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Nov 30 2006

Sod off, God! Week continues

foodheads17a.jpg
Delicious grilled squash sandwich and slaw at the consummately Austin-y Foodheads on 34th: deep human need or mere habit?

Yesterday’s post on my perennial pipedream of eradicating God for the good of all creatures great and small hasn’t sparked quite the controversy of, say, an essay on the feministo-ideological pitfalls of an intimate allegiance to lipstick, but the insidiosity of religion suddenly appeals to me as almost as intriguing a topic and persistent an instrument of oppression as women’s cosmetics, particularly as the time of glittery polyester holiness approacheth. So welcome to Sod Off, God! Week.

By the way, I choose the phrase ‘sod off’ because ‘sod’ rhymes with ‘god’, not, as is certain to be suggested, because I wish to outlaw sodomy and declare that girls who love butt sex are bad feminists.

Although, you know, eeeww.

Anyway, during yesterday’s discussion one of the veteran blamers idly wondered what would become, in the absence of organized religion, of the “apparently deep human need for ritual.”

Which got me thinkin. You’re always hearing about deep human needs. Experts promote’em, and how to fulfill’em, more or less constantly. Deep human needs are in the New York Times, they’re on Oprah, they’re on NPR; humans deeply need sex, laws, babies, boobs, guns, money, self-esteem, perfect little white cotton T-shirts to wear with absolutely everything, and foie gras. We’re up to our knees in deep human kneeds.

But do we really need all those needs?

Having just endured a profoundly anti-Twisty annus horribilis, a year notable here at the bungalow for the relentless tortures both physical and emotional visited upon my person, I am intimate with the radical notion that subsistence is entirely possible sans a veritable buttload of what are generally considered bare necessities: Estrogen. Food. Boobs. Eyelashes. Lymph nodes. Pooping. Sleep. A weight-bearing leg. A sane hypothalamus. A sunny disposition. An un-addled brain. A body that isn’t trying to kill you, etc.

Most of the aforementioned stuff falls into the category of homÅ“ostasis (the maintenance of constant bodily conditions), which stasis certain very prominent psychobabblians have declared, along with air and water, to be among the deepest of deep human needs. Yet here I am to tell the tale, homÅ“ostasis-less but bright and chipper all the same (it should be noted that throughout my assorted hair-raising surgeries and death-defying cancer treatments, I was never far from at least one dog. Draw your own conclusions). In other words, even dying hasn’t killed me yet. So one of the things I really have to find out — I’ve got a list — is how many of these “deep human needs” — such as the need to not be dying — are in fact just habits.

Take ritual, for instance. My suspicion is that ritual is no deep human need. As a concept it gives off quite the lip-wrinkling whiff of eau du primitif. And what about that trio of stinky undertones — conformity, obeisance, and orthodoxy — that comes with it? Add the collateral conditions of exclusivity and tradition, and you got yourself all the field marks of one of those bogus assumptions that status-quoticians are always trumpeting as “natural” or “instinctive” but which are really just tools of the patriarchy or opiates of the people or what have you. You know. “Big tits are sexy.” “Women’s minds are naturally less inclined toward mathematics.” “Van Morrison is a genius.” Etc.

It’s tempting to buy the argument that ritual satiates some essential human craving, because it’s so exceedingly successful at selling itself. Rituals of the godbag variety alluringly promise face-time with the Divine, of course, but even when they are secular in nature (weddings, graduations, male bonding at the strip club) they offer tantalizing rewards: they purport to protect a given parochial community against change. In exchange for promoting a cozy feeling of security in the comforting embrace of venerated dogma or cultural narrative, they demand submission to the group ideology, which submission one must publicly demonstrate by the performance of meaningless practices. The practices supposedly have symbolic value, but critical analysis of the symbol in question is gonna reveal doctrine steeped in ancient patriarchal orthodoxy wrapped in flat-out bullshit, every time.

My conclusion, after ruminating about this for a couple of hours is that (a) Hell wouldn’t freeze over if the Obstreperons sprayed the planet with a ritual-neutralizing ray, and (b) the performance of rituals seems more consistent with the practices of the hive mind than with those of the enlightened mind, because ritual doesn’t deliver. It doesn’t prevent change, and it sure as heck doesn’t bring a cultist closer to God, because, well, you know.

You’re saying, “But Twisty, I like buying a Christmas tree and putting out all the quaint figurines that were some mid-20th century sentimentalist’s idea of well-to-do Edwardian ice-skating carolers.” To which I reply, “Bring it, homeslice.” My interest here is speculation on the nature of the motivation behind ritual, not in skewering individuals for their seasonal habits. I know, I know, but I had to mention it. People get so touchy.

So anyway, in the absence of organized religion and its holy spin-off, Xmas consumerism, maybe everyone could finally quit spending the whole month of November scrambling for parking spaces as they spazz around town buying a bunch of cheap crap from China to give to relatives who irritate them, and instead they could just go about their normal lives, i.e. lying around watching Turner Classic Movies on cable and kvetching about pole dancing.

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  1. Sorry to hear about the miserable year. It’s a drag to have to submit to being poisoned, in the hope that the part of you that dies first is the part that’s trying to kill off the rest of you. Even so, life is an “E-ticket ride” (are you old enough (and privileged enough) to get that allusion?), and it would be a shame to get off before you absolutely have to.

    I’m delurking, pointed here by someone horrified by what you write, and enjoying the writing and the irony enough to stay.

  2. Meanwhile, let me disagree with your claim about ritual. My guess is that it *is* a deep human need. It grows out of the human cognitive tendency to look for regularity in the world. That results in guessing various generalizations from experience, many useful and approximately correct, some superstitious and irrational. That same tendency leads to promoting actions that create consistency for onesself and others. At the trivial end, you get the social agreement to use the word “chair” when you want to talk about chairs, rather than just picking a new random word each time.

    More fundamentally, you get rituals like holding a big party whenever the time between sunup and sundown finally gets longer than the time between sundown and sunup. And another big party when the reverse happens. Not only is there regularity in the world, which makes it a lot less scary, but you can make your own regularity! What’s not to like?

  3. hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com

    Funny, I’m not putting up my (fake) Christmas tree this year and I can’t begin to explain why it’s giving me so much agita. I might end up doing it anyway. I’m not even a Christian anymore; go figure.

    I do believe people partake in rituals to feel emotionally secure. I believe some level of emotional security qualifies as a “need.” The need to rely on something, sort of like the way we rely on the sun rising and setting. Perhaps this is it – the need to mark the passage of time? I think most of our silly processions: graduations, weddings, funerals, etc. are ways of marking the passage of time.

    Where this falls on the heirarchy I have no clue.

  4. hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com

    Also, it’s an excuse to party and eat well. When survival isn’t guaranteed and life is hard, or even if one’s upbringing secure but spartan and crabby (in my case Calvinist), one needs OCCASIONS to say “Hey another cycle! Here we are, not dead yeat, bottoms up!”

  5. I never like to talk about abstract complicated ideas thing in terms of ‘deep human needs’.
    I’ll take a stab at guessing the origin of some spooky beliefs.
    I’d say we as humans had developed the capacity for cause-effect reasoning. We do this all the time. Certainly lots of magical beliefs are the over apllication of cause effect reasoning, with some logical fallacies thrown in (post hoc ergo propter hoc). So I might think I can make it rain by doing xyz cuz Ive been doing doing xyz when it rained and done wanna take a chance trying not xyz. Hence some of origin of ritual. We think there are causal agents behind phenomina where no cuasal agent exists.
    This is by no means a deep human need for anything. Most of us no longer need to believe burning a green candle will make us rich, or that angry spirits do this or that.
    We can recognize causal agents,we can over shoot in naming then but that doesn’tmean we are damned to overshoot.

  6. Twisty

    Hi Beard, glad to have you. But OK, I never meant to imply that people are crazy for likin’em or anything. Like, liking a thing and the condition of that thing being biologically predetermined, or innate, or DNA-encoded or necessary for human survival aren’t the same. I’m saying rituals are just mass-produced habits, and habits, except cigarette smoking, can be broken.

    Nice one about the E-ticket, though.

  7. You’re not required to overshoot, but it’s not good if you never do.

    If you never make a mistake, you’re not taking enough risks.

  8. Hi, Twisty, thanks for the welcome. Any given habit can be broken, except for cigarette smoking perhaps, but the tendency to create habits of one kind or another is the thing that is innate (IMHO). And lots of habits are really valuable. It’s only the dysfunctional ones that give them a bad name.

    Humans love regularity. They seek it out, and they (we) create it when and if they can. This gives them (partial) control over the chaos and general scariness of life. The drive to understand and control the world is part of what makes humans human. Sometimes, even often, that drive is exercised in bad ways, but it’s really deeply there.

    If we’re lucky, we make a society where we each get a degree of control, and we know where the boundaries are on how much we get to control others. If we’re not, we make a society where one part subjugates and oppresses another. But the drive for understanding and control comes with the human territory. (Call it “Original Sin” if you want!)

  9. thisis-notablog.blogspot.com

    I think that routines fill make people feel comfortable, and ritual is a special case of that. Does that mean that ritual fills a deep human need for comfort? perhaps, but I’d be more likely to say that it fulfills a desire for comfort. There are also other ways to feel comfort.

  10. “Van Morrison is a genius.” (the previous essay)
    What! That’s been proposed somewhere?

    Ritual isn’t a need. It’s what scared baby people quiver behind.
    Us grown-ups relish commotion and novelty and making sense of messes. I can think of nothing less inviting than doing the same thing over and over unchanging.

    Responding to disorder is what humans, with the humungous organising brain, are at their best at.
    Unless, of course, the agendas of scared baby people get in the way.

  11. hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com

    Even dogs turn around in circles a few times before lying down.

  12. When I think of the word, Ritual, I think of all the motions that one goes through during some silly religious event. Take a simple Sunday sermon in a Protestant church…now it’s been decades since I experienced one of these, but I remember standing up, sitting down, standing up again, then singing, then sitting. And communion? How weird was that? I remember being shocked to hear that I was eating someone’s body and drinking someone’s blood. Is that really true? It just freaked me out. Never went back.

    I don’t like repetitous repetitions. I get bored easily. I like new experiences. I think rituals detract from evolving. Rituals lead to ruts.

    All of that standing and sitting and standing and sitting reminded me of cheerleaders….”Stand up, sit down, FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!”

  13. “Shit, shave and shower” is my dad’s ritual for transitioning from his at-home mode (usually in his robe) to going out in the world.

    But since the sense of “ritual” here is largely that of the religious sort, I’d like to mention that religious ritual can and often does serve purposes larger than comfort. Or maybe, it’s a more advanced form of comfort that includes the capacity for enduring the sorts of discomforts (queers, non-procreative sex, non-white people, and so forth are out there in the world and you might have to interact with them) that the usual faceless hordes of white christian megachurch-goers want to eradicate by whatever means necessary.

    I realize that’s probably easier to read without the many parenthetic statements, so I apologize and will use them anyway.

    Ritual is a tool, which can be put to good use in promoting values and actions that benefit a wide variety of people. It can be put to bad use in cultivating a lot of senseless violence and hatred and all forms of smallmindedness. Ritual can be used in communal settings, where the meaning/message transmitted is supported and ratified by that whole belongingness/group membership thing, and it can be use in solitary, such as meditations, prayers, yoga, etc. (I think yoga without an orienting mental/emotional framework is just good physical conditioning, however.)

    Ritual can, and in some settings (GLBTQ churches of all sorts, progressive christian denominations, some buddhist groups, liberation theologians, etc.) is absolutely conducive to cultivating a kind of mental/emotional orientation (which some call “spirituality”) toward a community/communal sense of shared values (social justice, sexual freedom, fair trade chocolate, etc.) and personal orientation (kindness, compassion, charity, friendliness) in the world.

    So yeah, ritual does deliver, but what it delivers depends on the ritual.

    I would argue that we definately don’t need more megachurches or tiny churches or any religious organizations of any size preaching and reinforcing messages of hate and exclusion.

  14. Sure, it’s fun to say you hate rituals, but you probably don’t appreciate all the little personal rituals you have built into your own life.

    What do you do in the first 30 minutes after you wake up each morning? Or the last 30 minutes before you go to sleep? What do you eat for lunch? Where do you eat dinner? When do you brush your teeth? What do you say to your dog when you’re out for a walk? What stories do you tell on a first date?

    Answer those questions honestly for a month, and I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that you’ll see your life is full of little self-constructed rituals. If you’re really honest with yourself, you’ll see that it would really bug you to change certain ones dramatically.

    You remember church as a kid as unvarying repetition, so you reject it as boring now. Quite possibly, your parents found those same church services full of interest and variation within their common structure. Just like you do when you take your dog walking to one of three different parks each day, or try different drinks at different happy hours.

    You reject rituals you don’t like, or that are forced on you, and create your own rituals. It’s all about controlling the consistency of your own world.

  15. Let’s hope this isn’t the whiskey talkin’…this is so timely, Twisty, as I find myself butting up against the “ritual” of familiar holiday celebration. Each year I have a moment wherein I realize that this ritual is really a trap with big, razor sharp teeth and I’m slipping a paw into it, seemingly voluntarily. What on earth would happen if we varied it up? Well, it wouldn’t be CHRISTMAS! This despite no longer attending church or conforming to a religion per se. So why? Fear. I fear the unknown, I fear the lack of a meaning greater than myself, I fear what would happen if I got off the hamster wheel and put my energy into chewing my way out of the perceived safety of the cage. And, I think, I do it because as a child, ritual made me feel safe from the big, bad world out there. As an adult, knowing I most certainly am not safe, I’m still clinging to the ritual, allowing the patriarchy to be the protective parent. In reality, the parent is drunk, just lost its job and is casting a wandering eye on the children. But the lights on the tree are so pretty, Bing Crosby is crooning, and there’s presents! Aren’t presents redemptive? They make all the bad things worth it, right?

  16. Twisty, why are rituals “mass-produced?” I’m serious. Every timeI get out of my car and park it, I knock it on the left front fender with my knuckle when I walk past and quietly say, “Thanks, baby,” since the car got me to where I wanted to go. That’s a ritual that I engage in compulsively — hasn’t got a thing to do with mass mind control, mass oppression, mass anything. I’m the only one who does it, no one else knows (except now you guys), and no one instructed me to do it or risk censure.

    That’s all ritual is. Or all it needs to be. And little tics and quirks like that I’d say are probably a fundamental tendency in the species.

    I also think that there is a confusion between deep desire and deep need. The only deep needs we have are for oxygen and food. But there are definitely other deep, hard-wired desires and instincts. Humans want language. Humans want to feel like they belong to a group of others; we’re a social species. The problem is that we often confuse these basic desires with oxygen and food, and imagine that we will drop dead if we don’t get them. We won’t — but life will suck in many ways, like it did for the little monkeys in the cages with wire-wrapped milk bottles instead of the warmed ones covered in cloth.

    The problem is not that deep desires don’t exist, but that anything and everythingthat some white fuckwad wants delivered to his face with no effort on his part is called by him a “deep need.” The only deep desire being reflected in that is a deep desire to avoid work.

  17. We have a deep affection for tradition in my family. We use it instead of thinking. For example, my oldest son always gets his grandmother primulas for her birthday. A lovely tradition that prevents having to think up a new and interesting token of affection for a lady who has altogether too much crap. I think traditions serve a useful purpose so long as they make things easier for people rather than harder.
    I have a certain antipathy to ritual, particularly religious ritual. The only way I have found to remain a Christian is to disregard the demands of the godbags and follow the teachings of Christ. When you examine organized religion it is astonishing to discover all the ways they meet the demands of the godbags and disregard the teachings of Jesus. I think that ritual is a method of demonstrating and enforcing the heirarchy of an organization. Not surprisingly, IBTP.

  18. unsanesafe.blogspot.com

    How do we know what is or isn’t DNA encoded? We don’t. Therefore push your own boundaries, see if you can achieve what you wanted to achieve. You might find certain limitations which strike you as being material or biological, as you go. You might be deceiving yourself in ascribing your cause of limitations, but possibly not.

  19. grannyvibe.blogspot.com

    it should be noted that throughout my assorted hair-raising surgeries and death-defying cancer treatments, I was never far from at least one dog.

    I’m adamantly stubborn about one thing: my dogs always sleep in the bed with me, under the covers, AMA, even when my neutrophils have plummetted to .04. Deep need, or utter stupidity?

  20. I decided I didn’t want to partake in the “holiday season” anymore, so now I go away from late December to New Year’s. Last year, I wandered around Toronto for two weeks. This year, I’m going to get stoned and take pictures in Colorado. Thanks for bein’ born, baby Jesus – I really needed the break!

  21. I logged in to indulge in my deep need to see what twisty would bring forth to the world today…

    “Not only is there regularity in the world, which makes it a lot less scary, but you can make your own regularity! ”

    Jesus and bran bring regularity to the masses…

    Christmas is such a gruesome time of year for me – the malls, the major intersections, the hired Santas, the panic, the vomit – that I want to make like a swami, bury myself in the sand and stay there for seven years, breathing through a long straw stuffed into my pudenda*. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many sandy places in Canada that don’t have frozen ground underneath by the time December rolls around.

    That said, I believe that ritual and the passing down of knowledge is necessary (but not innate) to the evolution of humankind; as in, if we didn’t pass down knowledge every generation would be figuring things out from scratch and we wouldn’t have funky things like sewer systems and medicine and birth control and helicopters and Pogoballs. I think, though, that there is a time and place where people have to realise that ritual is NOT an innate need and we have to look at what’s working and what isn’t in terms of our policies.
    I’ve been praying day in and day out to the christian god to turn George W. Bush into an underprivileged Afghani woman, but it hasn’t happened yet. I’m starting to lose faith.

    * according to Joanna Lumley, swamis can breathe through ANY orfice in their bodies!

  22. To put it another way, WOMEN are assumed to have no “deep needs” that don’t boil down to making sure some penis-bearer someplace gets HIS “deep needs” met.

    That’s the problem with this “deep needs” horseshit. Like when male preferences are assumed to be woven into our DNA, whereas women of course HAVE no DNA, instincts, or drives, and took no part in evolution whatsoever. We’re the majority — OUR “deep needs” ARE the race’s “deep needs.” Men love to say that their desire for brick-stupid Playboy fuckholes is fundamental to the species, whereas our desire for a partner who wants more than a fuckhole is mere fluffy political correctness.

    Hello, peabrain. WE ARE OVER HALF THE SPECIES. In sheer numbers, the preference for a partner who sees one as human IS THE DEFAULT, woven into the fabric of the species, and your lame-ass, pale, cowardly, sociopathic preferences for an animated fuck-doll are the deviation.

  23. I understand,don’t agree with, but understand, in a way, fundamentalism. If one believes that believing in X is the ONLY way to heaven,enlightenment–whatever, then I can understand praying, reading the religion’s holy books, spending time worshipping with other people. What i DON”T get is someone saying, for instance, ” I believe God created the earth etc etc” and then in the same sentence saying they believe the same for other religious beliefs (ie, “I also can understand believing a unicorn in the sky created the earth”). I’m not saying people shouldn’t respect other people’s beliefs, but *I* personally just don’t see the point.

    If for instance, being a christian is just a way for someone to set moral guidelines for themself, why not do that? I treat others decently because I believe it makes the world a better place to live in, not because I fear retribution from someone. I don’t kill becuase I wouldn’t want to be killed or have someone i loved killed (and obviously it is illegal to murder someone..but I don’t believe that really stops anyone who is inclined to do so).I have some liberal/non-literalist christian friends who say they like the friendship achieved through belonging to a church/participating in church activities,it works for them which is fine i guess.

  24. ohprettylady.blogspot.com

    the performance of rituals seems more consistent with the practices of the hive mind than with those of the enlightened mind, because ritual doesn’t deliver.

    Sweetie, what type of ritual? It seems to me that in your broken, traumatized and drug-zoned state, of which I am most truly sorry to hear, that you are lumping all ritual into a common toilet bowl and flushing it.

    The distinction I would make, the question I would ask, is: is this a ritual of avoidance and denial, or a ritual of connection? I.e., is this an OCD sort of thing–licking light switches, throwing up, checking all the closets six times before bed–because if you DON’T, some unspecified horrible thing might bubble up from your subconscious and did I check the closet yet?

    Or is it a measured, considered process which allows one to establish a sense of connection to others, to the passing of time, as an external signifier of an internal grace?

    I would say that perhaps human beings need both of these things, but for different purposes, not all of them as productive as others.

    And what, my darling, is your definition of ‘the enlightened mind’ and of ‘deliverance’?

    Because, my dear, the attention to certain very simple rituals, such as the ritual of breathing, over a very long period of time, has been peer-verified over millennia, to result in ‘the enlightened mind,’ as defined as ‘a mind which directly experiences the unity of all creation, a boundless inner peace and transcendent love without object.’

    But this may, of course, not be at all what you are referring to.

  25. It does seem that what people really mean when they use the phrase “deep human need” is more along the line of “entrenched human tendency.”

    Even in the comment above, where Beard tries to defend “needs” for ritual:
    “It grows out of the human cognitive tendency to look for regularity in the world.”

    However, I might actually want to make the argument that we ‘need’ regularity to make any sense out of what we experience in the world. Grouping things so as to think about them and noticing patterns that give us the ability to make predictions about how to act are pretty basic parts of how our minds work, and what allows us to move about in the world. Something with no predicitive potential at all inspires fear; that’s exactly what the most basic form of tyranny is – there’s no regularity in what is good today, bad tomorrow; the same action might get you jailed one day, promoted the next, because everything is determined by someone’s arbitrary will. And living under tyranny is pretty psychologically damaging. (Not that I know first hand, but certainly that seems to be the general report.)

    Anyhow, so regularity (at least in the physical world and to some extent in the social): may really be a need.
    Ritual, on the other hand: just a tendency.

    But then, ritual is also extremely powerful, and I don’t think that rituals one doesn’t like (like consumerist partriarchal Christianity) can be defeated by mere criticism. I think the development of new rituals to establish further social coherence is pretty essential to moving beyond the old, destructive habits and patterns established by the previous sets of rituals.

    Isn’t that what this blog is? A regularly practiced feminist ritual of blaming intended to replace the current set of socially-accepted but oppressive rituals?

  26. I forgot to add: faith is a luxury. Otherwise, animals would have churches.

  27. Is there a difference between ritual and tradition? As the only girl and middle child (four brothers) growing up on a dairy farm, Sunday morning church was the only time my dad was available to me alone.
    Well, I guess he considered that he was spending time with god too, but I remember being happy that my mom sometimes chose to sleep in and that my brothers only went to church occasionally. So although I, too, disliked the standing up, sitting down crap, and can’t remember any of the dogma being spouted from the pulpit, I loved the ritual/tradition because I very much needed that time. Although the patriarchal message seeped into my consciousness and affected me in many damaging ways for years, I still value those times in that small country church that smelled of mice and old polished wood. The only actual church service I recall being fun or at least pleasant was the harvest festival when the church was decorated (by the women of course) with fall vegetables and flowers. I had a pagan heart even then. In essence, I think the sense of community was what mattered most in retrospect.

  28. unsanesafe.blogspot.com

    Yes– it is useful to assert deep needs. “Human nature” in the trite, ubiquitous and populist sense is just whatever social default is registered by the least path of resistance. To assert a different “human nature” from the one which is “common sense” is to be contentious, dangerously revolutionary. The opposite position to current sensibilities about human nature is: “NO! NOT YOUR ‘human nature’ — MINE, RATHER!”

  29. kugelmass.wordpress.com

    Twisty, it’s funny to me that you put your attack on ritual in terms of the re-affirmation of parochial communities, because rituals tend to be disruptive and therefore valuable for me. It’s not a question of ritual against “normal life,” in the fuzziest, warmest, movie-marathon sense of normalcy, but rather the secular ghost of “sacred time” (i.e. holiday breaks, like the one coming up for me) holding its own slightly against the completely routinized time of watching cable and kvetching. Rituals, as long as they are managed with a minimum of pablum and relative-saturated stress, can actually be ways of suspending business as usual…and by that, I do, of course, mean the daily fact of patriarchy as well as the rest of the chronic ills. I’m not saying they start out that way, or work that way if you follow the established traditions, but I take my reversals of the norm where I can get ’em, and co-opting the holidays is one such opportunity.

  30. What´s to debate about, when your right your right.
    Amen to that god in practice, in theory and history sucks and is concerned mostly with oppression and hate.
    Even all gussied up with batshivas and female bishops and what not they are all anti women and antihumanity. And if their old texts were wrong about women doesn´t this say something about their whole ground text? Like it´s not truly the revealed word of god or jehovah or allah or krishna (which have to be by definition eternal and perfectly correct and not open to wishy washy, good vibes, new age, liberal middle class reinterpetation)instead of a product of a group of sicko greedy priest parasites supporting the power system?
    New agers should really check out the status of a buddhist nun in any buddhist country, tibet, thailand, wherever.
    I love the apologist motto (thanks to the NRA.): Religion doesn´t kill people, people kill people.
    Thanks for giving me the Twisty pass on individual practices, otherwise my ritual of reading you daily would be a guilty indulgence.
    Well maybe it is anyway.
    By the way, did you know that selling a buncha records and/or being a favorite of enough music “critics” is now an accepted clinical scientific measure of genius, just ask Oprah or someone similiar. This standard is applicable and relevant in many fields of popular culture.

  31. Mearl: just so you know, your ‘regularity to the masses’ quip made me snort coffee up my nose. Whee! You made my day.

    As for ritual, I’m personally in agreement with the ew factor of the hive mind concept; it freaks me right out and makes me want to pour jellybeans into sensitive machinery. It seems that there’s a tremendous difference between personal (or intimate) and impersonal ritual, however. But as far as whether either category is an actual human need, I have no idea. Perhaps it depends on the human in question?

    I do collect church collapses. Tip o’ the hat to T. Harris.

    And finally, as for the holiday hell, I’ve gotten to like it a whole lot more now that my entire programme consists of hanging out with my cats and rats and cooking stuff and eating it and reading books; it’s a luxury that I’ll never fail to appreciate. And I did get a new fake tree this year: it’s black. Natch.

  32. 27july1869.blogspot.com

    First, my family members (including my parents) are a bunch of atheists (and some were anarchists, too). When my sister died, a religious ceremony was obviously not an option. It turned out, though, that having a memorial service–providing an opportunity for people who knew and loved her to come together,–was a good thing. We were able to acknowledge that something important (and, obviously bad) had happened–and, in our case, without babbling about how She’s Better Off Because She’s with Jeebus, or about how a deity must have had a plan for her or some such shit. She’s dead, Jim. Was it a “ritual” we performed? Don’t know. It didn’t bring her back to life, and we don’t believe in life everylasting, but the communal acknowledgement did, in fact, help.

    The other thing–and someone upthread touched on this–is that I think it’s helpful to think about how language (what with its more or less consistent meanings–these sounds and marks mean the same today as they did yesterday) and ritual aren’t completely dissociated from each other. And both feed into communities. I argue that humans are social creatures–the language is certainly evidence of that–without specifying that specific social arrangements are “necessary.”

    Now I have to go make croissants.

  33. I appreciate the idea that ritual may indeed be simply a matter of habit (though its ubiquity does seem to argue that its reflective of something essential in what it means to be human). I really am approaching this from a purely practical perspective. I want to see organized religion go down! I want humans to be freed of gods and priests. However, it seems to me that most people perceive religious ritual as being equal to religion itself, or even god itself. Rituals are not all bad, though, as many blamers above pointed out. They have use for marking transitions. Plus, all the “fun” things about christian holidays are pagan. Lordy, how I wish more people would appreciate that there’s nothing christian about Christmas.

    So, how to tease the marking of transitions from religion and gods? How can me make rituals that don’t by default involve beseeching some deity? Even if rituals are mere habit, how can we break the habit? Or even merely get people to understand the essential arbitrariness of the rituals they’ve learned?

  34. Of course all the “its” were supposed to be “it’s”. Stupid morning, making me stupid. And also making me the Cookie Monster, apparently. “How can we make rituals”, not “How can me make rituals”. Sheesh.

  35. I went to an ‘ancient’ UK university, which had an awful lot of non-religious rituals. We were all told about them in first year, and we all accepted them and did them. We wanted, very badly, to be part of that community; being part of the community meant participating in rituals, so we did them. The rituals were also very flexible: there was a saying “If its happened more than twice, it’s a university tradition”, so there was a gradual flux and change even in the short time I was there. This made it easier to be part of the rituals – even though they were often stupid, or so old no-one remembered why they were done any more, they were also mainly fun. So, the combination of habit, community and pleasure were I think the ones mainly at work there.

    Note – I didn’t analyse any of this while I was there. I just joined in. Also, I think that if I read that ‘tradition X’ was being banned/disappearing there I would be quite upset – it’s identifying with that community, even though no-one there now knows me, and associating the pleasure gained from it with the ritual as an abstract.

    Living somewhere in the north of the planet, where daylight in winter lasts only a handful of hours, I have a feeling that midwinter festivals started as a way of trying to stop everyone topping themselves in December.

  36. I just gotta say, though it’s way upthread, it’s good to hear from Liz.

  37. mycrust.livejournal.com

    Nice oe ligature.

  38. faultline.org/place/toad

    * according to Joanna Lumley, swamis can breathe through ANY orfice in their bodies!

    Clearly she is confusing swamis with certain species of turtle, who “breathe” through their assholes while underwater.

    Honestly, with such a world all around us, I don’t see the point in carrying on with airy or pious generalities about human nature or deeeeep neeeeeds or whatever the buzzword is this decade. Connection? Of course we’re connected — what are we grown of, what are we breathing through whatever orifice? — it’s redundant to “establish” a connection, dearie; all one need do is notice. If you’re not going on and on trying to shut your mind up, you feel it along with thinking it. Why yes, it’s a very good feeling, and needn’t transcend anything because it includes everything. Ritual? White noise, distraction, the barking dog when you’re trying to understand birdsong. Also a word handily generalizable to apply to anything from White Christmas to tying one’s shoelaces.

    Ditching the god-twitch even individually does get a lot of the lint off one’s perceptions. Analyzing the godbuzz rituals might help, or even noticing them. IIRC my final snap from the sincere and deeeeply-felt Catholic religion I grew up in happened whan I was listening, for the lebentymillionth time, to that “I believe Jesus rose from the dead” swoon. That handy question popped up in my head: “So what?” He certainly never showed the rest of them how to pull that off. OK, so even if it were true: a punctured Houdini. What would follow from that?

    WHEW. Suddenly there’s time and quiet to notice. Big world, so splendid.

    Hey, what are those buzzy people doing behind my back under my nose and saying I should just shut my mouth and close my eyes because it’s over my head? Just a damn minute, buster. Out of my way. IBTP.

  39. imponderabilia.blogspot.com

    Well, the thing is, all human societies (and arguably some other primates, like that pygmy chimp species I hesitate to mention) have rituals. Some anthropologists argue that rituals encode (or more likely, used to do so at some point in the past) some of the rules that help a particular society survive. Like food sharing rituals.

    That isn’t to argue that we can’t do without them. Sex and reproduction are “deep human needs”, but many do without them, after all. It just takes a bit of thought outside the “hive mind”.

    Another interesting way to look at ritual is to look at obsessive-compulsive disorder. With OCD, rituals (often very idiosyncratic) are usually absolutely necessary to assuage anxiety. Something very bad will happen if you don’t perform the right ritual you feel a compulsion to do. The fact that this can be helped with both medication and behavioral therapy was some of the earliest evidence that OCD is biological in origin. I’ve often thought that group taboos must have started with some charismatic leader with OCD. Also, it makes me laugh to think that the origins of religion are tied to mental disorders.

  40. vera.wordpress.com

    I belong to a spiritual community of sorts. It’s a an un-organized group of disparate types, ranging from hard-ass rationalists like myself to people who believe they are channelling messages from aliens.

    This community is about ten years old. During these past ten years, I’ve seen the group create one ritual after another. It goes something like this: someone says that the candles need to be placed in a circle and lighted clockwise, one-by-one, by a woman bearing the sacred bic and chanting a particular prayer. The next time we assemble we must do it exactly that same way, and the folks who were there the first time become experts on the fine details of how to exactly repeat the practice right down to the way the sacred bic is waved three times over each candle.

    Gathering in the circle and lighting the candles was fun the first time. It had a lovely ceremonial feel. But in an effort to reproduce a spontaneous ceremony, the group created a ritual complete with a hierarchy of experts who put themselves in charge of instructing the rest of us.

    I think creating ceremony is just a type of play, and playing is a Deep Human Need.

    I think turning a ceremony into a ritual is something we do because we’re imbedded in a patriarchy, and the only model we have for organizing ourselves involves establishing dominance, control, and hierarchy.

    On the other hand, I am persuaded by the comments that establishing rituals has something to do with banishing chaos. Nothing is more chaotic than plunging into an altered state of consciousness, and during such times if one casts a panicked gaze around the room everything, including a line of people waiting for the toilet, suddenly looks like a ritual. But, like Twisty, I digress.

    In recent years my siblings and I faced the sad duty of selling the home my parents built, where we grew up. As my sister and I were cleaning out our mother’s dresser drawers we came upon neat little packets of our hair. Mom didn’t let us cut it until we were past ten, and she had preserved our braids.

    Right there on the spot my sister and I created the “Ceremony of the Tresses.” We carried the hair out to the hill behind the house and tossed it bit by bit into the breeze. We also buried a bit of it in the land. Our brother took photos. This ceremony was fun and filled with magical ideas of leaving a bit of ourselves behind and contributing nest-building materials to the local birds. Thankfully, this ceremony was a one-time-only deal, never to be codified as ritual.

  41. saraarts.com

    “statusquoticians” — excellent

    That is a lovely looking sandwich.

    Oh and right on, Ron.

  42. A lot of OCD can be “cured” if the person’s family and friends just lighten up and accept their rituals.

  43. educeme.com

    “The practices supposedly have symbolic value, but critical analysis of the symbol in question is gonna reveal doctrine steeped in ancient patriarchal orthodoxy wrapped in flat-out bullshit, every time.”

    I’ll be quoting you the next time I’m forced to write a sociological paper on ritual and symbolic meaning.

    Habit, ritual, or assumed need, folks are getting something out of performing certain actions, be it kneeling in a pew or shaving some armpit hair (although IBTP for these specific examples). As long as the effect is positive to the individual they continue. As such, I can see how it would be hard for people to stop doing whatever-it-is and then feeling as if a hole forms — crutches and dependency and all.

    Your preemptive answer to those who protest is unnecessary. I gather you’re (merely) asking folks to be critical of their behaviors.

  44. educeme.com

    “We have a deep affection for tradition in my family. We use it instead of thinking.”

    Love it.

  45. beard — nobody besides my sisters has mentioned an E-ticket in my presence in years!

    i also think ceremonies or rituals are cool, especially recently invented ones that have no huge deep purpose besides having a party and some kind of theme. people are social animals. we have enough random unplanned and horrifying stuff that happens in life — so why not have some planned irrational happy stuff too? [i don’t mean this in a churchy sense — the ritual might be supremely unique, such as sharing photos of pulbic restrooms, but there is good in bonding over laughs, no?]

  46. Awww…I was hoping someone would recognise my reference to the Absolutely Fabulous episode where Eddie takes up New Age religion and walks around wearing finger cymbals a la Allen Ginsberg and muttering something like, “shambalabodhisattva…send me a Mercedes and a new Gucci bag…”

    And Ron, “a punctured Houdini” – hee hee hee

  47. An eight year olds view of Oreally and religion. Priceless.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8x14cLGh5o&eurl=

  48. scienceblogs.com/ethicsandscience

    I applaud Twisty’s anti-essentialism and posit that in many instances where we take ourselves to crave ritual what we really crave is community — serious engagement with other human beings that is more than merely superficial, pleasant, or of instrumental value to the parties involved. Ritual has become, like those robots being built to tend to the elderly so busy young’uns don’t have to, a substitute.

    None of which is to say I won’t be buying a quart of eggnog each week from now through New Year’s. And heavens, that squash sammich looks good!

  49. That mozzarella looks to be at the perfect point between liquid and solid. Nigella Lawson probably knows a word for it ending in “escent” but she went to Oxford and I did not.

    As for God Sodding Off, I heartily agree. But to use a saying that is from football and therefore probably inappropriate, you can’t stop him you can only hope to contain him.

    Dogs may in fact be a deep human need, but not much else that is claimed to be so comes even close. High heels and breast augmentation surgery are especially not close examples.

  50. I was an anthro major once upon a time, and learned all the stuff as to what ritual is supposedly about, but in practice what it seems to be about, both in my family at this time of year, and in many, many other families & cultures that I have read or heard about, is having a way to place yourself one-up on other people, and to pass judgment on whether they did the ritual “right.” Or thoroughly enough. Or sincerely enough. Or with good enough food and decor.

    This passing judgment thing strikes me as a waaayyyy deep human desire. Some of the spontaneous rituals other posters described sound really cool because they lack that element. But Christmas? The whole point of Christmas, as near as I can tell, is that every gift, to every person, is not quite right – BUT, and here’s the fun part, if they fail to act enthusiastic about your crappy gift, then you are BOTH in the wrong, and BOTH get to mock one another later to your partner or parent or whoever.

    Ritual shakes up the actual order of the day or week only a little – but the shakeup in conversation over the next month or so? The chance to vent otherwise unauthorized feelings of resentment? Priceless.

    IBTP that we carry around so much unauthorized resentment in the first place, though.

  51. “IBTP that we carry around so much unauthorized resentment in the first place, though.”

    You think if there were no patriarchy, you would then have no resentment to carry around? Or even not so much?

    I seriously doubt it.

  52. hattie.typepad.com/hatties_web

    I think part of the problem here is that a lot of people elevate too many things to the realm of “needs.” Having defined these things as needs, they go about attempting them on everyone else. Religion is a big example. Religious people believe they need to “believe.” No matter how much I tell them I don’t need that, they keep trying to convert me to their faiths. Or they imagine I’m unhappy not being in the bosom of the Lord. How wrong they are.

  53. hattie.typepad.com/hatties_web

    Dang. Attempting to foist, of course.

  54. hattie.typepad.com/hatties_web

    Hey, what happened to my post? I tried to correct a mistake and it disappeared!

  55. Twisty: I tried to post, and got a Kind-a-Captcha, but the image below wasn’t displayed (on Safari), so there is no way to comply. Perhaps a bug in your web site software.

  56. antelope wrote: “IBTP that we carry around so much unauthorized resentment in the first place, though.”

    If there were no patriarchy, would you carry around no resentment? Or less than you do now? Or would it be redirected?

  57. Oh, sweet Jeebus it’s high time that this tedious God douchebag just sodded off. I’m so sick of hearing about his rules, and his opinions, and what he’s written, and who he’s not speaking to this week.

    Great post once again, Twisty, and great comments from all once again, and once again I am overwhelmed by all the brain wattage from the people who comment here. Damn, ya’ll make me feel like an intellectual lightweight!

    This is OT, but I just stepped away from Alternet’s comments section on a Katha Pollit article that had been trolled by MRAs, so please indulge me in a tiny, tiny little vent as it may prevent me from killing someone. Here it goes. I hate MRAs. I hate them high. I hate them low. I hate them at sundown and again at sunset, pausing several times throughout the day to hate them some more. I hate them when I face east. I hate them with I face west. I hate their beliefs, their philosphy of life, their sense of entitlement, their delusions, their websites, their whining, their self-pity, their hobbies, their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations, and even their stupid fucked up faces. I hate them unto the sixth or seventh generation. I even hate their dogs. I’m sorry about the rant, but man those fuckers piss me off. You know who I blame.

  58. Well I never. What have you got against the

    Marketing Research Association
    Mountain Rescue Association
    Magnetic Resonance Angiography
    Maligne Rafting Adventures
    Malta Resources Authority
    Masters Rowing Association

    ????

    Don’t. It sounds like I’d prefer any of the above.

  59. Substitute “Bob Dylan” for “Van Morrison” and you’ll have one of the most pernicious lies of our lifetime. Not that I disagree about Morrison.

  60. The whole point of Christmas, as near as I can tell, is that every gift, to every person, is not quite right – BUT, and here’s the fun part, if they fail to act enthusiastic about your crappy gift, then you are BOTH in the wrong, and BOTH get to mock one another later to your partner or parent or whoever.

    Um … no? o_O

    And I’m an atheist talking, here.

  61. I wasn’t going to say anything, not wanting to be tetchy, but I’ve gone from tetchy to insanely curious: what is WITH the pet names, Ron Sullivan and Pretty Lady? “Dearie”? “Sweetie”? “My darling”? “Dear”?

    Am I blundering like an abruptly-woken water buffalo into an earmark of feminist subculture that I don’t know about because I skipped Feminism 101, or are you being as breathtakingly rude and condescending as I think you are?

    Never mind. Apparently tetchy is still in effect.

    Lavoris–Heresy! Lies! You’re making my eyes bleed.

  62. I think Marx pretty much summed it all up. According to Marx, all of history is a struggle between the classes and all societies have been torn by this conflict. Past societies tried to keep the exploited class under control by using elaborate political organizations, laws, customs, traditions, ideologies, religions and rituals. Marx argued that personality, beliefs, and activities are shaped by these institutions. By recognizing these forces, he reasoned, people will be able to overcome them through revolutionary action. Unfair institutions and customs will disappear when the exploited class revolts against the ruling class.

    Give this boy a kewpie doll. He’s got the patriarchy’s number and what customs, traditions, rituals and religion are all about. They’re tools of the patriarchy to keep the masses under control.

    Feminism has its roots in Marxism. The 2 classes feminism focuses on are class men and class women. Which seemed to go over the head of even Marx. Marx, like most liberals, avoided talking about the exploitation and oppression of women. Because then he’d have to recognize himself as a member of the ruling class and an exploiter and an oppressor himself. Something liberals try to avoid like the plague. Even in Marxism, it appears that Marxists don’t recognize women as human and just take for granted and as a given that women will remain a slave class to class men. Marx treated his own wife like shit.

    So it comes as no surprise that Marx was able to figure out what the patriarchy was up to with their customs, traditions, rituals and religions. It takes one to know one. And men know exactly what they do to women. So what underclass men are really complaining about to the ruling class is that they resent being treated like women.

  63. MRA = Men’s Rights Activist

  64. ms_mutt, yes, MRA is men’s rights activist. I was too far gone in my maniacal rage last night to have defined that. *sigh*

  65. Wow, Keeshond, I don’t mean to laugh, I know your rage is genuine and well justified, it’s just that in the rage you sounded to me something like Dr. Seuss – “I hate them high, I hate them low.” I could end that with “I hate them hate them where EVER I go!”

    ***I even hate their dogs.***

    I was with you until that.

  66. Speaking of ritual, let me describe a favorite ritual for some of us in the testosterone-filled patriarchy.

    After a hard day in the salt mines, I sometimes relax by indulging in an activity I call “bar fighting”. My usual way to do this is to log into a right-wing blog and announce loudly something like, “The only fiscally responsible president in the last 25 years was Bill Clinton!” That generally gets them boiling off the benches, and before you know it we are trading punches and having a wonderful time. It’s great exercise, keeps the blood pressure up, forces me to look up references so I can clobber silly arguments, and I get to put down various conservatives for lack of intellectual rigor. Mostly it’s “learning by talking”, but sometimes I even learn something from them. And there are people there, with whom I have developed relationships of mutual respect. (The word “friend” is hard to apply in these anonymized situations.)

    Of course, since that activity is so enjoyable and rewarding, it is tempting to indulge on other occasions, when encountering a group of strong-minded and strongly-opinionated people. Like IBTP? No.

    Upon doing Twisty’s recommended homework, it becomes clear that the social rules of this party are different from the bars I enjoy fighting in. The image I get is of a bunch of kids on a big lawn, with a knot of little boys wrestling and fighting happily in one corner, while a knot of little girls are having a tea-party in the other corner. All is well unless the knot of little boys happens to roll into the tea party.

    Given these two choices of enjoyable activity, it is clearly easier for one to disrupt the other, than the other way around. And it’s your party, so you get to set the rules.

    So, I’ll lurk here from time to time. I might say something from time to time. But I’ll try to mostly follow the rules of your party while I’m here.

    Still, it doesn’t take long, reading Twisty’s prose, to recognize someone else with an affinity and talent for bar fighting.

  67. Wow, Keeshond, I don’t mean to laugh, I know your rage is genuine and well justified, it’s just that in the rage you sounded to me something like Dr. Seuss – “I hate them high, I hate them low.” I could end that with “I hate them hate them where EVER I go!”

    Damn, that’s good! Why didn’t I think of that!

    And you’re right. A dog would be much too feminine and fluffy a pet for the muy macho MRAs, but “I hate their pet barracudas, tarantulas and hyenas” just didn’t have the same ring.

  68. flyinfur.blogspot.com

    Are some of you conflating ritual and habit here? I think the two are different.

    Some really bad things happened to me early on, while I still had a child’s magical thinking, and it was enough to realize that ritual doesn’t fix anything.

    I really dislike most ritual, graduations, churches, wedding ceremonies, funerals. I go (because it makes someone else feel better), but the only ones I’ve liked are the ones where someone changes the ceremony to put their own mark on it (which happens surprisingly often with funerals for people of my generation; my memorial service will be a giant party with a DJ, lots of chocolate and ice cream and a Red Square size poster of me — I’d rather have a Viking funeral and I have to admit that the vision of my kids pushing a gasoline soaked rowboat into Lake Hefner in the middle of the night while looking over their shoulders for the police just cracks me up.

    However, I DID attend my pinning ceremony after nursing school. Some of my fellow students said that they would not have “felt like nurses” without it. For me, though, it was a last bonding with the people who had helped me through the absolute most stressful time of my life and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. (I did skip the graduation ceremony, though)

    And the hair ceremony above did remind me of the time I worked with a truly evil person who was fired and the four women I worked with and I made up a ceremony out of relief — we rang bells, burned incense, danced, and put lemons in all the corners. We felt much better after that, but I think it was much more the fact that we did something absolutely goofy and spontaneous that made us feel better; I know we never repeated anything like that.

  69. Jodie, yes, exactly: many are conflating a “need” with “habit.” Not that they are far, far different. Ask a junkie if he “needs” his next fix. But for that junkie, figuring out that he doesn’t need it is the first step to recovery, right?

    Also, “need” and “desire” are so easy to conflate, too. My parents were always after me as a kid to think about whether I NEEDED whatever toy I was whining about, or just WANTED it. By no means perfect parental units, this was a valuable lesson I return to quite often.

    If anything, ANYTHING, was truly a “deep human need,” we would all do it. Consider the emperor penguin: apparently there is a deep penguin need to hike across antarctica once a year to mate & breed. You don’t hear about sectarian violence or squabbles regarding route, destination, or date of departure. It’s just done, en masse. That, my friends, is a deep penguin need, driven by instinct and DNA. But “deep human need”? Hmph. If we can argue about it, analyze it, or disagree about it, it’s clearly a preference, a habit, a want, or an entrenched patriarchal training device.

  70. I’m just recalling something I’ve read recently about our deep human need to take substances that alter brain chemicals, briefly, if not continually (referred to as a junkie’ habit). Substances we use to do this with include peyote, heroin, alcohol and food. The writer put forth the idea that we do indeed need this, that it’s wired into our DNA.

  71. “If there were no patriarchy, would you carry around no resentment? Or less than you do now? Or would it be redirected?” Beard

    Yep. Yep. Nope.

  72. The boys’ foggy notion of what is need and what is want is the flaw in communism; that part about: To each according to his need, from each according to his ability. But, one boy’s need being another’s want, that didn’t work out too well.

    Come to think of it, the boy’s foggy notioning is the flaw in all their theories, religions and philosophies, essentially little more than a lot of boy babble about the difference between want and need. Their wants and needs. Women’s wants and needs? Who cares?

    The good news is, women will soon take back the world in The Invisible Revolution:

    http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_alex_gab_061126_who_is_really_behind.htm

  73. faultline.org/place/toad

    Scarlet Pervygirl, that interjection was in response to Pretty Lady’s recent effusion. In meatlife I’ve had to drag that gimmick out all the way to “poopsie” to get the point across. There are people, including strangers, I’ll allow to call me by generic endearments but there are people from whom those come across as condescension. I took the liberty of schmittoxing someone who was possibly aiming that only at Twisty, but what’s a comment string for, after all?

    I have noticed that posters who attempt to condescend to Twisty or the rest of us can be counted on to out themselves as trolls shortly thereafter.

    Hey, Keeshond, don’t be dissing tarantulas. First impression of the first one I saw in the wild: “Look — a mink crab!” Come on now, what could be cuddlier?

  74. flyinfur.blogspot.com

    Ron, I’ll never forget the first time I saw a tarantula marching across my yard, or how crazy it made the dogs…they kept making little runs at it, as though they’d attack it and then draw back at the last second while barking like crazy. It ignored them (and me) and just kept going. Since our yard was an acre, this lasted a good 2 hours. I am still fascinated by tarantulas.

  75. my first reaction to this was that we can’t know if people can survive without ritual because those experiments haven’t been done.

    but they have. all of us are indoctrinated to participate, yet lots of us end up grumblingly paying lip service to ritual, as jodie suggests, to make other people feel better and you know, to hang out. i’d rather not blow hundreds of dollars and a lot of time this month buying gifts for my massive family. but it will make them happy, and making them happy makes me happy.

    we don’t need ritual. but we certainly do enjoy the company of our loved ones, be they dogs or two-year-old children beginning their third year of indoctrination into the ways of santa– er, baby jesus.

  76. faultline.org/place/toad

    Jodie, are you sure your dogs weren’t peforming some Caninocentric ritual about T’ranta Claus?

  77. Has anyone noticed how most rituals involve huge amounts of labor by women? Thanksgiving. Setting up the tree. Hanging the stockings by the chimney with care. Buying said stockings. Communion. I remember growing up that my mother periodically took a turn at preparing the trays of tiny glasses of wine and strange tasteless meltaway body of christ wafers.

  78. phonelesscord.wordpress.com

    As for conflating ritual and habit – isn’t a ritual just a habit that the ritual-doers have imbued with some deeper meaning/feeling? And can’t we imbue with feeling any of the many habits we all have?

    Champagne brunch with your best friends every Sunday morning is just as solid a ritual as going to church with your family every Sunday morning, if it makes you feel like part of something.

    Is it a deep human need? I have no idea, but I know that ritual comes in lots of packages besides the god one.

  79. I’m not a Christian, but grew up surbloodyrounded by them. I remember the men, dads, never went to church.

  1. Is ritual passé? at PunkAssBlog.com

    […] PZ links Twisty and extends her point that ritualism is primitive and unnecessarily celebrated in our culture. He adds: I’ve heard that so often: that people need ritual, that there’s something beautiful and comforting about the predictable and stately. Why? I get along fine without it, and find it a nuisance when I’m subjected to it, so it’s clearly not a universal human need, like food or love. If you’re brought up with it, if it’s dunned into your head that you must attend Sunday services or you will go to hell, I can understand how the relief from an artificial anxiety might feel good…but why not cut the problem off at the roots and raise kids who aren’t instilled with those foolish fears? […]

  2. Ritual madness (another “Sod off, God!” tangent) at I Blame The Patriarchy

    […] Register « Sod off, God! Week continues […]

  3. Epiphany number 24136 « Canace

    […] And today, I find this: But do we really need all those needs? […]

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