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Four uses of the term ‘animism’ are discussed. First, Tylor’s definition of religion (which he had wanted to call Spiritualism but found this referred to a specific religion) as “belief in spirits.” Then a more popular use of the term to label some or all indigenous religious traditions is noted. Cognitive research about the ubiquitous habit of projecting life and/or human-likeness is the third version. Most consideration is devoted to recent debates that engage with animism as a form of personalism in which the world is treated as a community of persons, few of whom are human. ⸙

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Animals participate in religions in many ways. Gratitude may be expressed to them or for them for the provision of sustenance. They symbolize or exemplify both right and wrong behavior, especially companionship and animality. They are sacrificed for a range of reasons. The possibility of their salvation or enlightenment is debated. Religious questions about animals’ potential to intentionally engage in religious acts (e.g. offering themselves for sacrifice or providing instructions about rituals) have recently been paralleled by scientific questions about the cognitive and ritual competence of animals. In this entry, the variety of ways in which animals participate in religions is illustrated by specific examples drawn from many religions, and the roles they play in relation to myths, rituals, ethics, cosmology, and other core themes in religious studies are examined. A somewhat speculative conclusion notes that ethologists are now discussing whether animals perform their own religious rituals. ⸙