Religion, as old as humanity itself, has always managed throughout all millennia to capture man’s mind afresh.
Alain de Botton’s new book, ‘Religion for Atheists’, seems to reinforce this fact.
As much as man may rail against the idea of God or certain portrayals of God, he has a hard time of ever doing away with, once and for all, the question of God and religion. Even some of the most radical proponents of atheism, Feuerbach and Nietzsche, remained fascinated by these questions until the end of their lives.
A while back I read another one of Alain’s books, ‘The Art of Travel.’ Alain is an excellent writer and in general can poetically elucidate many aspects of life. Yet even this very human book on travel draws on religious and theological sources.
Every generation has its stereotype- the industrious gentleman of the 1910s, the degenerate flapper of the ‘20s, the family centered husband of the ‘50s, the free love hippies of the ‘60s, and so on. The layman historian naturally embraces such distillations because it makes his job that much easier, and we naturally sympathize with his generalities because it makes for easy conversation pieces. The problem is that these stereotypes skew or at least introduce biases into our perception of what life really was like ‘back then.’ Not everything in the 1920s roared, and not everyone in the Middle Ages was religious.
Architecture is a powerful force.
It petrifies and lays down once and for all the movement of life. Form places provocations or limits on the use of space. Architecture is not merely a public service to provide an indoor environment for people to live and work. It is a philosophical statement about man.
The major difference between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is their view of man. These views are reflected in their architecture.
A prominent abbot named Suger (he’s French, so sounds like soo-zhay) of St. Denis spearheaded a new philosophy near the middle of the 12th century, that challenged the Romanesque precedent of self-denial and austerity. This happened through his lux nova dogma and conception of “God is light.”
Gothic architecture was a technical response to a theological idea.