arises. These include cultural transmission from one person to another or across generations through the particularities of human memory. A range of mechanisms introduce innovative practices into these traditions. For example, religions can have lifecycles of birth, maturity, stagnation, reform or schism, decay and stagnation, and death. There is also the work of religious entrepreneurs, e.g. prophets and leaders of new religious movements. In addition, religions adapt to changes in such structural factors as legislation and technology. Although innovation is ubiquitous, theological elites will often deny that any significant change has taken place, and accuse their ideological opponents of being excessively innovative.

Keywords: cultural transmission, emergence, invention of tradition, religious innovation, tradition

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