Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
An interesting thread.....please accept my thoughts as additive. I used to buy into the whole "yeah its just a sign of respect thing", and then my life took a few turns when I began to more seriously consider my Christian faith. (Now before you write the rest of this off as a conservative diatribe, I will assure it is not....because I don't think I am....)
I think there is a component of inner intention that is important; i.e. what is going on in your head/heart as you bow? Paul even says as much in Romans
However, assuming we are talking about Christianity or Judaism, then in fact God DID demand we have no other God's before him or bow down to any graven image (first and second commandments or first only depending on if you are protestant or Roman Catholic).
In Proverbs it is stated that as a man thinks so is he....and Jesus said where your treasure is so is your heart. Unsaid in that was that if your heart was not first in trusting God, then it was in the wrong place.
So, here we have a quandry. Intention is obviously important, however, we do have teaching which would want us to minimize if not eliminate physically bowing IF (and I think this is the important part) we are so internally invested in Aikido that it becomes the source of what we value most. Then I think, IF you care about adhering to to tennants of your faith, you may want to not bow at least to the shomen. Perhaps if you are so enamoured with your Sensei or Shihan that you think them God-like then maybe you don't bow to them. I personally haven't met any sensei, shidoin or shihan that fit that bill, so if we are wanting to bow to another human as a sign of respect, then I can go along with that. However, since O'Sensei is dead, I can't bow to him and I have started to refrain from bowing to an inanimate shomen. I also refrain from the clapping "X number of times" ritual, since that was a Shinto ritual praying to what I consider false Gods. Just feels better for me. I take as my example a very high ranking aikidoka who happens to be Muslim who even when teaching refuses to bow for the same reasons and has someone else bow in the class. I have much respect for someone who would possibly be critizied for such behavior as it goes against the group norm.
Then again it is a small thing and many won't be offended or bothered by bowing to an inanimate object.