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Temptation, Tradition, and Taboo: A Theory of Sacralization*


  • *

    Address correspondence to: Doug Marshall, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, HUMB 34, University of South Alabama, Mobile AL 36688-0002. E-mail: The author would like to thank several anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


A theory of sacralization is offered in which the sacred emerges from the collision of temptation and tradition. It is proposed that when innate or acquired desires to behave in one way conflict with socially acquired and/or mediated drives to behave in another way, actors ascribe sacredness to the objects of their action as a means of reconciling the difference between their desired and actual behavior toward those objects. After establishing the sacred as a theoretical construct, the theory is sketched and then fleshed out with a more formal specification. The foundational assumptions and mechanisms of the theory are then empirically substantiated as a first step toward validating the theory, and a handful of predictions deduced from the theory are assessed.