FAITH AND RITUALS

Let’s Honestly Face It!

Faith is a highly dynamic force in our hearts, minds and souls.

As time goes by we may move to a greater understanding of God. Just look as how our conception and perception of the Almighty have evolved through the ages from polytheism to monotheism. Now our knowledge of the cosmos compels us to redefine God the Creator. Cosmologists think that in the infinite universe new Big Bangs (the moment something comes out of nothing) recur; the universe keeps on growing and expanding. There are billions of galaxies and in each galaxy there are billions of stars (each star being a sun) around which planets revolve. In the vast expanse of the universe there may be billions of life-sustaining planets. We can no longer believe that the universe is what is described by Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

We agree that the Almighty is omnipresent, omnipotent and onmiscient. His power is not located only on planet Earth, in our solar system or in our galaxy known as the Milky Way. His power shines all over the billions of stars in the billions of galaxies; all over the universes within the Universe.

Do life and intelligent life exist only on this puny little planet called Earth? Is there not intelligent life elsewhere? We like to flatter ourselves into believing that God has made us to His image. Is it right to give to God anthropomorphic features, the result of millions of years of evolution? Worse O worse! Is it right to call Him Father? Is not the Almighty mother and father at the same time? Should we not get rid of the sexist image which some of us have of God. It is worthwhile noting in this respect that in the gospel according to Mathew Jesus uses a maternal image to describe his mission: “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings!” (Matthew 23:37)

According to what we know now God is Supreme Cosmic Eternal Intelligence. The more science discloses about the Universe and nature, the closer we may get to the mind of God. To better grasp the true essence of God we need to study science, philosophy and theology.

Rituals

Rituals are closely related to faith but must not be confused with it.

What are rituals? They are the paraphernalia of religious worship. According to Wikipedia a ritual “is a stereotyped sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and designed to influence preternatural entities or forces on behalf of the actors’ goals and interests. … Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. … Rituals are characterized by formalism, traditionalism, invariance, rule-governance, sacral symbolism and performance. … There are hardly any limits to the kind of actions that may be incorporated into a ritual. The rites of past and present societies have typically involved special gestures and words, recitation of fixed texts, performance of special music, songs or dances, processions, manipulation of certain objects, use of special dresses, consumption of special food, drink, or drugs, and much more.”

At best rituals are the scaffoldings of faith but if mismanaged they often become closer to superstition rather than fulfil their intended purpose – to lead the person towards spiritual search.

If faith demands constant search for the ultimate truth, rituals across all faiths need constant reform. Of course orthodoxies will be against but the struggle must go on.

 


* Published in print edition on 28 February 2014

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