Intimate things

September 20, 2012

I’m thinking about religious beliefs and wedding rings.

Some people have wondered why some Muslims feel so provoked by things like the video and cartoons recently in the news.  It has struck me as having to do with intimacy, with how close to one’s heart and personal identity a relationship or thing is held.

For some, their sense of self is bound up with their beliefs about God and their relationship to God.

I’m thinking that a way to understand this in the west is with wedding rings.  There are places into which one may not wear jewelry, places like surgical operating rooms and rooms for contact visits with people in prison.  But in both cases there is (often?) an exception for wedding bands.  For surgery the ring is taped, I believe, to guard against the importation of infection.  For prison visits, religious necklaces can be an exception, too.

For someone never married or religious, these exceptions can seem strange and a little arbitrary, but I think they reflect a cultural understanding of how closely we hold our marriages to our sense of self — the relationship becomes part of who we are.

I suspect that’s the degree of intimacy with some religions, especially those whose adherents are actively involved with them throughout any given day.  I suspect that that’s why it’s harder for such people not to take personally perceived insults to their religion.


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