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?