Again and Again

We all have our rituals. Yesterday it was time for one of mine. It was St. Patrick’s Day. Every year on St. Paddy’s day I boil up some corned beef and cabbage. With potatoes. It’s simple food but it connects me to my childhood and makes me feel good.

I asked God if it was okay that I engage in rituals while putting down religion, when really most of what religion is about these days is practicing their ancient rituals. He said it was okay. He said the rituals aren’t the problem, either with me or with them, the problem is thinking that your rituals are better than the other guy’s, just because they’re yours.

“Just because they’re yours?” I asked. He told me that was key. He said that most people are born into their religion but then defend it, at least in their own minds, as fervently as if they had invented it. There’s nothing wrong with having rituals, but if you want to think that they’re better than everyone else’s, you’d better find something by which to measure that. If my ritual involved the torture of small children and your ritual involves eating marshmallows until you vomit, well, neither of those are very good, but I think you can find some pretty solid arguments why torturing kids is the worst of the two. On the other hand, if my ritual is eating corned beef and cabbage with a chaser of Irish whiskey and your’s is eating a small piece of bread that you pretend is the flesh of your god, with a chaser of wine that you pretend is his blood… Well, it’s pretty hard to say that either of those is better than the other.

So if you’re not hurting anyone, do what makes you happy. Just don’t forget that the map is not the territory, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and the ritual is not the reality.

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