Participating in Religious Rituals

 Posted by on 3 November 2008 at 12:31 am  Objectivism, Religion
Nov 032008

Ramana Reddy e-mailed me the following question a few days ago. I am reproducing it here with his permission:

I am 22 and my dad passed away almost 10 years ago. Every year a gathering is arranged in his memory. This is where the whole thing starts getting weird. According to Hinduism (which my family subscribes to), the son is obligated to perform a ritual every year. The ritual presumes the notion of an afterlife and is filled with the stuff of idealism.

I have recently read OPAR [Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand] and have decided to live according to Objectivist principles to the best of my knowledge. In the present case, I have absolutely no problem with a gathering in his memory, but I stand opposed to these customs which believe in the afterlife and the like.

I will probably take a lot of heat for my decision considering the faith of Indian’s in God or whatever. It’s not the heat that am really worried about (although it makes me a little nervous sometimes), but the correctness of my decision. I would like to be very sure of my decision before I stand trial. I do not know anybody better to ask this question to. Please feel free to answer in any manner you choose to.

If possible, also do elaborate on stuff like marriages in Church or a funeral conducted by a Catholic priest.

I wrote the following very hasty reply:

I don’t have time to write much, but I would say that you should not — as an adult — actively participate in a ceremony contrary to your beliefs. It’s not a problem to attend such a ritual, but to actively participate in it implies that you agree with it. Some of your family members may be angry, but if you don’t assert yourself on this point, how many other compromises will they be able to wheedle out of you? Plus, the better family members — namely those who respect you as an individual — will get over any initial feelings of anger or resentment.

I’m posting this in the hopes that others will chime in with further remarks in the comments, as that was really far too brief.

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