An Atheist visits a Cathedral

11 Aug

While I was in the UK for the past 3 weeks, I visited several old churches, the most grand of which was York Minster Cathedral.

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Now, despite being an Atheist, I LOVE visiting old places of worship, whether they be pagan, christian, or whatever. (I visited some old temples of Mithras while I was there too) Most normal houses of worship are small, humble buildings, but cathedrals are enormous, bold structures. They stand out along the skyline; they are built as a statement of god’s power, and the power of those who commissioned the work.

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I must admit, when I walked in my jaw dropped. I was just in awe of the sheer size of the place. I felt insignificant and fleeting in the face of the enormous stone pillars which have held this monument up for centuries. The beauty and intricacy of the artwork and statues took my breath away. I was reduced to a small child, wandering around aimlessly, captivated by it all.

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And that is exactly what the cathedral was meant to do. That is exactly the affect the builders wanted to illicit. Cathedrals, unlike regular churches, are propaganda machines in their very structure. They are meant to overwhelm the visitor with their size, complexity, and beauty. They are supposed to make the visitor feel insignificant in the presence of god.

I admitted to my self that if I went to church every Sunday in a place like this, I would feel more compelled to believe. ( I still wouldn’t believe, but I can see the allure of the place) Here is the twist to think about. Believers who are amazed by the place as much as everybody else see it as a symbol of god’s might and the insignificance of mankind. What they don’t stop to think about it who built the place. Humans built the place. Humans carved the artwork, cut the stones, and constructed the intricate stained glass windows. No one ever stops to realize that cathedrals are just as much a monument to human engineering, to the human spirit, as they are to god.

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