for me: this is the real question here:
John Matsushima wrote:
why not something a little closer to our hearts?
frankly, i feel alienated from western religions. not that i don't think they are beautiful or whatever. but, in my heart
, i feel more affinity with taoism, buddhism and esoteric shinto. i am attracted to the eastern religio-philosophical understandings / explications of reality. they tend to make more sense to me than do western ones. i have no idea why, really. its just true.
this does not mean i disagree with some of what you wrote in spirit. i think "spirituality" in aikido can come from any tradition, ultimately. but, for this reason, i think the value of using japanese forms of etiquette is as a more or less neutral center point. so we can have a unified practice. bowing in can just be about respect, or it can take on religious significance. depending on the person, and their views.
plus its fun. maybe, in that sense, it is playing dress-up. but for me, dress up has always been about trying to understand yourself and the world around you thru various lenses. so no issues there.