Religion professor S. Brent Plate offers interesting perspective on the importance of stuff to our religious understanding. From Huffington Post:
Humans are needy. We need things: keepsakes, stuff, tokens, tchotchkes, knickknacks, bits and pieces, junk and treasure. We carry special objects in our pockets and purses, or place them on shelves and desks in our homes and offices. As profane and ordinary as the objects may be, they can also be extraordinary. Some things even become objects of transcendence.
Devout people of faith, across religious traditions, often denigrate material goods, suggesting the really real is beyond what can be seen, felt, and heard. Yet a closer look at religious histories reveals a heart-felt, enduring love for things. Objects large and small, valuable and worthless are there from the beginning of traditions, creating memories and meanings for the devotees who pray and worship, love and share, make pilgrimage and make music.
Check out his slideshow of 11 objects that encompass a fairly comprehensive history of world religion.