El trabajo de Robertson Smith encarna la postura típicamente ritualista de la antropología religiosa. En Lectures on the religion of the semites , p. 18, explica que, prácticamente en la totalidad de casos, "the myth was derived from the ritual, and not the ritual from the myth () Religion in primitive times was not a system of belief with practical applications; it was a body of fixed traditional practices, to which every member of society conformed as a matter of course".