I am not very religious, but have experienced many different religions. My question is: Is it considered rude or insensitive to do a pilgrimage or do an act of devotion although I don't belong to that religion?
There are many paths to enlightenment, you might say. People do pilgrimages for many reasons. Your reason is your own, and is just as valid as anyone else's. I think as long as you are respectful there is nothing wrong with it.
The answer is probably a matter of personal opinion. I have attended various religious observances. My intention is to be a participant rather than observer. I decided to attend only when I am a participant. I'm thinking photography should be used in a very limited way. There are some outdoor events that seem designed for observers or that welcome observers. I have photographed some of these, but now feel that I won't do that again.
fborn what an interesting question. I think that anything done respectfully and unobtrusively is OK. Most people like to see someone show an interest in their faith. But you do have to be aware of what that religion considers to be exclusive. Sometimes you shouldn't do what everyone else is doing to blend in, for example non-Catholics are not supposed to take communion at a Catholic Mass.
My thoughts mirror what stan described...he was just faster responding.
There are instances where this is well accepted. For example, Muslims often take part to Christians' Virgin Mary festivals at her presumed home near Ephesus, Turkey (but Mary is named in the Koran as well). And I once read a nice interview to David Flusser, an Israeli scholar of early Christianity and an Orthodox Jew, born in Austria, that once did with his supposedly sterile wife a pilgrimage to the Catholic site of Mariazell - his wife then conceived a child, but Flusser pointed that the Virgin Mary was as Jewish as them.
The main concerns in doing a pilgrimage to some religious site you really do not belong to, would be first doing something inappropriate, or maybe terribly inappropriate without even realizing; second, the thing could be boring if you do not understand what they are doing.
As someone pointed, you are not supposed to take communion in Catholic or Orthodox churches unless you were baptized in their respective faiths and conform to required conditions.
Another concern to most religions is dressing in a respectful way.
Thanks, you all have helped very much. I am going to try to do the Scala Sancta in Rome at the end of March. I thought I would be fine but started to doubt myself. Don't want to be an "Ugly American". Again thanks much for all the help.
Lots of people walk the Scala Sancta without belonging to a Christian church, lots of Christians never climb the stairs. There's not a lot of opportunity to make a mistake at that site, it's a staircase.
I believe you need to make a small donation at the "ticket" booth at the entrance before ascending the stairs. You go up the stairs on your hands and knees - no walking up. You can stop along the way for prayer breaks. People say their prayers quietly to themselves. So, you can pray any prayer you wish. Or, you can just be silent. It's up to you and you will not offend anyone.