The mask of ritual
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26-02-2017, 10:24 PM
RE: The mask of ritual
(26-02-2017 03:13 PM)Astreja Wrote:  It might simply be that the liturgy and ceremony are things they find comforting, a stable and unobtrusive base from which they can explore their personal spirituality. In contrast, the evangelical tradition seems to be more in-your-face, with hollering pastors and altar calls.

This was really insightful for me, Astreja. Thank you. Stability and comfort seem like good ways to describe what ritual does for us. Ritual seems a lot like an established habit, which bypasses our critical, thinking brains to produce a repeated action.

I respect my parent's intelligence quite a bit, so I like thinking of their conversion as a new, more private way for them to explore their personal spirituality. It's helpful to remember that they could still be on a journey just as I am. It could be a good connecting point for when I talk to them about my deconversion.
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27-02-2017, 12:28 AM
RE: The mask of ritual
I wonder if some people just don't dare to properly apply their scepticism to their own religion, because they couldn't bear it all disappearing in a puff of smoke. So instead, they find ways of making themselves feel like they've applied scepticism to it.

I know it's not the same, but I didn't dare apply scepticism to my personal dogma that "time is strictly linear" until about 5 years ago. When I did, it fell apart. I believe this is the last bit of dogma I was holding on to, for emotional reasons, but I convinced myself I was being sceptical.

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27-02-2017, 08:11 AM
RE: The mask of ritual
(26-02-2017 05:55 PM)Dom Wrote:  Rituals - following rituals appears to be innate. Whether we go to church and undergo rituals, celebrate holidays with rituals, or ritualize our home life, we surround ourselves with them.

Most of us have a morning ritual - involving a sequence of cleansing, eating, getting dressed etc. - most of us do this in the same sequence, the same way, every morning.

We have family traditions and cultural traditions - these are rituals also.

It's not surprising people seek out churches for rituals, there is something soothing about them, they make us feel safe.
There's nothing inherently wrong with rituals when mindfully practiced. They help remind us about / focus us on what's most important, or as you point out, they just help us get through mundane tasks. Also when done with others, they provide an enhanced sense of community.

On the other hand there's nothing about religion that amplifies the power of ritual; at most it adds pomp and circumstance that leverages the ubiquity (until recently anyway) of religious practice. It's easier to get large numbers of people engaging in corporate rituals that way, but it tends to become rote practice. I would argue that personal ritual, developed by and for oneself and engaged in for one's own reasons, is far more powerful. Indeed, it doesn't even have to be repetitive and ongoing to be powerful; even one-time symbolic gestures can be very effective. The canonical example being writing a letter saying all the things you wished you could have said, to someone who is deceased, particularly if they harmed you in life. Or writing down all the hurts and offenses and burning them.
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27-02-2017, 08:22 AM
RE: The mask of ritual
(26-02-2017 10:10 PM)port_of_call Wrote:  
(26-02-2017 12:20 PM)mordant Wrote:  What did they convert to "high church" from -- fundamentalism / evangelicalism? If so, yes, it might be a somewhat covert expression of doubt on their part, or it may simply have been a shift to a brand of Christianity that was more in keeping with their skeptical nature.

They converted from a Baptist/Lutheran background. I know they appreciated the more physical liturgical experience when they converted. A pastor at their previous church said that the resurrection of Jesus didn't matter to him because what mattered was the impact Christianity had on his life. This was a huge turn-off for my parents. They wanted to find a church that was less wishy-washy.

My hypothesis is that the liturgical church gave them a lot more to do than the Protestant sermons-and-Bible-study model offered. Liturgical churches keep you busy attending long services, singing complicated chants from Middle Eastern cultures, venerating relics of saints, fasting, and learning all the rules and traditions. You don't have to show up for Bible studies, offer your testimony, and ask questions to prove you have an active spiritual life to others. And you see so many other people going through the same rituals, so you think "hey, if they don't have a problem with it, why should I? baaa."

ps: Rules and traditions in the Eastern Orthodox church could fill several additional Bibles. Confusingly, many are not written down and vary depending on the priest.
That is an interesting and insightful perspective which I appreciate. As a former fundamentalist I sometimes find myself struggling to understand the point of liberal Christianity. I can grasp it intellectually but can't see what it provides for people emotionally. The emotional appeal of fundamentalism is its faux certitude and moral clarity, and that is certainly absent in liberal Christianity, at least relatively. I had not really considered the practical value of being given something to DO that is also DOABLE, and how it might even be more useful to some people than being given impossible ideals to live up to or to find forgiveness for not living up to.

It is true that for many high church folks, just showing up and going through the motions satisfies what the church demands of you, provides belonging, and stays a respectful distance from your personal and thought life.

Evangelicalism, by comparison, is very intrusive. This is perhaps best illustrated by its extremes, such as the Shepherding Movement that peaked in the 1970s and 80s. In that environment (which my late wife was part of in her younger days) you are assigned a senior member or pastor as a "shepherd" to whom you are "accountable". This person demands to know how much praying you are doing, why you weren't at meetings, what your inner thoughts and struggles are, how things are going in your marriage. If you're not sufficiently "transparent" and forthcoming you're assumed to be holding out. The objective is for your faith to become a 24/7 obsession, and out of obligation and fear rather than genuine enthusiasm. And all subject to the "authority of Christ" although of course it's really just the authority of some pompous ass at church who is drunk with the feel of the power he has over you.

I repeat that this is an extreme, but extremists are often just taking less extreme ideas to their "logical" conclusion. I have little doubt that many pastors wished they could browbeat their congregants into this level of participation and submission and devotion. They just aren't bold enough to just come out and do it in a bald-faced fashion; it's all subtext.

By contrast you go to an Episcopal or Catholic church and you just genuflect and kneel and recite stuff at the right times and you're good to go. Plus you may actually feel that by immersing yourself in concrete physical action and corporate ritual that you're actually GETTING somewhere with it instead of always coming up short.
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27-02-2017, 08:44 AM
RE: The mask of ritual
(26-02-2017 03:13 PM)Astreja Wrote:  It might simply be that the liturgy and ceremony are things they find comforting, a stable and unobtrusive base from which they can explore their personal spirituality. In contrast, the evangelical tradition seems to be more in-your-face, with hollering pastors and altar calls.

You don't necessarily have to ask them about the tie-in between skepticism and their change in churchgoing habits. How about "What was it that attracted you to the ______ church?"

Seriously, this. When I was a Baptist it was way more 'in your face' stuff. Even now, I posted something on the wrong Facebook list the other day, and had an Evangelical Youth Minister rip me a new one about how dare I call myself a follower of Christ, when I was always critical about religion. (He went on a few paragraphs...) Meanwhile, one of his Catholic counterparts was basically going, "Geeze man, all he said is that your favorite apologist doesn't acknowledge the Q document..."

(26-02-2017 03:56 PM)natachan Wrote:  Why would it last so long if not for some truth behind it?

This makes me think of a line by the late Father Andrew Greeley (which I'm paraphrasing roughly and a bit more profanely here), "There has to be a God and He must be on our side, because otherwise the Church wouldn't still be around, given its propensity to keep fucking up." Not really proof, but just something that came to mind when reading what you said.

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27-02-2017, 01:06 PM
RE: The mask of ritual
Port of Call, it's not really what you asked, but the power of habit and the soothing properties of "ritual" are something that shouldn't be underestimated.

The longer you do something, the more it becomes automatic (this is, you stop really thinking about it and just do it, often on autopilot) and the less you're likely to look at it critically or try to see it anew (applies not only to religion, I think). At the same time, if one's brain is so wired, the repetition of the same thing, over and over again, gives us a feeling of security and helps calm us down.

Sorry to digress into personal territory, but that's exactly how it was for me - all the tiny rituals I had (I was a self-taught religionist - and an Eastern Orthodox one, to boot - so I didn't really go to mass or anything of the sort, so all my rituals were my own) had become pure OCD compulsions, which it took a while to get rid of (and which still persist to this day, when I'm under a lot of stress. I know this is all they are so they don't really bother me. Much ;-)). And that's actually how I realised I was an atheist - went to make the sign of the cross and then stopped and asked myself, Why *am* I doing this? I don't really believe in a god anymore. And that was the exact moment when I admitted to myself I was an atheist (wish I'd checked the date and time now Rolleyes )

Sorry, that wasn't very coherent, brain's frazzled Rolleyes

Speaking of Eastern Orthodox, like I said, I was a self-taught religionist, so I do not know that much about the actual rituals, but I did enjoy the churches, the smell of incense and just going there to light a candle and be alone with god (no, I don't miss it in the least and have set foot in a church only once since deconverting, and that was for a wedding. Am probably going to skip on the christening of a very close relative, because I'd feel like a total hypocrite in a church. Also, might not be able to contain my derisive snorting. Rolleyes ) There's lot of ridiculous rituals though, like crawling under a table for fertility or something and a whole other bunch of (probably pagan) hooey. Also - kissing icons. That's disgusting and so unhygienic makes me cringe every time I happen to see it on TV.

"E se non passa la tristezza con altri occhi la guarderĂ²."
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27-02-2017, 08:39 PM
RE: The mask of ritual
(27-02-2017 08:11 AM)mordant Wrote:  I would argue that personal ritual, developed by and for oneself and engaged in for one's own reasons, is far more powerful.

I'm glad you said this. I'm in a place of feeling somewhat poor after losing the rituals of my parents' church as a way of coming together or measuring the passage of time. I'm looking forward to discovering my own personal rituals, and you've given me hope that I can take that step.
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27-02-2017, 08:53 PM
RE: The mask of ritual
(27-02-2017 01:06 PM)Vera Wrote:  There's lot of ridiculous rituals though, like crawling under a table for fertility or something and a whole other bunch of (probably pagan) hooey. Also - kissing icons. That's disgusting and so unhygienic makes me cringe every time I happen to see it on TV.
I appreciate your openness, Vera! I have definitely seen OCD behaviors emerge in young people who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. There really is no end to the things you can do.

mordant, you talked about the comparison to fundamentalist Christianity where religion is a built up to a 24/7 frenzied experience and you always fall short. I guess the Eastern Orthodox church has its own way of always causing you to fall short. There are just so. many. rules. But then I was always told to accept in humility that I couldn't do everything, and view my falling short as a reason to ask for forgiveness.

Maybe this was good practice for times when I really do need to ask for forgiveness about something serious. Still, it seems to me that I can learn more about being a decent human being from simply reading a lot of literature. Or spending time in nature. Or countless other methods.
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27-02-2017, 09:51 PM
RE: The mask of ritual
(27-02-2017 12:28 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  I wonder if some people just don't dare to properly apply their scepticism to their own religion, because they couldn't bear it all disappearing in a puff of smoke. So instead, they find ways of making themselves feel like they've applied scepticism to it.

It's not just a matter of skepticism. People need time to think through and absorb the implications of any given idea, and most people have other priorities so they never spend the time required. Very few people, relative to total populations, seem to have learning as their highest priority. So the majority make do with dogmas and over-simplifications, and fly by the seat of their pants.
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28-02-2017, 07:41 AM
RE: The mask of ritual
(27-02-2017 08:53 PM)port_of_call Wrote:  I appreciate your openness, Vera! I have definitely seen OCD behaviors emerge in young people who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. There really is no end to the things you can do.

Port of Call, I don't think in my case religion was the cause of the OCD, more like the other way around, but religion can (and absolutely) does exploit the weaknesses in our brains (and often reinforces and even causes them). It's like an autoimmune disease, turning our own bodies and minds against ourselves. Luckily, we're way too curious as a species to be content to keep on living in self-induced blindness forever. So times really are a-changin' (nowhere near fast enough, but we'll get there Yes )

Also, there is NOTHING humble about religion. It is the epitome of selfish arrogance. At least we do not think the whole universe was created solely for us and that someone watches every single thing we do. Or intervenes to save us from disasters and even minor missteps. Religion is the absolute height of human arrogance.

"E se non passa la tristezza con altri occhi la guarderĂ²."
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