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Summary of World Views about Ritual

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BIG QUESTIONS:    

   Does praying do any good?
    Why do I need to go to church/ mosque every week?
    Why bother fasting? It’s bad for your health.
    You don’t need religion to license a birth or marriage.
    Aren’t all these festivals based on pagan festivals anyway?
    Do you need rituals to be spiritual?
    Does everybody celebrate?


COMMON THEMES:
All the worldviews represented here use rituals, festivals, etc, and recognise their importance for most people.  There are some differing views on their ultimate value, but there is a great deal of common ground:
    •    Rituals, regular or weekly services/meetings and occasional festivals are typical of all religions and cultures
    •    Rituals help us reflect on the important things and events in life
    •    Rituals are also an important feature of everyday life for most people (eg bowing, shaking hands)
    •    Elaborate ceremonials, using art, music, dance, etc are important in most religions and cultures
    •    Many religious and secular festivals have built on or incorporated old pagan or nature festivals
    •    Most family/community celebrations (eg weddings, baptism, initiation ceremonies) are both religious and non-religious
    •    Most festivals involve meals, eating and drinking, special or new clothes, flowers, etc
DISTINCTIVE VIEWS:
The Buddhist contribution emphasises:
    •    The Buddha said rituals are like a raft - it gets you across a river, but you leave it behind
    •    Buddhists use rituals - religious everyday - as an aid to exploring and understanding the teachings
    •    Attachment to rituals, statues, rites, etc can block your understanding
    •    Conventional reality is bounded by language and culture; spiritual reality is not

The Christian perspective explores two views of ritual:
    •    Rituals, such as the sacraments (eg holy communion, baptism) and seasons (eg Christmas, Easter) give order and structure to life
    •    Holy Communion is the central ritual for Christians - a shared meal
    •    Non-religious people share many rituals, etc in sickness or death
    •    Rituals (prayer, Sunday worship) help us reflect on what is necessary to live a good life
    •    Some Christians have rejected elaborate ritual in favour of plain living and speaking


The Hindu contribution emphasises that:
    •    Rituals enable us to become spirtiual, remind us of higher ideals, are symbolic, and act as a form of discipline
    •    Rituals and festivals play a central part in the lives of most Hindus
    •    Some major festivals (eg Diwali, Holi) are common to all, some to particular branches of Hinduism, some to local areas
    •    Observing rituals (as well as living a good life) helps in making karma for future lives
    •    Regular/daily rituals (such as puja before images) can be at home or in the temple
    •    Rituals and festivals should be a means for raising spiritual awareness


The Humanist contribution emphasises that:
    •    It is natural for all humans to celebrate important events in life with ceremonies
    •    Humanist organisations have developed ceremonies for weddings, funerals etc
    •    Non-religious people may prefer personal observances with no ceremony
    •    Most Humanists participate in traditional or modern festivals with religious origins (eg Christmas or Remembrance Day)


The Jewish contribution recognises that:
    •    Rituals and festivals are an essential part of Jewish life whether or not you are religious
    •    Passover, Yom Kippur etc have origins in great dangers overcome, or events in Biblical times or modern (Yom Ha Shoah - Holocaust Memorial Day)
    •    Daily rituals and blessings - over waking, washing, eating, etc – remind us of God in family life
    •    The Sabbath, a time of complete rest in the family home, is great for mental health


The Muslim contribution emphasises that:
    •    The Qur’an reminds us always to love and honour God: festivals are an enjoyable way of doing this
    •    Major celebrations are the two Eids, and the prophet Mohammed’s birthday
    •    Ramadan – 40 days of prayer and fasting, which ends with the feasting and dancing of Eid Ul-Fitr
    •    Eid Ul-Adha, where a lamb is sacrificed and eaten, in memory of the story of Abraham and Isaac, is the time of the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca
    •    Daily absolutions and prayers (Salat, short, but 5 times a day) demonstrate that physical and spiritual purification go together
    •    Friday midday prayers are for weekly worship and sermon but not a holiday


The Sikh perspective sees every day as a celebration:
    •    There is no particular weekly special day, though there are often Gurdwarda (temple) ceremonies on Sundays, as it is a day off!
    •    The Guru spoke out against most of the food and cleansing rituals of his day, as exploitative and empty
    •    The Guru’s birthday, and Vaisakhi when the Khalsa (spiritual leaders) were founded, are celebrated, as are the (Hindu) Diwali and Holi
    •    Daily practices, or code of conduct, are seen as common sense, not rituals
    •    The Five K’s  are signs/reminders of aspects of the good life