Your response is so rational and informed I hardly know what to say back! You're an extremely level headed believer and it's a shame they aren't all like you.
Perhaps my comment on "rituals full of empty, meaningless symbolism" wasn't worded clearly. I was referring to my personal feelings about rituals in general - not a fan! Many people find them comforting and that's fine for them but it's not for me. I think it blots out your individuality. You become part of the herd, using someone elses words and actions to worship. How much attention can God be paying to church prayers when they are a repetitive, droning, meaningless dial tone, chanted by countless, faceless people? By now He's probably been bored into a coma.
While we're on the subject, I encountered some really bizarre rituals and superstitions at my grandma's Jewish funeral earlier this year. We started with a service at the synagogue, then traveled to the cemetary for the burial.
Weird ritual #1 - After the casket was lowered into the grave the Rabbi said some words, then handed us (the nearest and dearest) shovels to bury it. It wasn't just a matter of dropping a clod of earth on the casket for ceremonial purposes. For some reason the entire top of the casket must be covered with earth (shoveled by hand)before we could leave and let the gravediggers do the rest. Unfortunately, dirt has a tendency to slide off a polished, rounded casket top, so we had to fill all the gaps in the sides before we could get it to stay on top - big, sweaty job. I certainly wasn't dressed for it, and I started to get really annoyed as I shoveled, sweated and felt my arms and back begin to burn. It was so unnecessary (especially since there was a bulldozer parked 10 feet away). As if we weren't in enough emotional pain due to her passing, you know? Hey why not add some physical pain too?
Weird ritual #2 - When it was time to leave the cemetary, we were instructed to find an alternate route back to the synagogue. Apparently this confuses and loses the dead spirits who follow your car out. If you go back the way you came in, those spirits could follow you right back into the Synagogue, and I'll bet they wouldn't wash their hands first either. Which brings us to...
Weird ritual #3 - Before we could re-enter the Synagogue, we had to dip and wash our hands in a bowl of icy water out front of the building. This washes the "grave dirt" off your hands, which can't be brought into the sanctity of the synagogue. Obviously just a ritual, because there was no soap. Also, our hands were clean enough...actually a great deal of dirt came in on our feet! What can you do.
Switching to Catholic rituals, I find them just as bizarre and unnecessary. Holy water (why is it holy, because a priest blessed it? BFD!), the Communion wafer symbolizes the body of Christ - I have no desire to put THAT in my mouth.
Anyway, I'm beginning to rant again so I'll give you a break and end this here.
Thanks for listening! lol
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