The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Faith, Atheism, and Death

The recent posts concerning funerals and faith opened the door to some interesting questions. I'm wondering about various traditions and attitudes concerning death. Watching a huge church service for a deceased child, I felt extraordinarily happy for the family that they had such support, and wondered what type of support atheists have in the same situation. In addition, there are a thousand non-Christian traditions from around the world, and I wanted to invite readers to comment on their attitudes or ceremonies surrounding death, burial, mourning, and so forth for those who are non-Christian. Comments please?


Pagan Topologist said...

I believe strongly that what is necessary is the support of a strong community of some sort. Monotheistic faiths come with too high a price, as far as I am concerned. Pagans certainly support each other in situations involving the death of someone close to us. I see no reason that atheists cannot do so also, although whether they do or not I don't know. My impression is that there is more isolation amongst atheists than among people who practice some sort of faith, but if this is true, I think it is just because they have not created any community organizations which can provide comfort and support.

It is not an idea original with me, but I think any monotheistic faith has the psychological effect of inducing its followers to believe that there is one and only one right way to do anything. This kind of rigidity of thinking is too great a price for me. I was indeed glad my mother had her church to support and comfort her, when my father died twelve years ago, but I could not take any solace in the Christian church's support. To have done so would have involved, for example, in the case of her church, accepting the rigid belief that the earth was created by God about 6000 years ago, along with many other far more dangerous beliefs. I know that not all Christian churches exact a price of exactly that form, and my mother's church is extreme, but I believe that looking at extreme cases is how we illuminate fundamental principles. Less extreme cases obscure them in fuzziness, even though they are still operative.

A polytheistic worldview, recognizing that gods and goddesses are ultimately human creations just as mathematical abstractions like perfect circles are, is to me far more comforting, and I am personally more effectively comforted, for the most part, by people who love me and share this viewpoint. They have no agenda involving trying to change how I view things, even if it does not match their own view.

Pagan Topologist said...

Funny! I had not read the previous post and its [first] comment when I posted my comment above. I stand by what I said about extreme cases. They filter out more of the noise so one can see more clearly, to deftly mix a metaphor.

Chavo said...

Im in the "who knows?" camp. I have both pagan and Buddhist tendencies, but I'm not either. I philosophically agree with Theravada Buddhism but am essentially non-religious. I do, however, believe in God (define it how you like) but have no real concern for the whole 'what happens after' life questions. I've had many friends and family pass, and what comfort I take is in knowing they lived their lives well. I miss them, of course. But it's clear that in the end we are animals, and all animals die. No loss, just change.

Dan Moran said...

First I have to define my terms, since there's gray in all of this and not everyone means the same things when using the same words.

I'm technically an agnostic -- unless speaking to almost people of faith, where I'm an atheist: I actively disbelieve in the brutal Yahweh, the brutal Allah, the are-you-kidding-me monotheistic Catholic gods -- all 3 of 'em plus the Virgin Mary plus hundreds of little saint-gods, all of whom you can pray to. I disbelieve in the various flavors of father-son Christianity, in Mother Earth Goddess, in astrology, in animistic religions, in Wicca, in Krishna and Mithras and Quetzlcoatl, Ahuramazda and Amaterasu and Odin and Aphrodite and Prometheus -- though of all the god stories floating around out there, I most admire Prometheus. (And most enjoy the Flying Spaghetti Monster.)

All of these gods are stories, made up by people who didn't understand how things worked and needed a plausible explanation -- plausible to the barbarians they lived among, plausible based on what those people knew of the world. Which, of course, is far more limited than what we know today ....

None of this is meant to mock the people who believe in these things today: whatever gets you through the night. Nor is it meant to mock the faithful for their genuine moments of transcendent religious experience: I've had those. God has talked to me. That moment, that sense of complete connection to the universe, of I Belong Here, of "you are eternally the real, and there is nothing to acquire" ... is one of the best things about being human.

The thing is, I suspect it's all chemical. We're chemical machines, a variety of processes chewing on somewhere between one and ten terabytes of data in a mess of gray protoplasm, and everything that we think and experience is a result of those processes, and that incudes religious experience. The brain is good at modeling things that don't exist in the real world; that's all fiction is. God Spoke To You, Daniel? Yeah ... or at least, some wiring in my brain thought so. But what are the odds, really? God doesn't speak to most people, not in any clear way, not even among the faithful. (This is sort of the definition of faith: it's not faith if The Man is in your ear, only if you're working on an acceptance of the Unseen.)

What's more probable: that half a dozen times in my life, the Creator of the Universe has taken a moment out of his busy schedule to intervene in the thought processes of one small person on a tiny planet circling an undistinguished star inside an undistinguished galaxy which is part of an undistinguished group of galaxies which are part of an undistinguished supercluster, in a universe whose known size is 78 billion lights years across ... and the universe as a whole which might be one of an infinite number --

-- or that every now and again all the circuitry in the gray protoplasm lit up all at once?

But I don't know: and so I'm an agnostic, as long as we leave your personal gods out of the equation. There might be something out there, and there might not be, and I don't know, and I don't think you do either. Even those of you who tell me God speaks to you: yeah, great. Me too. Next?


All of the above is unimportant. It just places me in my little spot in the world, and gives you a way to judge the distance from your spot to mine, if you're so inclined.

When I was in my late teens, a bunch of my friends died. A suicide, a murder victim, a car crash, and an overdose. Two more died for all practical purposes: a 20 year prison sentence, and a promiscuous gay may who moved to San Francisco just before the AIDS crisis broke out. Another friend ended up in an American prison for selling drugs, then in a Mexican prison for selling drugs, and around his 30th birthday was shot in the back of the head. Either my taste in friends was suspect, or knowing me was unlucky.

Not long after the birth of my first son, my wife's older sister was kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered. In the next six years my grandfather died, two of my uncles died, an aunt died, my stepfather died, one of my best friends died, and then my father died -- I wasn't extremely close to everyone of those dead, but certainly to my grandfather, stepfather, friend, and finally father. It was a series of body blows.

A couple years after that my older 3 kids, who are my stepchildren, had their younger half-brother die under really godawful nasty circumstances. I'd actually never even seen the dead child, but they had been close to him, and his death was extremely traumatic for them.

None of us really have any meaningful religious faith. My wife sort-of believes in God, but she's not a churchgoer and hasn't been for a long time. I don't. My two daughters, who are now 17 and 19, don't. My boys are sometimes a little vague about who this Jesus dude is, and what the whole Easter thing is about. (My then-six-year-old son watched a religious parade once and said he'd seen several people with different signs showing Versions of Mary -- "look, there's a Version of Mary, and that guy has a Version, and that woman. They're all a little different, which is why they're Versions.")

And yet we got through it all. Daughter #1 is finishing up her first year at one of the best colleges in the U.S. Daughter #2 is in the 11th grade and had a 4.33 gpa last semester. The boys have been learning to ride horses lately, read and write well, and perform at the tops of their age groups in most measurable ways.

In broad, as a group, we're a happy and optimistic bunch, despite our fair share of fractuosities and the appearance in our lives of the occasional monsters.

How did we do this?

Well, we have large families. My wife has two living sisters and one brother, nieces and nephews and so on who she's in touch with; two living parents. My mother is alive, my sisters have 5 children among them, my wife and I have five children between us. Family events are crowded ... including funerals. The fact that the funerals take place in churches is OK with me; some of my family believe, some don't, and it costs me nothing to step into a church and share our grief together with rituals that work for them. It's not the ritual that I'm there for: it's the sharing of grief with the people I love, and who love me. None of us have had to grieve alone.

I don't doubt that it's much harder for a lonely person of faith to deal with death, than for people like me and my immediate family. When someone cries at my house, someone is there to hold them.

But take that advantage away -- instead of comparing us with the lonely Christian, compare us with the large and happy extended family of people of sincere, devout faith. What do they have that we don't? A believe in an immortal soul?

Well ... OK. But I don't believe it makes a large difference in the grieving process. Once the child has died, you either have reasons to go on, or you don't. You're either engaged with the world, or you're not. Faith is one of the ways of engaging with the world -- but only one. Plenty of people, many of them very spiritual, lead full, complete lives, without ever stepping inside a church except as required.

There are things that Christian faith gives you, that you don't get from atheism/agnosticism:

The belief that your dead are not dead
The belief that you will not die
The belief that evil will be punished and good rewarded

Well ... those are comforting, no doubt. But (and this is where I upset my friends of faith) ... they're beliefs for children, or at least for the immature.

Terrible things happen in the world. God doesn't protect the innocent, nor punish the wicked. If there's reward or punishment on the other side, it's irrelevant to what happens here. If God exists, he's abandoned us to the wolves, in this part of our lives. If God exists, he's a right mean son of a bitch.

I find it not just easier, but more encouraging, to think that there is no guiding hand. No one to blame. Just the world, spinning around. And us -- getting stronger, more mature, and one hopes wiser, with the passage of the generations. Certainly there's plenty of reason, taking a long enough time frame, to feel optimistic about the human race. Barring complete catastrophe, our children, by and large, will have it better than we did. All of us live like kings compared to the population of a thousand years ago -- better than kings: the world's greatest king, 50 generations ago, didn't have toilet paper or eyeglasses or tooth brushes or aspirin or hot running water. In every way measurable things are better now than they were then.

And we did that. Us, our ancestors, our mothers and fathers and grandparents and great-great-grandparents and so on, back through the millennia: fighting, struggling, inventing, creating, and never giving up even in the face of terrible evil and terrible suffering.

Are we worse than they were? Are we weaker, stupider, more foolish? I don't think so. It's no moral virtue, because we had opportunities they didn't, but because of those opportunities we're stronger, smarter, and wiser than they were. It's the gift they left us, to be better than they were, and the gift we look to leave our children, to be better than we are.

Nothing is guaranteed to us. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance and the price of progress is eternal struggle. But we're up to it, as a species, as a people, and mostly as individuals.

When you're young, life is about gaining things. After a certain point, you lose more than you gain. That's what it is. Life is loss. And it's OK ... because it means you had things worth having, and if the loss of them hurts, you still had them once. The fact that losing them hurts is a sign of how precious they were to you. The time when your mother, your father, brother, sister, or even children ... the time when they were with you can't be taken from you.

Understanding all of that, internalizing all of that ... nothing is promised. Nothing is guaranteed. Hold your child's hand, crossing the street. Listen cautiously to the baby monitor. Make sure they have their shots. Be certain that the people surrounding them, at home and in school, are trustworthy and brave. It's all probabilities and your job is to give them the best shot at success, given whatever crap the world may throw at you, and if you fail in that task, no amount of faith in God will alleviate your suffering, if you're even remotely a decent individual.

So don't fail, or at least, don't fail from lack of a righteous effort. Work hard. Be cautious. Live the day. Enjoy watching them ride their first bicycle, their first horse. Enjoy watching them succeed (and fail, and struggle to succeed) ... enjoy every kiss and every hug. Say "I love you" every morning first thing, and every night before bed. A hug and a kiss every morning and a hug and a kiss every night. Nights I work late, I come home and kiss them in their beds. They may not be awake every time, but they know it happens every time. I might die tomorrow, but however long my children live, they will never doubt that I loved them and did my best for them regardless of circumstsances.

My old man was a mean son of a bitch himself. He was hard to be around, and we fought relentlessly until I was 30 or so. But he loved me, for all his many flaws. And I love my children, for all mine, and they will never have cause to doubt that.

What's faith in comparison to all that? I have no faith, but I have things that I know, and I would not trade them for a comforting belief in the unseen. If there is a God, I suspect he approves of the existence of adults in the world ... and if he doesn't, then the hell with him.

It may be the case that the universe is run by a petulant, wicked son of a bitch who wants his praise and no fooling, and if he doesn't get it, then it's the eternal hellfire for you. If so, I'll spit in his eye on my way to Hell, and I hope my sons and daughters will have the bravery to do the same.

I don't know about you all, but I've had a pretty good run so far.

Anonymous said...

The idea that an oversized likeness of the Primate Mind created that barely graspable cosmic vastness, that this "creator", which perforce created black holes, which cavalierly consume billions of worlds, would care about adultery, murder, fibbing...That I could beseech the Destroyer of Worlds to spare my job or relationship...
In short, I find the entire content of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or any creed with gods, spirits, angels, fairies, what-have-you, ludicrous and insulting to the intelligence.

Furthermore, scholarship has revealed the origins of religion as anything but divine. We KNOW Moses and the Code are knockoffs of Hammurabi and his laws. We KNOW Noah and The Flood were lifted from the Epic of Gilgamesh. We KNOW Jesus' resurrection was lifted from that of Osiris. We KNOW the "Virgin Birth" prophesy arose from a mistranslation of Hebrew Maiden into Greek Virgin. We KNOW vast swaths of the Koran were plagiarized wholesale from The Bible, the Avesta, Pagan Arab myth, the Christian Lord's Prayer..

IMHO, the pettiness, inanity and downright falseness of religion as contrasted with the truly majestic Cosmos as clarified by Darwin and Einstein, and the knowledge that the origin of the various creeds lays not in divinity, but in human vapidness and folly, leaves no rational or noble choice save Atheism.

Ethiopian Infidel

Marty S said...

My view of religion is very different than those expressed by the various atheists and pagans that have posted on this sight. I am Jewish. The prime tenet of the Jewish religion is the shamah. In English "The lord is one the lord is God." For an orthodox Jew you either believe the shamah or you aren't Jewish. To me however the shamah is only important to the extent that belief in the shamah was key to the general populace obeying the religious leadership. Jewish religion has a set of laws called the kosher laws which dictated what kinds of food you could eat and how they had to be prepared. In the time of Moses, these kosher laws saved lives. If they were formulated today one of them would be thou shalt not smoke tobacco. The Talmud is a Jewish book supposedly about how we relate to God but most of it is really about how we should behave and relate to our fellow man. So religion to me while superficially about God is really about the behavior of people, especially toward one another, and was created to get people to behave in certain ways.
The Jewish way of mourning is to "sit shiva". There are there are rules of behavior for both those mourning their loss and for those seeking to comfort the mourners. One rule is the mourner must speak first. This recognizes that some need to talk in their grief and some may not be ready. They also indicate that the comforter should take their cue from the nature of what the mourner says with respect to the path of conversation. If the mourner wishes to talk about the one who is passed them good, but if he avoids the subject the comforter should too. So to summarize for me religion is more about the code of behavior, which is very similar between religions then it is about God or life after death. Religion has undoubtedly done a lot of good in the world through out history. It is unfortunate that the tendency of man to divide into us them groups means it has also done quite a bit of harm.

suzanne said...

nothing lasts
all good things (and bad)
come to an end
in one form

because really who knows?
and pantheistic
my belief: that everything has
an animating spirit
all the way down to
the subatomics

the monotheistic god
hasn’t been my cuppa tea
since childhood
when I noted that his house
was uncomfortable
and that a close reading of the Old Testament
indicates a jealous
(the uppermost commandment: no other god’s before ME”)
and capriciously cruel god
“thou shalt not kill”
but then ordering thousands slaughtered
and the New,
a mythology of Love
if you come over to “my side”
and thoughout both
a disrespect and disdain
for women
who are viewed as property
and it didn’t help matters
that from their pulpits, ministers
of this God of Power and Love
promoted bigotry, exclusion
and the notion of “chosen ones”

Dan really says it all
so extremely well

I am “alone” in that no one else
knows more fully than me
what goes on inside my skull
or of you, in yours
but alone is not the same as lonely
and in fact
everything is connected

the growing universe
is an object of Wonder:
and I frequently feel that we humans
are synaptic nodes in the cosmic mind
by which it comprehends its self

all of these Tales of
gods and goddesses
a means of explaining
the “whys” and “wherefores”
just as science seeks to explain
the “hows”
much of the mythos,
including latter day religions
an attempt to extend a lifetime
into eternity via the afterlife
I never found the explanations of heaven
comforting; the place sounded
boring to me, after life in this world
the older “underworld” sounded more interesting
but still it’s unknown though I rather suspect
death is a termination of the persona
so what you have – alive – is what you get;
and best make the best use of Now
which for me
is paying attention
and being attuned to the Wonder
in all the details

and quite frankly, religions
are political bodies
with agendas
and the desire to have power
over people or to relegate
the Other to a “less than I am” status

in their histories
the monotheisms have been responsible
for terrible carnage which continues
to the present day

I love
freely and with enthusiasm
and I receive love in return
from humans,yes
and also cats
and plants
and most everything else
and while I am alive
and capable of loving
and paying attention
(the two pretty much identical
for me) I hope to continue
making best use of this capacity

the human deaths affectively closest to me
to date, were the deaths of my parents
and both were occasions for celebration
because life had become so terrible for them:
phsyically for my mother
and in his deteriorated brain for my father

and when my elder son
was going through chemo
one of the most offensive things
I was told, on more than one occasion
was “god never puts more
on your plate than what you can deal with”
what a pathetic thing to say to a worried parent
or to a person suffered and facing death
more immediately than a healthy person does

I am much more concerned
with how I live my life
and what I give out
in the world
than anything about GETTING REWARDS
in some supposed after-life

as I grow older
and I am
femtosecond by femtosecond
I find myself thinking about my own death
but I don’t get very far
because thinking about not-Being
while Being poses difficulties
and this difficult I believe
is why an after-life has been postulated
and repostulated down through human history
and besides living fully in this Now,
being wonderstruck and nurturing,
is a much better use of the time I have

Anonymous said...

People make beliefs oppressive and douchey. Militant atheism claiming the intellectual and moral high ground is no different than militant religions doing just the same. Belief has a power over the believer because they give themselves over to something bigger, and other people have been apt to exploit this. Every religion has had or has its priest/priestess/shamanistic class that has more wealth and power than nearly any other caste. The greek kings were subject to the priests of (insert Greek god) European kings had their authority granted from the Catholic Church, that also allowed for monetary compensation for sin, and the denial of salvation to detractors. The Islamic caliphs, the Jewish pharisees, the Hindu priests, all held positions of authority and wealth. Their interests shaped the manipulating powers of religions that we still see today. It's the people that corrupted the ideas. Likewise Atheist prominants have co-opted a philosophy and made it militant. Dawkins cannot engage in a discussion of religion without denigrating its followers as weak-minded children. That's not any better, intellectually or morally superior. It's engaging the evils of organized religions with their own tools. And Dawkins is a total tool. I want to cite the poster who in a previous topic talked about the enlightenment and maturity that atheism brings, this is dangerously close to claiming that religious followers are immature and intellectually stunted. People are the douchebags and any belief structure can suffer from it. We should all accept people for being worthwhile regardless of beliefs, unless they're being arrogant douches, then we can relegate them to Steve's 10 percent asshole margin, and not paint all those affiliated as the asses.

Scott said...

Dan was right, you are a tough guy.

The idea that fifty years ago there was no trace of me in the universe and that sometime in the future that will be true again, if accepted, seems to drain a lot of the other religious ideas of their ability to compel interest or belief or worship. The afterlife ideas - heaven, hell, Valhalla, reincarnation, nirvana, ghosts - seem to be the big carrot, much bigger than miracles.

Steven Barnes said...

My own attitude is scarily close to Dan's really--plus a few experiences that have convinced me (and I'm not trying to convince anyone else) that there is a reality, difficult to put into words, that has been glimpsed by many people, of many cultures, over the centuries. And that that glimpse has been flattened and corrupted by all of those who follow those original percievers, whose minds were not prepared. When I say "God" I don't mean "as opposed to Goddess" or Christian God. When I say Christian (as in: I consider myself such) I don't mean I am defined or limited by what other Christians think. I mean that in this culture, it is the easiest way to swiftly communicate certain concepts. Language and culture are quite limiting, but they're all we've got when dealing with each other. In my heart and mind, I know exactly what I see and feel and have experienced. Transferring that to others is a bitch. Let's just say that I get the joke, but the punch-line is in Esperanto.

Marty S said...

I have to say in many respects my thoughts parallel those of anonymous. As I said above I see religion as a moral/legal structure with god and the afterlife playing the role of hammer/carrot to insure the general population's adherence to that structure. When a person's belief that their moral stand is correct is so strong as to call someone who disagrees evil or immoral then in effect they are being religious even if no god or afterlife is part of that religion.
With respect to the Bush administration and their enhanced interrogation techniques I believe that most if not all involved believed they were protecting the country by these act and that was the more moral thing to do than standby and let another attack occur. Those who would now bring these individuals to trial now because of their great certainty that only their moral structure is correct strike me as employing the same justification as those who conducted the inquisition in the name of Christianity.

Dan Moran said...

Well, you look likely to get your wish on the torture prosecutions, Marty. But I do still hold to the idea that people who break the law should be prosecuted, even if they thought they were doing the right thing. Otherwise it's not law. If that lines me up with the Spanish Inquisition, ah, well.


>My own attitude is scarily close
>to Dan's really

Scarily? I frighten you? Excellent. :-)

Marty S said...

Dan: What legal is not always clear and can be a difference of opinion. It can also be question of state of mind and intent. If walk in to a room and randomly shoot someone it is murder. If I walk into my house and find armed intruder rifling my safe and I shoot him its self-defense. If some one robs me, but has finished and is running away with my life savings again is murder not self-defense because my life wasn't being threatened. So what happens if you walk into a room and someone is robbing you, you shoot him and it turns out he had no weapon? The legality I believe would depend upon the state of mind of the shooter the degree to the shooter felt threatened.
The people who used these techniques used them after getting legal opinions that said they were okay. They had no intent to break the law. I would therefore say for an opposing political party to pursue charges against because the philosophy is different and they would have given a different decision is politics not a question of law or morality.

Dan Moran said...

I don't care what they were told by anyone. I don't care what orders they were given. When you torture a man to death, which happened, a crime has been committed.

Marty S said...

One last post on the Bush administration antiterrorist policies.
I pray to the god above, that doesn't exist, these policies were ineffective and unnecessary, because if those who believe they were justified are proven right we are going to pay one hell of a price.

Pagan Topologist said...

Interestingly, I find myself pretty close to you, too, Dan, even though I am a Pagan and mostly describe myself as Wiccan. The fact is that Wicca, like a number of other religions, is a religion which is based not at all on belief, but on what one practices. Saying one disbelieves in Wicca, from where I sit, seems equivalent to saying he does not believe in basketball.

suzanne said...


have you seen Alan Moore's DVD
I think you;d really like it . . .

Kami said...

Another pagan pov here:

I'm going to avoid going into belief and focus on support. Our personal support system is different in that although we have blood/family connections that would be there, the religious part of our community/network provides a clannish or tribal kind of support that I'm very grateful for. Maybe the sense of being a very small and generally misunderstood population has brought us closer together than we otherwise might be. Many of us are the best friends, even though some of us drive each other crazy, and we're there for each other on an intimate basis that I never felt when I was Christian. It's like having a different kind of family more than a church group to support me when I'm grieving.

Also, my faith has allowed me to grieve and feel supported on a private, personal level so that I don't feel isolated even when I'm in a solitary situation. Before I became part of a community I lost my great uncle, who I lived with for several months and lived down the street from for many, many years. We were very close. My partner coupled with my belief system helped me through the rough times. I didn't have to rely on believing on an afterlife or that he'd be in a better place or that we'd meet again someday. My experiences then, and more recent experiences, have gradually taught me how to better balance what is beyond me and what is inside me so that I'm neither drowning in grief nor burying/ignoring my feelings or focusing overly on others.

It's a learning thing more than a religious thing, in some ways. Rather than simply accept what various ancestors/predecessors have said, I look at what I observe and see what people who've gone before me have learned that work. That includes stuff from the scientific community, though I've found some gaping holes that certain aspects of pagan wisdom fill very nicely.

Dan Moran said...

The fact is that Wicca, like a number of other religions, is a religion which is based not at all on belief, but on what one practices.You can say that about a lot of religions. There are Christian sects that don't believe in good works, but others that do, and for all my problems with Christianity, a sincere follower of Christ is probably living a pretty righteous life.

Wiccans believe in magic, a goddess & god (sometimes more) ... and while that's fine and I don't disrespect it, it is a belief system. So's Buddhism, from which I've extracted useful ideas and practices ... but I still disbelieve in reincarnation.

Saying one disbelieves in Wicca, from where I sit, seems equivalent to saying he does not believe in basketball.I don't believe in the Celtics. Larry Bird is a false prophet.

Dan Moran said...

"Many a false prophets will arise and will mislead many.

"Because lawlessness is increased, most peoples love will grow cold.

"But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

"This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

"And there will be a parade down Figueroa. Amen."

Pagan Topologist said...

Dan, it is certainly true that Wiccans practice what we call Magick. It is less clear in what sense we believe in it. Different people have wildly different and maybe even mutually exclusive ideas about this. I cannot speak for anyone else, but for myself, all I am sure of on this topic is that Magickal rituals leave me with a profound sense of joy and renewed motivation to accomplish whatever the purpose of the ritual was.