Today, my friend PUG and I were discussing the extent to which religion separates its adherents from those of other religions. PUG mentioned the possibility that a religion by nature separates its believers from others, since its practicies are socially distinctive from other religions (am I quoting you right, PUG?). PUG mentioned the example of Kashrut, the laws of which practically speaking are a major social barrier between us and non-Jews. (In fact, Kashrut ends up being a social barrier between Jews. For example, the issue of would A eat in B's house if B isn't observant of many of A's stringencies.) We discussed whether this effect is the goal of Kashrut in any way.
This discussion is relevant to today's daf, 17b, which touches on our sages' prohibitions on the oil, bread, wine, and cooking of non-Jews. The Gemara states clearly that the intent of these decrees was to separate us from the gentiles. While I'd like to think that our rituals in general have no such intent, I'd like to leave this question open.
As a side question, PUG also mentioned the possibility that even if separation is not the primary intention of a religion, maybe it should not really matter, as that oftentimes ends up as its effect anyway. I personally think that intent still matters at the end of the day, but I'd like to hear anyone's thoughts.