Over dinner recently, a friend told me about someone he works with who is very rational and intelligent, but happens to be highly religious. “It’s odd,” he said, “she is such a logical person, and yet when we were all going out one friday evening, she said she couldn’t join us, because she couldn’t travel after sundown on the sabbath. When I asked her why, she replied that is just the way she does things.”
I told him that all of us have rituals we cannot logically explain, that we do just because that is the way we do things. When he disagreed, I gave him an example.
“Suppose,” I said, “I were to pick up your fork right now off your plate and eat your food. Wouldn’t that be breaking an unspoken taboo with no logical basis?”
“That would be unsanitary,” he replied.
“You know I don’t have a cold,” I said. “After all, a little while ago you and I tasted some wine from the same glass, and you didn’t even think about it.”
At that point he agreed. We are all bound by many little rituals and social constraints that we cannot logically justify, yet which form the very fabric of our social interactions.