Part 8 of my interview with Alex Doherty of the New Left Project.

8. Much of the religious life consists of ritual. What is the point of religious rituals? What is meant to be achieved by them?

I used to hate rituals. I felt manipulated by them. What I have come to realize is, when they are done voluntarily, rituals can be a way our body comes to understand the symbols in our heads. When birds want to mate they don’t say it with words, they dance. It is written in their bodies. When bees want to tell of far away honey they, too, dance. Our bodies respond to certain movements in a powerful way that rational language cannot touch. People often think of religious rituals as acts of socialization, but their more important function is to integrate individuals and communities to the circle of life and to help us move through life passages like puberty, marriage and death. One of the things that makes Americans so easy to frighten is that we do not have rituals that help our bodies understand that death is a part of life and is not to be. Instead of asking people to live without rituals, I believe we should teach the kind of rituals that would help people to recognize the earth as our home, and every human as a part of our family.

For the entire article, click here.