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Summary of World Views about Ritual

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   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?

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
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