A few days ago my friend Sharon set me thinking about religion by using the word "momentum" on one of her Facebook comments, which put me in mind of how very little the dogma, tradition and ritual founded on ancient scriptures seem to have changed over time. By comparison, many of our secular societies and cultures have developed and evolved their belief systems, laws and other codes of conduct much more rapidly. I'd have used the word inertia, but that's merely semantic noise: I believe that she and I are both referring to resistance to change.
I am vehemently opposed to, and appalled by, the darker excesses of what some humans will do to each other in the names of their Gods. I had this very discussion with a bishop when I was aged fourteen. But I have also known some intensely shining lights whose unshakeable faith (which still mystifies me) has earned my absolute respect for their unquestionably positive achievements in some undeniably negative situations.
My visit to Coventry Cathedral today was spiritually uplifting for me, purely in the sense that it was an Artist's Date (a term used by Julia Cameron in her books on overcoming creative block).
The Luftwaffe wrought significant and rapid change to the pre-war architecture of Coventry Cathedral, clearing the way (quite literally) for the kind of visionary architectural rebirth which was to become the hallmark of Britain's post-war recovery. One such pleasing result was this most beautiful, yet intentionally flawed phoenix of a modern sanctuary. Its breath-taking interior spaces offer unbelievers like me at the very least a healing, temporal respite from the cares of the world. The faithful appear to experience and perceive far more (though presumably terms and conditions must apply).
On my gale-blown journey down from Lincoln this morning I saw a major vehicle fire. Moments later I arrived mere seconds after another motorway collision, which I phoned in to the emergency services once I was safely far enough past it, relieved that my First Aid skills had not been required. Half an hour later the peaceful, calm environment of Coventry Cathedral -- bolstered by a bowl of hot soup in its belowstairs café -- soon improved my mood.
When the rain stopped, I walked outside, strolling around the preserved, open shell of the 1940s' stone ruins. That iconic masonry has been dedicated as a monument to forgiveness, reconciliation and hope. I didn't photograph it, because the small screen on my phone camera could never have processed such infinitely large concepts.
[Alt text: my iPhone snapshot includes just about half the height of some of the world-famous stained glass windows, viewed from the inside, shown here completely dwarfing one of the robed clergymen who had just finished a short and simple public call to prayer.]