The Top 10 Ridiculous Religious Rituals

There are a lot of weird religions out there and even more weird religious rituals. TNGG’s Religion Week wouldn’t be complete without a list of wonderfully ridiculous religious ceremonies and traditions.

Disclaimer: Discussions of these rituals are not meant to offend or make anyone angry. So please, don’t think that we are trying to make fun. It’s all in good spirit.

  • CatholicismHitting the dead pope with a hammer: I first heard this strange tradition during my time at Catholic school. As a freshman, Pope John Paul II passed away and Catholics were on the hunt. My religion teacher actually told me that the dead pope is hit in the head 3 times with a silver hammer to confirm whether or not he is dead. And I’m not joking. However, I didn’t find a whole lot of information about this ritual other than a mention in Wikipedia and an article on Snopes. Whether or not this is true or actually still performed, it’s odd.
  • MormonismTemple underwear/garments: Yeah I know, ragging on Mormonism has become pretty popular these days especially with the introduction of a musical poking fun at the religion, thanks to the creators of South Park. However, their religious underwear is definitely freaky. Members are required to wear these undergarments at Temple even though they aren’t seen. The men’s version looks like a t-shirt and long shorts with a space for your junk. The female version looks like baggy diapers. Not cute.
  • Church of SatanSatanic Sins: To be honest, you wouldn’t think that the Church of Satan would have a set of rules or sins, but they do. They range from stupidity to “lack of aesthetics.” My favorite, though, is “herd conformity.” I understand trying to be an individual, but they sound like whiny goth kids. In their attempt to not conform with what is “normal,” they conform in their own group.
  • ShamanismGetting high for your beliefs: In the Shaman religion, people get high to enter the spirit world. There are probably some college frat boys or Californians who think that it’s awesome, but it’s definitely weird. Most people do drugs as an escape from their normal life, but not necessarily to enter a more spiritual state.
  • MormonismBaptisms for the dead: Yep, another Mormon one. In honor of those who have died and didn’t learn about God, Mormons will take in a massive baptism for them. On the one hand, its an interesting ritual with good intentions. But, why not just let the dead rest in peace? Maybe they didn’t want to learn about God or they were happier without it.
  • JudaismKapparot: On the eve of Yom Kipuur, some Jews practice in a very strange tradition. Basically, you shake a chicken around you while you pray to transfer your sins onto the chicken. Then, the chicken is killed and fed to the poor. I’m not sure if hacking a chicken around will absolve you of all your sins, but in the end, it’s going to charity. Mazel Tov!
  • Christian Science –  Refusing contemporary medicine: Although its true that not all Christian Scientists refuse modern day medicine, for the most part, they do. They believe that through prayer, anyone can be healed. I can totally understand being hesitant of medicine, but there are times when it has gotten them in trouble. For example, the Twitchells. Their two and a half year old son died from pertitonitis, which could have been prevented with surgery. That’s taking it a bit too far.
  • Jedi ChurchThe force isn’t fictional, it was just brought to public eye by fictional means: A religion based off a popular book and movie series… It must be fictional, right? Not according to its members! The force is “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” The bottom line: A religion “brought to light” by a very fictional story? I’ll pass.
  • JudaismCircumcision: Circumcision is a very accepted practice in today’s world, and I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. But isn’t there something strange that God wants to seal his covenant with the Jews by having them snip the tip? He could have just asked them to wear a bracelet or style their hair a certain way, but instead it involved genitalia. A bit strange, no?
  • ScientologyEverything: Scientology is just downright weird. It was created by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer in Camden, New Jersey. Each member must go through an auditing with e-meters that test theten levels and state of mind. Also, if you didn’t know already, bad feelings are causing my disembodied alien souls. Even though famous people such as John Travolta and Kristie Alley have taken to the religion, the entire thing is strange.

What are some other strange and/or funny religious rituals that you know about?

McKenzie Lawton McKenzie Lawton is a junior Marketing Communications major at Emerson College. She loves social media and all things pop-culture. McKenzie currently sells lotion at The Body Shop, and interns at the Museum of Science. She grew up in southeastern Massachusetts and has a deep love for the city of Boston. She spends most of her free time watching television. And no, she is not named after Mackenzie Phillips. Twitter: @mckenzielawton

View all posts by McKenzie Lawton

20 Responses to “The Top 10 Ridiculous Religious Rituals”

  1. jen

    So.. I don’t want to start a fight, but it just seems really unkind and insensitive to make fun of things that are obviously sacred to other people. Maybe some religions don’t have it right, but mocking their rituals (behind which you clearly don’t understand the meaning) is just not cool. Yes, you have your free speech and possibly some burning inside you that tells you your voice must be heard, but think about how this makes others feel. Seriously. If you care about other people at all, please take this post down.

    Reply
    • Erica

      Well I don’t want to start a fight either, but get over it. “Sacred” is just a word used to stop discussion about how inane, and to be honest, in some cases incredibly dangerous or harmful, religious beliefs and rituals can be. Yes, some of them are just innocuous traditions but some of them reveal how churches that try to bill themselves as ‘mainstream’ religion are actually bizarre cults. This post was written in good humor — it’s not a scathing indictment of anyone’s beliefs, and frankly, if you honestly believe in these things to the point where you’ll base your life around it, then why shouldn’t you have to face up to the entirety of your belief system, rather than just the parts that you think make you look like a good or righteous person? At the very least, have a sense of humor about it.

      Reply
      • jen

        But see, your viewpoint is shortsighted–maybe something seems cultish to you, but if it’s sacred to someone else and it’s not hurting you, making fun of it pretty much just makes you a bully. I really don’t want to make attacks or call names at all. I’m just saying, as a religious person, it was hurtful to me to read most of this stuff. Something being sacred means showing it respect, not making light of it; it’s not at all about hiding behind beliefs or traditions. You say have a sense of humor about it, but some things are just not meant to be made fun of. Knowing something is sacred to others, even if it isn’t to you, and mocking that sacredness–doesn’t that just seem selfish and mean?

        Reply
        • Alexander

          While I may be late on sharing a crucial rebuttal, perhaps someone’s thoughts may be provoked…
          The issue with everyone’s criticism here is that, while there should be respect to the people who practice odd rituals and superstitions, these practices are not worth any amount of respect. Many respond, “it is not hurting you”, but so is suicide, does that make it right to accept it and allow it to happen? Superstitions are often unhealthy, harmful to others and primitive. For spaghetti monster’s sake, some of these things are connected to child abuse and playing with dead bodies! Faith in a god is no justification for these odd practices, and I don’t find religion a subject of humor just as I don’t find any mental illness a subject of humor. Yes, I probably just opened a can of offensive worms, but at least I’ve got guts to speak out about an issue that is causing a lot of harm. Think of all the people being manipulated by superstition, they are victims because they are being told that these rituals and practices will save them. While no one has the power but the individual to say they won’t commit mass murder, hate crimes, acts of self-mutilation or practice other odd superstitions because of their faith, you cannot expect me or anyone else to sit back and say, “it is just their way of doing things, I will respect that.” I’m offended by people encouraging tolerance of these superstitions. Just where do you stand on this issue now? “It… it… it is ok because they believe!”, then you clearly have no concern for others and (philosophical stance) think of a god as a sadistic being who is toying with whether or not he/she/it will accept you, the creation he/she/it adores so much. (take note: I’m not here to take to an argument over a god’s existence, just asserting a critical perspective on the value of these religious practices and superstitions, I do not mind hearing any rebuttal esp. addressing why a god would expect this of his/her/its creation and why this god should be trusted)

          Reply
    • Mark

      I would be far more interested if you took the time to actually understand the context around these rituals and beliefs.

      It seems you took the easy way out and wrote up glib descriptions and pasted in some links to Wikipedia.

      The end result is an article that falls short of satire and comes across as thoughtless and demonstrates either an inability or unwillingness to dig deeper into the meaning that these rituals hold for people.

      Reply
      • McKenzie Lawton

        Hi Mark! Thanks for your comment.

        I knew a lot about some of these things beforehand, but I couldn’t cite my own personal knowledge as a source. I researched strange religious rituals for a while and I found many sources. However, they were often disjointed and didn’t give the full picture, idea or explanation. Even though Wikipedia isn’t the most reliable source, the articles I found on Wikipedia about each subject gave the most complete picture. I did find a lot of other websites and sources, but I knew that wouldn’t be sufficient enough for what I needed.

        Reply
    • Julia Drewniak

      “Disclaimer: Discussions of these rituals are not meant to offend or make anyone angry. So please, don’t think that we are trying to make fun. It’s all in good spirit.”

      Reply
      • Lindsay

        Yeah, but it’s titled “Ridiculous Religious Rituals.” The title and the disclaimer seem to contradict each other. The author/editors could have titled it something different such as “Lesser-Known Religious Rituals” and avoided the negative response.

        I’m not saying I agree with all these rituals or even view all of the religions mentioned as religions. I just think if you feel the need to put a disclaimer on your article, maybe there’s something offensive about it in the first place.

        Reply
        • McKenzie Lawton

          Hi Lindsay,

          The bottom line is that religion is a touchy subject. Even if you don’t mean to offend, some people will be offended. I personally don’t believe in or adhere to any one religion so my perspective was all outside from these religions. I put the disclaimer in there because even if my intention wasn’t to offend, because religion is involved, I felt it necessary.

          I agree that if the article was titled a bit differently than some of the negative feedback wouldn’t have come to light, but at the same time, religion can be controversial and the discussion sparked can be positive.

          Reply
    • only

      then keep your superstitions to your self or be mocked based on if you believe a virgin had a baby that came back to life and compelled you to eat his flesh and drink his blood zombie worship or if you think pasta is a god and beer fountains await or what ever floats your boat make up your own superstitions but don’t get mad when people say so you think… and somehow that isn’t insane? everyone seem to think their bag of crazy is ok but everyone elses is out there and well they are all out there when we die the body decomposes and we are returned to the pool of minerals and if we are lucky maybe a pretty flower can grow from our rotten corpse

      Reply
  2. Alex Pearlman

    I think these are funny! I’m glad this post has started a bit of a spirited debate, but I don’t think offense is the way to take it… Obviously, some of these (like hitting the Pope with a hammer) are pretty silly, outdated rituals that don’t have a place in the world we live in now. I was raised Jewish, but I’ve never had to shake a chicken! I didn’t even know that was a ritual. But I do think it’s ridiculous and something to laugh about more than anything.

    Reply
    • Angela Stefano

      While I agree, some are outdated/silly/downright strange — it’s in the tone of the article (or my — and apparently others’ — perceived tone). There’s no real explanation for WHY these religions practice these traditions, and without that explanation (follow by a hearty dose of sarcasm and satire, which I’m totally OK with), it’s like picking on a disabled person just because they’re disabled. Satire finds the humor in the underlying ideas, not the outright actions.

      Reply
      • McKenzie Lawton

        Hey Angela,

        I didn’t go in depth about the meaning behind each ritual/tradition because I was trying to avoid my article being too long. I figured that if I linked people would be able to research more and find their own sort of meaning behind the practices I was talking about. Thanks for the comment though

        Reply
  3. Camille

    Good humor, good humor. But surely there are reasons behind all those, as Angela pointed out.

    And also, Christian Science is not a “ritual.”

    Reply
  4. Veena

    I thought religion week was about the major religions of the world! where’s Islam and
    Hinduism??There are a few crazy practices in those two as well…

    Reply
  5. nita

    the image of jews shaking a chicken can’t get out of my head. hahaha. epic

    Reply

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