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Amusing Christian rituals
This is a collection of stories, originally started on Reddit.com in response to the query:
Ever feel like you've been transported back in time to the dark ages, but are actually just attending a christian religious ceremony?
As an example, at a recent Christian wedding the priest read this passage: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." (Ephesians 5:22-24)
I looked around at the congregation as the priest recited this and nobody shuddered or looked even vaguely appalled.
I also recently attended a funeral and a Roman Catholic mass. These were equally bizarre: the eating of the body of Christ, the spirits raising up at the end of days, etc.
I felt as if I were attending some weird dark age cult meeting. It was really creepy, and I felt really sorry for the people.
I had a similar experience at a Catholic baptism:
My friend and his wife had a child, and, for whatever reason, asked if I would be a god parent to the child. We had a talk about my beliefs and we ended up coming to the conclusion that I would be a 'spiritual adviser' instead of god parent.
Fast forward several years, and my friend decides to get the child baptized. Apparently, the Catholic church will not baptize a child if the named god parents aren't Catholic. So, to appease the gods my friend has his brother start going to church again so we can get approved for a baptism.
Several months pass and the brother is now up to date on his doctrine and an official card carrying catholic so the baptism ensues.
The baptism was hilarious. It was a throwback to the twelfth century. We were burning incense, lighting candles, anointing with oils, and swearing to cast aside the devil and his devious ways. I kept waiting for the priest to pull out a dagger and sacrifice a goat or something, but it never happened.
In the end I felt bad because I couldn't keep a straight face when the priest was talking and they are video taping the whole ordeal.
I was asked by my sister to be the god father for her second child (I was over-seas in the military for her first one). I declined, which caused all sorts of pain and heartache in the family. I told them straight out that I refused to be a hypocrite. I was not going to vow to raise a child in the catholic church when I had absolutely no intention of doing so. There are many things I am willing to do, but I will not make a promise like that. I attended the baptism, and love my nieces dearly, but I hate the fact that my sister is polluting their minds with this mythology.
I'm sure this is going to come up again, as my wife and I are expecting our first child in a few months, and neither of us has any intention of having the child baptized, nor are we going to raise the child in a religious environment, which is likely to bring an outcry from both of our families.
I still remember perfectly the day I fell out of my faith and took the first real step towards being an atheist.
I was raised Catholic from day one, baptized and sent to Catholic elementary, confirmed and sent to Catholic highschool. I went to church more than once a week, ran the local youth group, ran camps for kids, helped out at the archdiocese. Thought about being a priest at one point.
So there I was one day sitting in Ash Wednesday mass at school, in a somewhat introspective mood that I often get into when I'm bored and actually start considering the world around me. That's right, despite being the type to go to more than enough church ceremonies, I still found them dreadfully boring.
If you're not a Catholic, you might not be familiar with Ash Wednesday mass. It's the start of Lent in springtime, the day after Mardi Gras, when you basically commit to fasting and being good for forty days. Nobody really fasts, though it's traditional to give something up for Lent (which usually ends up being a hollow gesture like not eating chocolate, what a sacrifice!) They draw a cross on your forehead using ash that's made of palms from last year's Palm Sunday that are burnt.
Anyway, I went up and got my ash cross, sat down, and a flash of inspiration came over me.
None of this means anything. Every single person in this room is just going through the motions of this because they've been told it's what they're supposed to do. We're watching this same damned ritual for the umpteenth time in our lives and it means just as little now as it ever did. 99% of us are going to wipe the cross off of our heads after we leave.
And that made me take one more step of abstraction. If this ritual is all bullshit, and the Bible is full of holes (as I had been reading on the Internet recently, but from the standpoint of a Catholic Apologist, trying to find the holes in the atheist side of the argument - and failing).... then what am I doing here?
I began to feel a real separation from the ritual that was still going on around me, and for the first time in my life, I watched it with the blinders off. Saw how pompous and silly it was, how ignorant it was of the beauty of scientific thought, how it seeks to preserve things exactly how they "were" without a hope of ever succeeding.
It took a bit more time for everything to fall into place for me, but in the end I'm on this side of the fence for good.
Now, every time I'm forced to go to a religious ceremony (wedding, funeral, appeasement of my mother in law) I still watch it with the same illumination: that I may well be the only person in the room that can really see what everyone's doing.
My first mass after I started my thought process of Catholicism to agnostic to atheist I was astounded by the whole ritual. it was like I was actually watching a mass for the first time. And I wondered how it was that I could have never noticed before how ridiculous and prehistoric it all is; the motions, the words being spoken, the songs, the actual transformation of bread into human flesh.
Bread into human flesh. And you eat it! No one in a church truly believes that the eucharist is actual human flesh, but think about the intent of these actions. You are supposed to be not just happy, but be looking forward to eating a metaphorical piece of human skin.
In high school I dated this girl who's family were Jehovah's Witnesses. She'd been raised to believe but had so many doubts that she couldn't really commit herself like the rest of the family (and hence was dating me). We started our relationship in secret from her family but got busted after a few months and, in an attempt to placate her family, I attended a 2 day JW rally at a football stadium. It was one of the freakiest things I have ever experienced. It wasn't exactly dark age, and the language certainly wasn't arcane, but I definitely felt like I'd traveled back in time to a place where attitudes and education hadn't changed for quite some time. Everyone was really nice and friendly and smiley, but it all had a touch of Stepford Wives to it. I felt ashamed to be there because in my heart I knew I was being disrespectful to these peoples beliefs, and they were good people a lot of them, by standing there and looking interested and saying what I thought they wanted to hear me saying... Instead of just being honest and saying "This is a bunch of fucked up crazy ass bullshit. Do you REALLY believe this crap? Are you fucking insane?"
I was at an Anglican funeral recently, where the deceased was a lovely 33 year old woman who had been degraded and destroyed by a brain tumour over the course of 4 months.
I felt distinctly nauseous when the priest started talking of a good and gentle lord...
The entire ceremony reeked of hypocrisy.
There were a few old-style ritualistic elements, such as an old guy with a cross on a very large stick. That kind of thing doesn't really bother me as much as the hypocrisy though.
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