My funniest religious experience happened in Japan on New Year's Eve 1972. Some Japanese friends took me to a big Shinto shrine in Tokyo to see in the New Year at midnight. The Japanese aren't very religious in general, but they love ritual and ceremony, and New Year is the biggest and the best.
When we arrived at the plaza in front of the shrine, there was a large canvas enclosure. Inside were a team of priests wearing all kinds of protective gear, including baseball catcher's masks. There were tens of thousands of people all around the shrine plaza, a lot of them obviously quite drunk. Then on the stroke of midnight someone in the shrine struck a huge brass bell. At that moment, people started hurling money into the pool creating a continual torrential downpour of silver and brass coins. The priests rushed around shovelling it into bags to make room for more. The noise was amazing.
My Japanese friend then turned to me and said, "You know, our priests say that paper money falling makes a louder noise in heaven than coins."
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