What do you feel when you visit a Religious Monument?

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Big George's picture
What do you feel when you visit a Religious Monument?

I have been lucky enough to travel to many countries and have seen some of the largest and most spectacular Cathedrals, Shrines, Temples and other monuments to religion on Earth.

I am well aware that these edifices are meant to inspire awe and wonder amongst the populous and perhaps even help 'convert' the skeptical.

However, as an atheist I have no such feelings.

I can, for example, appreciate the architecture of the Sagrada Famila in Barcelona. I can appreciate the skill in building such an elaborate structure. But when I start to reflect on how much money and the thousands of man hours it must have taken and then, the crux of the matter to me, the 'purpose' of such a building, I feel a overwhelming sadness for mankind.

I am interested to hear if my reaction is unusual or does anyone else have similar thoughts?

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Old man shouts at clouds's picture
ditto.Except for the sadness.

ditto.Except for the sadness.

mykcob4's picture
I feel disgusted! I think

I feel disgusted! I think about all the people exploited to build such a monument. A monument to what? A MYTH. People starve to build a monument to a myth!

MCDennis's picture
Yes. I always think about

Yes. I always think about the peasants that starved to death and the others that died in the hundreds and thousands to build cathedrals

algebe's picture
They're symbols of

They're symbols of superstition and exploitation. They're supposed to draw our gaze up to heaven, but first you have to look down at the ticket counter as you go in. And of course, your enlightenment (i.e., making your pocket lighter) is completed as you exit via the gift shop.

I could see the beauty and architectural achievements in Saint Pauls and Westminster Abbey, although I found the Sagrada Famila hideously ugly. But entire communities devoted their time and wealth over generations to the construction of these monstrous buildings. It's a criminal waste.

For more impressive and admirable examples of what people can create, look at Victorian station architecture, giant aircraft assembly hangars at Boeing, the British canal system, Roman roads, terraced rice paddies.....

Big George's picture
@Old man who: ditto.Except

@Old man who: ditto.Except for the sadness.

Don't get me wrong, I don't stand outside these places with tears in my eyes. In fact, I absolutely agree with mykcob4 & Algebe.

If I may share one experience that I have never forgotten: About 5 years ago I was visiting a city in Ecuador in South America. In the centre of this city there was a huge white Catholic Cathedral. An impressive building in a predominately pretty poor country. As I stood looking at it I noticed a small group of poorly dressed men and women crawling up the steps on their hands and knees.

My guide told me that they were peasants from a rural village & they had walked probably 3 days to get there. They visited this cathedral maybe twice in their lives. Having made it to the steps they were crawling the last 100 yards or so to 'show their unworthyness'

What I found poignant was that minutes earlier I had watched the Bishop or Holy Roller or what-ever the head of the church called himself departing in an expensive chauffeur driven BMW 4x4.

Yeah, I felt a certain sadness. I felt disgust and anger too.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
I will elaborate; studying

I will elaborate; studying the soaring architecture of cathedrals, the geometric decoration of a medieval mosque or the nudity of a saxon church I am amazed at the resilience, strength of character and , yes, belief, of the designers and artisans.
My next emotion is sheer bloody anger that religion engineered and facilitated a society that could waste its resources on monuments to the ineffably non existent as a showplace for their "right to rule".

Tin-Man's picture
Driving down the interstate

Driving down the interstate from my house going toward the downtown city area there is one of those "mega-churches" sitting in all its splendid glory to the left just off the interstate. Directly out in front of the church a bit closer to the interstate is a massive white cross. The thing must be at least one hundred fifty feet tall. You can see the damn thing from a couple or more miles away. And at night it is lit by large and powerful halogen lights shining up on it from its base. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME, I go past that thing my stomach does a little lurch of disgust. A brief moment of mild depression then passes through me until I am past it and out of sight of it. I cannot help but thinking, "How much money was wasted on that overtly gaudy exhibit of vanity that could have been put to use helping the needy people in the surrounding area?" Somebody please correct me if I am wrong here, but in the bible, did Jesus not teach people to be humble and meek? To me, that ridiculous monstrosity represents the textbook definition of hypocrisy.

Sky Pilot's picture


Crosses and statues are just idols designed to reassure the herd.

Churches, mosques, and temples are awesome works of art because they are manifestations of the power of one person's will. All such things start out with just one person, almost always a man, who woke up one day and decided that he was going to build such a place. He then convinced a whole lot of people to help him do it. It's sort of commanding a tree to uproot itself and to jump into the nearest body of water. The thing is that such artifacts usually deteriorate over time because the pool of true believers die off. But they do serve to illustrate that an individual can accomplish fantastic things if he has the will to do it.


Big George's picture
Here's something else for

Here's something else for your consideration. If you want to go inside many of these 'holy' places you may be required to comply to certain rules as a 'sign of respect'. These may include removing your shoes, covering your head, not covering your head, covering your legs, genuflecting etc ..

Clearly God is watching and is likely to get offended should you fail to comply. The thing is, I find it hard to show any respect because I believe respect should be earned and I don't consider religion, any religion, to have earned any.

Many times I have just refused to enter any place that has such petty and ridiculous rules.....

Jared Alesi's picture
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I feel the same feeling as when I see a piece of modern art or a gravestone whose owner I don't know. Nothing.

Alembé's picture
I think, "What a waste of

I think, "What a waste of money." It is exactly the same thought I have when I see a big university/college (American) football stadium that cost hundreds of millions of $$ to build and yet is essentially used only 20 hours a year.

watchman's picture
Not sure this counts as a

Not sure this counts as a "religious monument" but there was an occassion some years ago when I first visited the Neolithic site at Avebury.


(Avebury is bigger than Stonehenge and to my mind far more impresive , It is big enough to surround a village and it contains several smaller rings as well as individual standing stones , the whole site is surrounded by a great ditch and bank....)

Like most visitors I was struck by the size of the stones and the fact this edifice was built by builders equiped only with antler picks and wicker baskets.....

But I could not shake the feeling that I was missing something ...... something was not right .... but could not put my finger on it.....

It was only as I was leaving the circle to walk down the avenue of stones ,that it dawned on me...... it was the ditch and bank ..... it was the wrong way round.

Most neolithic sites have a ditch and bank ,these are generaly though to be defensive or at the very least, lines of demarcation. .....the ditch on the outside and the bank on the inside.

BUT there at Avebury ....it is the ditch on the inside and the bank on the outside......

So what ?

Well ...the earthworks at Avebury were built not to keep something out....... but to keep something in.

That gave me pause for thought...

CyberLN's picture


algebe's picture
I hadn't noticed that. Do you

I hadn't noticed that. Do you think they were trying to contain their religion to keep it from doing harm in the real world?

watchman's picture
@Algebe .....

@Algebe .....

Possibly ..... but these days I tend to think that it was possibly some sort of arena....... its obviously a ritual space.... mybe for ritual combats..... the ring is approached from the south via an avenue of stones heading straight towards Silbury Hill..(the largest man made mound in Europe) ...... the ring itself holds smaller rings and individual standing stones.... maybe the setting for combats between individual tribal champions or perhaps small teams..... the ditch and bank to ensure no-one gets to run away...while at the same time giving an audience optimal views......

The Druids had the reputation of being able to regulate the tribal wars of the Celts ..... perhaps this sort of space was used when their arbitration was not successful ..... further there is a Celtic legend concerning the Tuatha de Danu of Ireland. It involves a great battle between the Tuatha and their rivals fought at Moy Tura...... which translates as the Plain of the Pillars.

So could the Avebury ring be a "Plain of Pillars" ...... ?

there is just one problem with this ......

Avebury pre-dates the Celtic migration into Britain by some thousands of years .... and probably the Druids also .... but it could be possible that the Druidic movement may not have been an exclusivly Celtic .....perhaps it had older roots ..... back to a time when a religious elite could organise "tournaments" to resolve tribal conflicts ,dynastic struggles without subjecting the populaces to wholesale war and slaughter.

Of course I've no proof of any of this..... but who knows what the archeologists and researchers will find tomorrow, next week, next month ,next year ?

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
I like that muse Algebe, it

I like that muse Algebe, it kind of ties in with the Celtic reverence for farmers who were considered almost sacrosanct during conflicts between clans. It was a crime punishable by exile or death for a warrior to harm a farmer or his family ) and large compensation would have been paid In later times this is part of the reason (apart from their brutality and rapine) that the Anglo German force at Culloden were so reviled. Bayoneting the wounded warriors was considered a much lesser crime than butchering the farmer and his pre teen son in the field where they were ploughing, adjacent to the battle . There is a monument to them where they were murdered.

Regarding Avebury which is pretty impressive, I saw a program on it that postulated that the bank and ditch were there to keep in livestock for the feasts...which does seem a lot of effort. A formal combat area makes much more sense to me. Thanks for that.

mickron88's picture
i'll put up a monument for

i'll put up a monument for all atheist, and you know what it's made off??

from nothing, so that no one will be treated like peasants, slaves or starve, nor make money for it.

i guess a lot of people from that time are idle and illiterate.
and they say ignorance is a bliss.. tsk tsk tsk..

Cognostic's picture
Having seen much of the world

Having seen much of the world myself I have to agree. The structures are amazing. Walking along these temples and religious structures are fascinating. My favorite place in the world was walking along the streets in Pompey. I think I get more of a sense of history and the journey from there to here as a move along. It is a sense of awe, but not religious awe. In Vatican square I imagined all the pigeons were people and got a sense of what the place might be like if the Pope showed his wrinkled aging decrepit body to the world. Then I began wondering if he drove the Pope mobile around town and lost my senses. The pigeons were more interesting. Can you see the pope joyriding through Vatican City throwing out blessings while doing donuts in the plazas? Regarding religion as being absurd, does take it's toll on the religious meaning of structures. At the same time, the historical significance is completely Awe Inspiring.

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