What role does ritual have in your life? [2015 ITT]

What role does ritual have in your life? [2015 ITT] April 22, 2015

This is part of the 2015 Ideological Turing Test series, where Christians and non-Christians test how well they understand one another.  

In this second round, non-Christians (mostly atheists) answer the prompts honestly, and Christians try to answer them as they expect atheists to.  Your job is to see if you can spot the difference.  You can find all posts about the 2015 Ideological Turing Test here.

turing mask atheist 

Below are answers to the question: What role does ritual have in your life? What role would you like it to have?

You can make your guesses about whether each entry was written by an honest non-Christian or a shamming Christian here.

Just make sure you fill out the quiz before you look at the comments!  They’re open for speculation and discussion of the clues you think you’ve spotted.

Each contestant’s entry is followed by their bio, hidden by rot13.


1) Too small a role. I love having daily and weekly things to do with both large and small groups of those who share my core values. I just haven’t invented enough yet, and am not around others who share my desire.

I won’t allow myself to go through the motions of the rituals of the religions to which I once lay claim, because I don’t like the idea of saying words that I don’t mean or going through steps meant to symbolically reinforce ideas with which I disagree. Also, I fear that allowing myself to feel sated by performing existing rituals will breed laziness, and I want to remain restless until I’ve created more ritual around my currently held beliefs.

V nz n aba-gurvfg jub jnf envfrq n Erpbafgehpgvbavfg Wrj, vairfgvtngrq Zbezbavfz, naq orpnzr n cenpgvpvat Puevfgvna seb bar naq n unys lrnef orsber orpbzvat pbaivaprq gung gur ovoyr jnf abg qvivaryl vafcverq naq gura jrag ba gb orpbzr pbaivaprq njnl sebz gur abgvba bs gurer yvxryl orvat n perngbe.


2) I order the same coffee at the same café every morning and greet the barista by name. I go to my classes on a consistent schedule, do homework over an afternoon snack at yet another café, and schedule the rest of my night around the family dinner. I go to the stadium on Sunday while my family goes to church, get all my energy out, and start all over again. My whole life is a ritual, and that’s how I like it right now. I’m a schedule kind of person.

V nz n 20-lrne-byq Begubqbk Puevfgvna jub erpragyl pbairegrq sebz Pngubyvpvfz, fb V’ir tbg n ovg bs n zvkrq-hc oenva gurbybtvpnyyl. Gur Puevfgvna cneg vf cerggl fbyvq gubhtu. 😉


3) I’ve always loved routines, but I think that’s not quite what “ritual” means. I take “ritual” to refer to events that are especially significant for a given community, and create an altered sense of the passage of time. For example, at a baseball game, you become a member of the crowd, and together experience time as governed not by physics, but by the division into nine innings with various activities in the breaks between.

The idea of such rituals has often been important to me, but the actual practice of them, not so much. I loved attending baseball games as a kid, but now, though I enjoy the game itself, the rest feels like an exercise in nostalgia. I’m too self-conscious, perhaps, to actually enjoy cheering when everyone else cheers. I’ve also always liked the idea of rites of passage, and of parties as symbolic gatherings of the entire community; but I’ve never been to a graduation ceremony that wasn’t terribly boring, and I’m way too self-conscious to actually enjoy parties (unless I get so drunk I begin asking people to pose me math problems).

This may be because (though I do have friends!) I don’t feel enough like a member of any community to actually appreciate any community’s rituals. Or it may be that the kind of community I’m a member of is the kind that, for whatever reason, can’t have rituals. I’m not sure.

N obea-a-envfrq Ebzna Pngubyvp jub nggraqrq n Pngubyvp yvoreny negf havirefvgl, V’z abj trggvat n CuQ (sebz n frphyne fpubby) va yvgrengher.


4) Almost none, and I like it that way. I appreciate tradition (doing the same things at holidays) and ceremony (marriage, for example, though I prefer more genuine and human than overly formal there), but I dislike ritual. People invoking powers that I don’t share a belief in makes it hard to enjoy the human connection that is probably why we’re there in the first place.

Envfrq nf n urnil-qhgl Puevfgnqrycuvna (na bofpher frpg, Jvxvcrqvn vf cerggl npphengr ba gur fhowrpg) ohg erwrpgrq vg nf na nqhyg, naq abj pbafvqre zlfrys n uhznavfg/ngurvfg. Ntr 35, znyr, yvir va Cbegynaq, BE.


5) There are certainly things that get repeated each day — hugging my daughter when I leave her at the daycare, etc. — but I don’t know how many of them I’d call a “ritual” — everything changes, and when things change I learn to live with it.

qnqql, ivfhny rssrpgf negvfg, cubgbtencul ohss, ngurvfg


6) I like to shake people’s hands. If you define a ritual as a seemingly arbitrary series of actions done before a certain event (which I do) then I think a lot of things I do in my life have a certain ritual to them. I squash my tea bag three times; I play in the top right corner when playing black at Go (Weiqi). I consider this a ritual, and I do this because it’s practical and gives a certain rhythm to life, so to speak.

But if you do in fact mean “ritual” in a more religious sense, then I’ve attended quite a few funerals and even a couple of baptisms. However, I don’t consider this to be a “philosophically optimal” part of my life.

Pngubyvp. V rawbl ernqvat, pbzchgref naq cynlvat gnoyrgbc tnzrf.


7) Ritual is important for things that should stay the same. I always wake up at 6:30, and take a shower, brush my teeth, etc. This is a ritual and I never will change it because I never will need to, unless something drastic happens. I like it to remain this way unless there is reasonable need for a change.

V nz n engvbany grrantre jub vf vagrerfgrq va zngu naq fpvrapr. V nz grpuavpnyyl na rk-gurvfg nygubhtu V nz abg fher vs V rire ernyyl oryvrirq va tbq. 


Go on and make your guesses!  Which of these were written in earnest, and which were someone’s best approximation of how someone across the religious divide would answer?

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