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Article by Reverend Danny Rhoades

Purity in Religion

Purity is an extremely varied and heterogeneous religious ideal that lies at the critical intersection between the individual physical body, the social body, and the cosmos as a whole. It is an ideal that overlaps partially with but far exceeds modern notions of cleanliness or hygiene. One can distinguish five different forms of purity, each illustrated by one primary example: physical purity, social purity, mental purity, sexual purity, and the ritual use of impurity.

Purity culture

Purity culture is a term often used for the evangelical movement that attempts to promote a biblical view of purity by discouraging dating and promoting virginity before marriage, often through the use of tools such as purity pledges, symbols such as purity rings, and events such as purity balls.


The concept of purity has been central to many religions throughout history. In ancient Mediterranean cultures, purity was a cultural construct that had a central role in the forming and development of religious traditions. In Judaism, for example, purification was achieved through various rituals and practices that were designed to cleanse individuals of impurities. Puritanism was a religious reform movement in the late 16th and 17th centuries that was known for the intensity of the religious experience that it fostered.

Contemporary theoretical approaches to purity

There is also a variety of contemporary theoretical approaches to purity, drawn from psychology, cognitive science, cultural anthropology, gender studies, and comparative religions.