No religion has ever existed that did not have rituals at its very foundation. In fact a religion could not flourish without them. The churches will stress the importance of rituals as being an important part of the tradition of their faith. They are used to induce and maintain a sense of solemnity and reverence that is claimed to help bring people closer to their god.

Prayer too is just a form of ritual. Reciting the same words over and over is just a hit of virtual opium for the mind.  It is no different to chanting a mantra for hours. Speaking in tongues is another form. The theist may claim that the sensation delivered by observing these rituals is a sense of holiness and they may believe that they are indeed closer to their god.

I would claim that they are now in a dulled mental state and are susceptible to suggestion by the preacher. He now has control. Once the flock is in the right mood they will believe almost anything they are told. They will even assume the views of the preacher. If he preaches an extreme right wing agenda they will almost believe that they had thought of it themselves and will hold those views as their own. It's all in that book so it must be true.

I would like to suggest that rituals are maintained to keep the flock in this semi-hypnotic state. It is nothing to do with reaching a state of grace or whatever word the churches want to use to describe it. Rituals are a method of controlling human behavior. That is why armies have them. It keeps everyone in the required state of mind. Of course this is completely acceptable to build an effective military. The more time spent on them the great the conditioning and the less chance of escaping it. That is why all religions invest so much in maintaining the pomp and ceremony of the various rituals.

Without them peoples minds would be more open to “Free Thinking”. Without the induced state of hypnosis people might ask “Hey hang on a second – this all sounds like nonsense”. Maybe this is why people who do not attend church for a period of time discover that they have doubts. If they return to the church the rituals take over and they rejoin the flock. If they remain away they start to challenge the doubts and maybe given enough time and effort they free themselves and become Atheists. It is the rituals that have the power. Break them and see religion for what it is – a delusion. The greatest story ever sold as I heard it called once recently.

Do you think there is any merit to this idea?

Views: 85

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on April 16, 2012 at 2:46pm

I agree with the sense of community idea. I was considering mentioning it in the post. It is a valid point especially when considered outside of the rituals. Church fetes or gatherings in community halls or the wider set of friendly faces that are encountered in the locality when one is out and about would be what I would consider the “community spirit”. I don’t really have a problem with that and many people do miss that sense of belonging that the local church can engender. It is often mentioned by Atheists as something they miss too. It reminds me of the song form “Cheers” where everybody knows your name except their ritual involved beer.

However I am trying to work out how the rituals undermine the persons’ individuality. When people (as a crowd) are all listening or engaging in the same ritual or routine on a regular basis they conform more easily. They are almost automatons. They get to like the security it gives them. The prayers, the singing, the evangelical dancing, the repetition of the responses all get them into a state of trance that stifles their ability to question or analysis what they are hearing. It is this constant bombardment or group polarization that on one hand may give this sense of community but it takes from people in the long run. I see a deceit in it. It is opium for the people and it keeps them weak minded. They think they will live forever. These rituals hijack the theists brain.

If they come back to the church it may be for the sense of community. However I think many come back because they are no longer secure with their fears. They can either deal with those fears (especially with the reality of having only one life) or they can return and listen to the drum beats of their rituals and forgo facing the real world. They miss the numbness of it all. They miss the ritual of it all. They must as many spend hours of their week repeating them.


I like your word "sonambulistic"

Far away across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells

Breathe - Pink Floyd

Comment by Ed on April 17, 2012 at 10:48pm

Repetition is one of the largest elements of ritual. It reinforces and maintains the lockstep mentality so desired by western church leaders. But it is also a powerful tool in the eastern religions such as buddhism. How those monks can sit and recite the same mantra over and over for hours on end is fascinating. I respect their use of ritual more than their western counterparts simply because I think they focus and use it for personal introspection on a level that appears to   provide peace with oneself. I couldn't do it personally, well maybe for very short periods. 

Is meditation a sort of ritual? Would it be fair to characterize it as such?


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