If we truly were godless people living in a godless society, we would have done away with fragments of the divine ritual, such as weddings and funerals, but we have not.
I don’t think we retain weddings and funerals because of practical reasons — but because we have a deep sense of something fundamentally traditional. We feel deep down that a dead body “deserves” proper handling. Why? The modern scientific worldview would deem this irrational. We still have the institution of marriage, but “two shall become one” and the oath of “till death do we part” are weightless, meaningless even, without its religious roots. Deep down it feels there is something fundamentally at odds.
And I think something is fundamentally at odds.
We may naturalise rituals, disassociate ourselves from its religious origins and appeal to utilitarian ends. But when we partake in them, we unconsciously participate in its worldview, for instance, in treating others as if they were divine beings. (When I say “religious” I don’t mean religion per se, but the quite unscientific world of soul and spirit.)
I think we aren’t smart enough to outthink our own rituals, only to rationalise them.