As an atheist, I have often forgotten the power of ritual, and ceremony. I was once having a really stressful day at work, fixing some computer problems at this Jewish school. Then this young Hasidic Jewish man came into the room and he started singing in Hebrew, this religious chant. I had no idea what he was saying, but almost as soon as he began singing, I felt this immediate wave of calm over me. It was amazing. I had another experience when I was surrounded by some Hindus who lit some ceremonial incense and began moving it around the room. Upon seeing this and smelling the incense, I felt that same sense of calm and relaxation that engulfed me. It's a great feeling.
Now, being that I'm an atheist and don't take part in any ritualistic ceremonies whatsoever, I have rarely experienced this type of religion-induced state. I have to admit that I realize why ceremony and ritual, and I'd say meditation also, is so important to so many cultures and religions. They do have very powerful effects on the human psyche. I'm not against any of these acts, in and of themselves. I do when superstition takes over and persuades people that if they don't do the ritual right, or on the right night, spirits or God(s) will punish them, or their livestock and crops. The superstition that the rituals are tied to are what I am against.
Some say that without the superstitious element behind the ritual, the ritual won't be as powerful, they'll be rendered impotent. I understand this, but there are many traditions and rituals that take place today that were started as religious or pagan practices, that have had their supernatural elements discarded. Think of Halloween. Can't we have singing and chanting and traditional foods and dance, without the superstition behind it? I don't want to eradicate all of the aforementioned, just the outdated supernatural elements behind it. What's wrong with that? It's a move towards modernity that I want to instigate, while trying to retain tradition.
Welcome to Atheism and the City. This blog is about exploring atheism through contemporary urban living. I live in New York City, the secular metropolis, and I have an avid interest in all things religion, science, philosophy, politics, and economics. I am an atheist, a humanist, a philosopher and a thinker, and the purpose of Atheism and the City is to write about my thoughts and experiences on the subjects and topics that I have a passion for. Feel free to respond to any post whether or not you agree.