[editor's note: I've been meaning to do this post for a while. I imagine it's the sort of post I could keep adding to for years and years.]
It seems to me that there are lots of things that SEEM normal in society that, when you actually stop to think about them, are actually very very strange. Here are a few:
1. Holy Communion (aka The Eucharist). The Roman Catholic Church teaches that through the process of transubstantiation the wafer and wine are LITERALLY turned into the body and blood of Jesus -- and then EATEN by the members of the congregation. That's not a typo or a misuse of the word "literally." Catholics believe that the wafer and wine are literally the body and blood of Jesus. So that means that 1.1 billion people on the planet practice cannibalism on Sundays to honor their creator. That's some crazy shit. And Protestant communion really isn't that much better is it? "Take and eat, this is my body broken for you." Really? Did I ask you to do that? I'm supposed to eat a representation of your body to honor a decision you made without consulting the rest of us? Really? What if I would have actually preferred for you to build an army, overthrow the government, and then pass universal health care instead?
2. Cheer leaders. At major sporting events, heck even at high school and junior high sporting events (and pee wee football games!) we take the prettiest girls from the surround area, dress them in the skimpiest outfits imaginable, and have them act as public emotional fluffers for the boys/men playing in the sporting event and the partisans who watch them. That's some crazy shit. And culture is powerful enough that many girls/women actually seek to perform these roles -- the task is seen as desirable and status producing. When I see college sports, with male "yell leaders" hoisting young women up for display or throwing them in the air, I feel like it is some weird Druidic taunting of the opponent -- like 'look at how hot our women are -- you can't have them because our warrior men (athletes) are so fierce.' But really, it seems that cheer leaders are the prize that the two teams are competing for -- because everyone knows that women prefer the alpha males. Cheerleaders are like the brief case full of cash that gets put on the table in the final round of the World Series of Poker -- letting everyone know what they are really playing for. And that is really really weird when you think about it.
3. Horror movies. In our country and indeed around the world, people pay money for entertainment which consists of moving images of young women (some young men, but mostly young women) being tortured and killed in the most gruesome ways imaginable. It is considered normal to consume this entertainment with friends or even a "cool" date. And often, these brutal sadistic images are considered funny. Again, that's some really weird shit when you think about it.
That's what I got for now. I'm sure other examples will come to me. If you have any examples of "thing that seem normal that aren't" I'd welcome them in the comments.