Sorry about the two cloth comment-did not know it was a religious thing.
Frank, I agree with your point. However, I sometimes think too much is placed on things that have little meaning. Perhaps a more Buddhist approach of examining such issues might lead people to question the "reality" of such things in the bigger picture. The harmless, in my opinion, act of bowing to show someone respect-is just that and nothing more. Like I tell my students when I'm teaching a technique. I spend most of my class time trying to take away things that are not important for their movement-i.e., the adding of movement (or meaning) to things I show. I try to be more of a reductionist-i.e., simplify the movements to what is absolutely the core and not add extras-whether they be body, hand or foot movements or in the case of bowing a religious or worship connotation. This is getting more down to the "reality" of the technique or situation and not adding things that are not there.
I know a lot of this is based on how, when and where someone is brought up. Historical traditions and cultural values all have lessons and are an important element of personal growth. However, sometimes things need to be examined when they have no basis in reality and tossed out. Although I'm trying not to make this religious, an example would be that if I bowed to someone even if it was against my beliefs, the reality is that it probably would not change much-I doubt such an act would end up sending me to hell -of course I wouldn't find out until I died.