Thursday, December 19, 2013

Religion and Beauty

While doing my morning routine, I watched a YouTube video on classical Indian architecture, focussing on temples.  This got me to thinking about the old chestnut that the prime impact of religion on humanity is warfare.  This, to an historian, is of course demonstrable nonsense, but it is a meme that endures nonetheless.  The video got me thinking about the true impact of religion, speaking generally, on humanity. Religion has introduced another level of beauty into an already beautiful earth.  We humans take that which is here and refashion it according to our imaginations.  We sub-create, to use the term coined by J.R.R. Tolkien. Only divinity truly creates and myself being a Christian, I would say only God creates.  Humanity sub-creates, that is, we take creation and being in the image of God, we refashion it into various forms of beauty.

I cast my mind and memory over examples of religious architecture.  Gothic cathedrals, Quaker meeting houses, grand mosques, Hindu temples, all represent the highest forms of beauty ever produced by humanity.  Our secular architecture always pales next to the religious. Even that great evangelical atheist Richard Dawkins said that he would miss Hindu temples if religion were to vanish.   Add to this great endeavour, the arts:  painting, sculpture, calligraphy, metal working, poetry, music, dance.

Religion has as its face, beauty.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Happiness.  I came across this in a student's discussion post where he disputed the fact that First Nations' peoples may have  been 'happy' to convert to Christianity.  This got me thinking about happiness and our pursuit of it in this modern world.  The Americans have it built into their Constitution as a human right.. not happiness itself, but the pursuit of same.  I may be reading history badly, but I don't think happiness was a goal of human societies, or even of individuals until the Enlightenment.  This is not to say a society or an individual might not be happy, either generally, or on occasion. In another discussion in another class, a student brought up one of those statistical studies that float through the ether these days which stated firmly [being the result of scientific research] that the Danes are the happiest people on earth, while being amongst the least religious. I wonder what Hamlet would have thought?