|Artwork by Tarek Chemaly|
I love this article by Claude El Khal, an avowed atheist who loves Christmas. If am referencing him today, it is because there is often a confusion between "faith" and "ritual". It is easy to intermingle the two even if they are very different. One could have faith and abide by the rituals, or have faith and not follow the rituals, which ergo means - those who follow the rituals do not necessarily have faith.
Scientific studies have linked following religious rituals to OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), this implies that those who follow novenas or cross themselves three times in front of a church are the same people who go to work following the same route everyday and need to sit on the same table in the same restaurant whenever they go out for a meal.
Marriage for example, if a very ritualistic institution that existed for economic reasons - meaning to make inheritance procedures easier (please, the "love" bit and the monogamy part came later - much later). And yet, many people who rank their faith as anywhere from "moderate" to "non-existent" end up marrying in church (or in whatever religious setting they abide by), follow the rituals imposed by society and they are by no means hypocrites if you ask me.
Rituals, are what bind a community together - anything from where people are seated at the table in the Sunday lunch, to the same stories told over and over at family reunions, to where everyone parks their cars. Rituals, such as presenting-condolences, are indeed very useful - apart from the presence of people in funerals, it is also shaking hands, getting hugs, hearing small talk that makes the "ritual" so important as it comforts the mourners and distracts them from the pain of their loss.
I am not as silly as saying there is a "war on Christmas" - and when Pope Benedict wore red papal shoes, he was followed by Pope Francis who wears a wooden cross after him. I am not doubting their faith, I am just saying to each his own rituals.
In Muslim weddings, there is the "moukaddam" and "mouakhar" - the money the bride gets at the beginning of the wedding and the one she gets in case of divorce. When the brother of a Sunni friend got married to his Russian fiancee, intrigued, I asked "so, what was the moukaddam and mouakhar?" - smiling ironically my friend said "lira bi lira" (one Lebanese Pound for one Lebanese Pound - which is 66 cents by today's conversion). The meaning did not elude me, his brother and wife got the wedding they wanted, his mother got the religious bit that would please her, and everyone is happy.
So today, regardless of the amount of faith I have (I am not disclosing it), I did go to church for the Christmas mass under the pouring rain, just like yesterday the family did agglomerate together and Santa Claus managed to mysteriously put gifts for the kids to find this morning.
So with this - #merrychristmas