Feet In The Sink

When reading the title of this post, you may be wondering, “what is he talking about?” The real question should be, “Who do wudū?” What is wudū, you ask? I’m a little new to this word myself, but I became familiar with the practice at work recently. Wudū is “the Islamic procedure for wiping parts of the body, a type of ritual purification, or ablution.” Muslims practice ritual cleansing before praying or handling the Quran. That is the answer to the question of “Who do wudū?” So there you go. We know what people do it. The question now becomes, why?

I became a bit intrigued with the concept of ritual cleansing not that long ago when making a trip into the men’s room at work. I pushed open the door and there in front of me was a grown man, barefoot, with his pants rolled up to his knees as he washed his feet in the sink. I was confused at first, thinking maybe he had foot issues and needed to clean them for some medical reason. I mentioned it to someone I worked with and they said, “Yeah, a lot of people do that here.” They then went on to explain that a lot of Muslims we work with clean their bodies before they go to pray. I didn’t think too much more about it until I walked in many more times since then to see people interlocking their fingers and toes in the sink where I wash my hands.

Besides the fact that I find such rituals to ultimately be quite meaningless, I was struck by the absurdity of what I was witnessing. Don’t get me wrong, cleaning yourself is always a good thing. But doing it at set times “just because” is strange. Washing of the feet is part of the required cleansing. No big deal, right? Well, I’ve seen the same people wash and then place their soaking wet feet in the same dirty shoes day after day. Why clean your feet if you’re just going to put them into your moldy shoes, crawling with bacteria? Then it hit me. A book, not so unlike the book I used to follow, told them to do things such as clean themselves, and they obeyed. A religion based on the book then added rules and regulations to follow in addition to the “word of God.” Then it was more about the routines and rituals, than actually being 100% convinced of a particular god of choice. Being 100% convinced would result in everything being done just right at every moment of every day for fear of God’s (Allah’s) wrath. But instead, a rushed routine it is. They were simply doing what they were told to do…albeit in a less than sanitary way.

I have learned that wudū can be invalidated by things such as defecating, urinating, deep sleep, bleeding, sexual intercourse, and flatulence. Yes, even a fart can ruin the whole thing and you need to start over. According to Shia Muslims, for wudū to be invalid through flatulence, “one must actually hear or smell the passing, otherwise it is not considered void.” So if you are a practicing Muslim and your farts are silent and odor-free, you are in luck and you can let ’em rip.

The Bible has a whole section about ritual cleansing as well. It’s called Leviticus. Most people who have read the Bible, have read about the ritual cleansing in Leviticus and dismissed it as impractical, obsolete, not to be taken literally or just plain stupid. I have never met a Christian who actually practices the ritual cleansing as laid out by the writers of the Bible. But Muslims, at least the ones I have come across, take things a bit more seriously…even if they clean their feet only to dirty them instantly in their shoes. The question is, why does anyone (of any faith) do things just because a book tells them to?

Washing your feet is okay. We all should. Washing your feet, and then taking your hands (still dripping wet from the toe massage) to push open the door that other people use, is not so okay. But people do strange things for even stranger reasons. “Allah told me to bow down and utter the same prayers to Mecca 5 times a day.” “God told me condemn gay people because he hates sin.” “God told me to sacrifice my son to prove my loyalty to him.” People say God is explicit in his messages to us and what he wants from us. No religion agrees with another, yet all religions have the same glaring fault; their gods do not exist, beyond the paper the words about him are printed on, or the words upon our lips.

I work in a warehouse. I have for over 20 years. It’s loud. It’s dirty. It’s fast-paced. If you want to stop what you are doing to wash your feet and lay a piece of cardboard down on the floor to pray, go for it I guess. I don’t have time to do that even if I wanted to. But I would ask a Muslim the same question I now ask Christians. How do you know your religion (or any) is correct? How do you know God exists? Without using your book, can you show me your god?

What we are doing with all of our rituals such as fasting, praying, ritual cleansing, hand-raising and singing with our voices aimed upwards is just making ourselves feel better about…well…ourselves. All we are doing is using different teachings to do the same thing. We take our book of choice, blindly follow it and then pray for a world beyond the real world. We pray for an escape and a better life beyond this one. Some scrub their toes and squeeze in their farts so as not to upset Allah. Others drive to church on Sunday to stand, sing and empty their wallets. And countless others do countless other things in accordance with their religion.

There are thousands of religions teaching a million different ways of ignoring the facts. They are all equal in assuming the supernatural when the natural is right there for all to see. Religions offer hope, prosperity and life-everlasting. What they don’t offer is evidence. What is lacking is proof. What they can’t tell you is why their religion is any more believable than someone else’s.

I left Christianity because of a lack of evidence proving it to be true and an overabundance of evidence pointing to it being fabricated from the start. I have learned by observing people of other religions, that other faith-based systems are different, but the same. They offer hope in exchange for rituals. They offer immortality in exchange for prayers. But they, just like my former religion, don’t have anything to show for it. The evidence for Allah is just as good as Jehovah, Zeus, Thor or Apollo. There isn’t any.

To people of no faith or different faith, a religion and its rituals can seem scary, silly or just weird. I look at people washing their feet in the sink and laying on a filthy piece of cardboard to bow down, stand up and pray for long periods of time and think, wow, that’s just stupid. But when I was a Christian, I had no problem believing that a man died, was raised back to life and went up to Heaven. I had no problem believing he walked on water, spit in people’s eyes to cure blindness or turned water into wine. I didn’t feel silly when I ate bread and drank grape juice while pretending I was eating his flesh and drinking his blood. I didn’t feel weird talking to myself, all the while saying it was a conversation with my savior. My religion was normal and logical. It was all the other ones that were strange and wrong. Now, they all look the same to me.

I will gladly turn my skepticism into faith if someone can show me why I should. If someone can offer me evidence beyond the ink-printed words in a book, I will gladly listen. I will devote my life back to God and do everything in my power to do his will. But you’ve got to do better than religion. You’ve got to do better than books. You’ve got to do better than wishful thinking, looking at nature, personal visions or strange occurrences in your life that cannot be shared with anyone else. If you can do better than those things, great. You have convinced me. You win and I’m now on your team. I’ll be honest though. I’m not optimistic about your chances. In fact, I’m not holding my breath…or my farts in. Not just yet. 🙂

28 thoughts on “Feet In The Sink

  1. a religion and its rituals can seem scary, silly or just weird—because it is. Without conditioning you just say WTF? You want weird. Watch the Mormon temple ceremony. Everyone there is thinking the same thing, but by faith they do it anyway.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I haven’t seen a Mormon temple ceremony before. I’m not sure I could sit through watching one, having read some of the things you’ve talked about from your Mormon past.

      You are right about the WTF reaction people have when not conditioned to believe. Believers have it about other religions. Unbelievers have it about all religions. When you are in it, it all seems fine and you can wrap it around you like a warm blanket. Once you are out of it, you are glad to be rid of it all.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Yep, every religion sees the others as weird but their own as somehow special. It’s crazy to think I believed in a book containing talking donkeys and snakes, and a zombie who decided that the best way to atone for our sins was to have himself killed. Also praise zombie Jebus.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Every religion is right and every religion is wrong. To each believer, theirs is right and all others are wrong. Funny how that is true no matter which religion you follow or which god you believe in.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Could it be more complex than that, though? Obviously, if various systems of thought are saying totally contradictory things, not all can be equally true. But, that doesn’t mean all are totally and equally false, either, IMO. To quote the Scripture as least in some measure, “We see through a glass darkly.” Better an attitude of openness and humility toward others than arrogance.

        Why do you think most people seem to have this sense that there is something more, something or someone greater than themselves? What leads to spirituality in the first place? We certainly don’t need a “God of the gaps” in contemporary culture. In that I agree with the new atheists.

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      2. I don’t know why a lot of people feel like there is more than what we can see. A lot of people fear death and the finality of it all and wish for more. Some people feel like there has to be meaning to it all. There has to be a purpose. Living this short life here on earth just can’t be it. I was like that. I am not opposed to the idea that we were created, or at least some type of life was created, just not in its current form. I don’t know that though. I can’t prove that some god didn’t set evolution in motion. Evidence suggests that humans have more ape-like ancestors which goes against the biblical teaching of being created in our present form. Could a god have designed everything this way? Possibly. But without evidence of that, should we just assume that to be true?

        I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me personally, I think my brain just wants to figure things out. I want to answer the unanswered questions and solve the puzzles of life. When I couldn’t understand why bad things happened, I used to hope for a place where things made sense and I used the imagery I was taught to believe in. I don’t want this life to end anytime soon, so in that way I suppose I fear death. I have young children and a wife who I want to be with for as long as I can. When I am older, who knows? I may very well welcome death. I think many people are like me and have lost a lot of people close to them. They wish to see them again and imagine a place where they can do that. I think that many, like I did, imagined a place where everyone gets to be reunited with lost loved ones and live forever in peace. To a lot of grief-stricken people, this is the only option that makes sense.

        I don’t know what leads to spirituality in the first place. I know that early accounts, even some of those recorded in the Bible, suggest that people tried to make sense of the unknown and attributed unknown things to a god. Things like lightning, thunder, earthquakes, seizures, “speaking in tongues”, etc… A lot of the unexplainable in the ancient world is easily explained today. I don’t know why many people “just feel” like there is more. I still feel that way at times and I am open to being shown that to be the case. But just because people feel that there is more doesn’t make it true.

        I used to believe that because most cultures have some view of a god or the supernatural, there must be some truth to it. Why would so many different people from different places believe that there is more than the physical world? But if there is a god, such as the one described in the Bible, who wants us to know him and have a relationship with him, why would so many people have so many different views of what God is like? If there is one true God, why would so many competing beliefs be allowed to taint his creation and his plans for it? Why so much confusion? Just because many people have a belief in a deity is not proof of a deity. It is evidence that many people struggle with accepting that life is short. If there was truly just one God and we should all believe in this one true God, why don’t we? Why are some people polytheists? Why are some under the assumption that we were put here by aliens a long time ago? Why is one Christian’s views at odds with another’s…even in the very same church building?

        So no, just because some views are wrong, that doesn’t mean all are wrong. You are right about that. But without evidence of at least one being right, it seems a bit foolish to go all in and follow the one I like best. I can’t say for sure that a god doesn’t exist. I believed for most of my life that one did. I picked the one I was raised to believe in and dismissed all others, without investigating any of them. I just “knew” that I made the right choice. All I had to go on was an ancient book and the words of my parents, who also were taught to believe in that book. Sure, I will admit there are times where I still feel like there is more to life than what we can see. I still feel like maybe we were destined to be here. I still feel like maybe we are part of a greater being’s creative plan. But without any interaction from said creator or any conclusive evidence, we are left to guess. We are left with two choices. We can accept what actual evidence is before us and go with the natural view while being open to evidence being shown of a creator, or…..we can ignore the evidence before us that we can observe and opt for belief instead. I have to accept what can be shown to me and believe in that. If God can be shown to me, I would believe. If a god cannot be shown to me, then belief is not, and will never be, an option.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Nice essay, Ben. I certainly understand your point about ritual. The catholics had their share of them as well. We did a form of the foot washing thing as well, although considerably different. We did it only on Good Friday and the priest did it to us. The popes always make a big deal out of washing people’s feet on Good Friday. At the parish level it was strictly optional, though, and very few priests actually did it.

    Rituals are — troublesome, shall we say? The biggest problem is that while a ritual may have originally started as a way of remembering something (the Good Friday feet washing ritual is supposed to remind us of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples before he was crucified), it doesn’t take very long before the ritual becomes a thing unto itself. The ritual becomes as important, or even more important, than the event that it is supposed to remind us of. The actual reason the ritual was created in the first place becomes forgotten and it takes on a life of its own.

    There were a lot of reasons for the protestant reformation, and one of them was a concern with how the catholics had ritualized the faith. The accoutrements (the rituals, the relics, the statues and paintings, the saints, etc.) had become as important or even more important than god. And they had a point there. Still do. Look at how the church treats the saints. The catholic church has always had a problem with how it deals with saints. Strictly speaking, we venerate saints, we do not worship them. But in actual fact? Yeah, most catholics do pretty much worship saints as much as they worship god. Praying to a saint, begging them for favors, for miracles, just as they do with god himself, is a very common practice among devout catholics.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The traditions, rituals and beliefs of all religions are all pretty silly when you think about it. They are also subject to change at a moment’s notice and adherents of the faith don’t even bat an eye. If a new message from the pulpit is delivered, it is accepted because of the trust people have in their leaders. They somehow believe that the man at the front of the church has some inside information from God that they are not privy to. It’s absurd.

      The churches I have attended put way more emphasis on their traditions than on their holy book. It just shows how human nature seeps into the church and people still do whatever makes them feel good. Some people are just better at making excuses about why they do things so as to not feel the guilt. “It might not be in the Bible, but my pastor said it was okay.” That tends to be the mindset of the church…at least from my experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This video clip from an old episode of “Futurama” accurately depicts how I view religion now. It contains cartoon alien Egyptian-like figures, but the message still comes through:

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  5. I came upon this quotation just today, ‘All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician [ to keep the hoi-polloi in order], and ridiculous to the philosopher’
    I once worked with a Turkish Muslim who explained the word “Bismillah” in Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. It means roughly, ‘by the grace of Allah,’ but is used whenever a good Muslim changes what he is doing. Theoretically, if you are walking down the street, and turn a corner, you are supposed to say ‘By the grace of Allah, I am now walking on a different street.’ I’m surprised that they have enough time left over to actually get anything done. 😯

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Archon, your comment about them not having time left over to do anything because they’re so busy praising god is an apt one. I’ve had experience with those kind of people before, and we have a small group of monks who moved up here from Australia of all places some years ago who are exactly like that. They’re sort of Catholic?

      But that’s beside the point. The point is that they believe that the church and the local community needs to pay for their housing, clothing, food, electricity, etc. so they can be free to worship god 24/7 without the distraction of things like, well, working to support themselves. For a time they tried running a bakery, but selling a couple of dozen loaves of bread a week was too “distracting” and they dropped that and returned to living entirely on charity again rather quickly. They expect the community should entirely support them, getting nothing in return, so that they can keep worshipping their own peculiar image of god without the distraction of having to support themselves.

      If one were not politically correct, one might be tempted to use the term “parasites” when referring to them. But being politically correct I would never, of course, call these parasites “parasites”.

      Of course there are a couple of good points. First, they’re celibate, so hopefully they won’t reproduce and pass this rather disturbing disease of theirs to others. And second, they’re relatively isolated where they are now and hopefully won’t pass the contagion on by contact.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh dear! I’ve known that such groups exist, but have never had one inflicted on me. I would not donate voluntarily, and would object strenuously if I were forced to. 😯
        I claim to be merely ‘Grumpy.’ Where does the Grouchy Farmer farm? UK?

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Archon – I’m in Wisconsin in the US. I haven’t been involved with farming for a long time now. We sold the family farm a few years ago and I spent a large part of my working life doing things other than farming. But there is something about farming that sticks with you no matter how far you may wander. These days I’m retired and my farming is restricted to puttering around in the gardens and trying to keep the rabbits from eating my peas and beans, and reading the agricultural press and talking with farmers I know.

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    2. I like that quote. It is quite accurate in describing religion and how people view it. I was quite ignorant for a long time, and it was sublime to me. Not anymore though. I suppose I am more of a philosopher now. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Geez! I feel like a broken record but I must say it again … Excellent post! You have such a way with words … and know how to say exactly what many of us are thinking/feeling.

    The thing that keeps coming back to me is how much Christians are like robots. They simply do what they’ve been “programmed” to do. And, like you say, if their leader changes things up, they simply readjust their software and off they go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Nan.

      Robots indeed. Not an original thought amongst the congregation…at least not ones that are usually shared out loud. Those thoughts end up getting people in trouble with the church or makes them leave religion behind…or both. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Might it depend on the person, non-theist or Christian, you know, how they’ve come to their views? Can we really make blanket statements about any group of people?

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      2. Blanket statements are pretty accurate when you are speaking about a group of people in a club who are focusing on a single goal…like a church. The church (from my experience…and from anyone who I’ve ever spoken with who has attended church) has a single goal in mind. There is no place for individual thought when you are trying to get everyone to believe in the same exact thing. How anyone comes to their views is irrelevant. What matters is the views themselves. If you are a Christian, many people have different reasons for coming to belief, but once there, the goal is the same.

        I have found that questioning the leaders in the church is an unwelcome act. I did it at my last church and they tried to get me to fall back in line. My individual thoughts and ideas we’re summarily dismissed and they attempted to replace them with church-sanctioned ideas. That’s just standard procedure in a church. It’s all there, right under the blanket.

        People who have belief in a god, but disagree with the church don’t last long in those groups. That’s why people “church hop” from one building to the next, trying to find what suits them. Eventually, most people who do that just stop going altogether. Many leave and then learn on their own. Once learning on their own, the truth becomes much clearer. Without someone telling you what everything means (according to the church’s motives) you can come to a much better understanding of what is and isn’t in the “holy books.”

        I don’t mean to offend, but I can’t worry too much if people do get offended. I just share my point of view. If it bothers you, maybe my blog isn’t for you. I just see what I see and share my opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Ben, I’m not offended. It’s just been my experience that followers of Christ can be extremely diverse. There are churches out there that welcome questioning and diverse points of view. There is also huge political diversity as well. On the other hand, there are churches that are ready to boot people out the door for any seemingly small reason. I have experienced this myself. not as a child, more as a young adult. So, I know exactly what you are talking about. To me, it’s the antithesis of what it should mean to love people and to follow Jesus.

    The truth of the matter is this. And, trust me, it took awhile for me to see this. The more mature and secure a person is within themselves and within their belief system, the more they are able to tolerate and accept difference and challenges to their views. They will actually welcome honest questions, respectful dialogue and debate. They actually will want to be open and possibly learn from another point of view. The less secure and mature, the more they will have a need to silence and marginalize “the other.”

    If a church does not allow honest doubt, and sincere questions, run for the doors. It’s spiritual abuse, IMO.

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