What is animism?

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Very generally speaking, animism is the idea that everything is alive and possesses a soul, a spirit, or some other kind of sentience. Because animism is observed in many different ways by many different people and cultures, those who practice it may sometimes define this principle with different sets of more specific parameters.

An animist from one culture might, for example, be more focused on things that are technically biologically alive already, like plants. Another animist might believe that clothing wants to be worn by someone who appreciates it. More gravely, an animist might also believe a natural disaster has intentions. A hurricane or other calamity might, under this interpretation, be seen as a sentient earth's attempt at counteracting the hazards of unsustainable population growth.

Animist principles appear in a wide variety of belief systems, both organized and independent—many cultures worship idols, icons, or other important artifacts as either stand-ins for or as literal deities. Others religiously worship the natural world and assume an intentional, sentient symbiotic relationship between people and the planet. Many outside organized religion, too, ascribe a spiritual sentience to the world around them as part of their independent belief system.

Secular animism is also common in popular culture. Children's entertainment, in particular, often features anthropomorphized objects like talking plants, furniture, or other inanimate objects to better connect with their audience.

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