Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
Bowing is just that, a sign of respect. We each put into bowing our own meaning or significance. For some people, it may mean something different than for me, and I do not demean them or pontificate about superiority/inferiority in one way or another. We each have our own experience and socio-cultural filters that we apply to everything around us.
Perhaps "making a mountain out of a mole hill" is what drives some people over the edge of reason, and sometimes we are all guilty of spending too much time just thinking.
I spent time as uchideshi in Iwama, Japan and we bowed as a sign of respect. You respect the culture of the country in which you are living at the moment, you respect your training partner, your Sensei, and others around you. Heck, we would be riding our bikes to the dojo and the old lady working in her garden would see us go by and bow. We would bow our heads back to her (and keep an eye on the road). We'd be sweeping the dojo steps, and the guy jogging down the road would run by and bow his head, and we would bow back. The school children would go by on their way to school, see us working around the dojo and bow, so we'd bow back. Mondai nai.
At the dojo we would start class with seiza, clap, bow to the shomen, then bow to the Sensei. No religion involved, and we never felt threatened by any of this at any moment. Sure, we were gaijin but never "baka gaijin," because we chose to be aware of the moment and respect those around us. It's a two way street.
I have lived in places in Central America and the Caribbean where shaking hands is the order of business 24/7, even if you have seen your friend 5 minutes ago. You shake hands as a sign of respect, or to seal a deal, or even to say hello. It's part of the culture, you meet your friends and shake hands with the men and give the women a peck on the cheek. No fuss involved, no ritual, no religion, it's just a social custom.
So, IMHO we need to acknowledge that everyone will get something different from all this bowing business. If you start digging for reasons, of course everyone will have a different take on the issue. Go ask an anthropologist, go ask a doctor in theology, or just go ask the average joe (not an average jo, please) and you will get different opinions or reasons. For me, a bow is a bow, is a bow.
And with that, I bow out.