Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Atheists in the Architecture

A common complaint about atheists is that we're mean-spirited, obsessed with snuffing the light from the lives of believers. "If it isn't harming anybody," the believer might say, "why not just let it go? I don't care if you don't believe in god, so why do you care if I do?" 

It's a fair argument, although I believe that to a large degree religion does cause harm, and not just to the individual believer. Like second-hand smoke, religious belief can have consequences for those around. Nonetheless, I believe that atheists should reserve judgement when possible and only interject or intervene when the fight is absolutely worth having. 

A related issue is that of setting up an identity that is anti-something. It turns out that atheism is a pretty one-dimensional philosophy, which is why most atheists are also something else. I, for example, consider myself a humanist, or a vegetarian, or a political progressive, or a dog lover, or a gamer before I think of atheism. I am proud and happy to be an atheist, and I consider my god-free life to be significantly better than one based on religion, but being an atheist simply defines my attitude toward religion, which only comes up in specific contexts.

All of this brings me to atheist temples. From the linked article: ‘Why should religious people have the most beautiful buildings in the land?’ he asks. ‘It’s time atheists had their own versions of the great churches and cathedrals’.

I have a real problem with that. Atheists don't need their own versions of great churches and cathedrals. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in a deity, full stop. There should be no further baggage. The proposed 'atheist temple' certainly does look beautiful, but there are plenty of structures that I find beautiful: banks, hotels, even rest stops can be beautiful. To my mind, any building that is not specifically a church, mosque or temple is an atheistic building. But I get it: there is something appealing to the idea of a building devoted to the beauty of nature and of scientific knowledge and reason. But a building that has no real purpose other than to be a 'fuck you' to religion is a bit absurd, as much as I like to give religion the finger myself.

There are already plenty of places where religious ideas do not hold any power: libraries, scientific labs, universities, national parks, museums, planetariums, etc. Believers are welcome at all of these places, but they are not designed with religion in mind. Anyone can read a book or marvel at the cosmos. Religion only fogs the lens of those who let it. 

1 comment:

Kold_Kadavr_flatliner, sub/dude said...

Because you’re truly ignorant on how to rise above the whorizontal world and one-outta-one shall croak sometime, somewhere soon, God has set-up this magnificent feature on the Way either Upstairs or downtown: the Warning. Everyone (me, too) living on this planet will see and feel the Warning lasting about 20ish minutes, showing U.S. a gorgeous picture of Heaven, Purgatory (depending whether our sins demand a greater punishment before being allowed into the Great Beyond), and dagnasty Hell. Remember, God doesn’t condemn; we condemn ourselves by our sinful lifestyles of unbelief. The Warning’s just a wake-up call. Don’t believe me? Guhroovy. You will soon. God bless you with discernment: atheism is cool, isn't it, till you croak...