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Can you find beauty in cathedrals and churches or does the sight of them irritate you?

I look at them as a large piece of history and enjoy taking pictures of them when traveling outside the U.S. Notre Dame in Paris has been my favorite. I can understand those who respect them but are still bothered by what they represent.

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Your 2 cents are always welcome, Sentient biped. This is what I love about discussions. :)
A couple of years ago, I was at the Mayan ruins of Altun, in Belize. I was thoroughly aware that the temples were use to perform human sacrifice to the gods. Nevertheless, I did marvel at and appreciate their construction, especially given the level of technology available to that society at that time. While standing at the top of one pyramid, I could see the whole layout of the site. Incredibly impressive. But, I had no desire to decapitate or rip the heart out of anyone to insure a better corn crop. (Well, OK, maybe one or two jerks I deal with at work).

I admire the magnificent architecture, art work and the amazing display of skills brought together under one roof, but I can't help feeling sad that huge amounts of money was spent glorifying a non-existent being when people struggled to survive, if only that much effort and expense was put into schools, hospitals, etc.

Here in the Untied Kingdom we have some magnificent churches and cathedrals, I visit some of them if I happen to be in town, not for the spiritual uplift, only to marvel at skill of the people who designed and built them in the days when heavy machinery wasn't available.

It surely is incredible, Pete. It's too bad that with the power tools and years of experience in house building, most new American homes are built so poorly.
Yes, of course I can appreciate religiously inspired works of music, art, and architecture. I was a music major, and the history of western music is intimately tied to the history of Christianity and Catholicism. I am also a "hard" atheist. I think any atheist that cannot appreciate the beauty in, Handel's Messiah, for example, is as dogmatically blind as any extreme fundamentalist.
Well, I guess I should look up Handel's Messiah, then. :)

I'd be able to appreciate Handel's "Messiah" more if it wasn't constantly used in commercials and lame TV shows and movies, but I get your point.

I can picture a future where these beautiful artful buildings (minus the bloody corpse statues) will be used for secular humanist gatherings and celebrations and the religious part will be historical. It is annoying that they siphoned off all the resources but I am moved by the art of them. Some of the artists were surely atheists (like Leonardo da Vinci) working for a paycheck. 

Yep, that's another important point for me, I love old stuff too and usually it's the Churches that survived the longest.
I do not believe in god, but I find religious art, history, architecture, etc... interesting.  I usually just take a neutral stance when I see religious sites.  If I were to consistently think negatively about them, it would make traveling the world difficult as many places are plagued with their own dark histories, regardless of whether it was under a religious umbrella or not.  I mean, why then visit the Pyramids of Giza? or the ruins of Petra?
You know, many of those buildings have been designed by top architects, true artists. The fact that they may have been inspired by religion takes nothing away from the creativity of the architect. It is kind of like music. I like Handel's Messiah. A beautiful composition. The fact that the source of the inspiration: the belief in a supreme being is something we lack, does not make the composition a bad one. I'd like to think that without the inspiration of religion, Handel would have found a different source to draw on to compose equally impressive work.

I think those old, huge cathedrals are gorgeous works of art and represent an amazing turning point in the course of architectural development. I can't help but be awed when I think that people built these things without the use of modern machinery. I think it is a shame that such beauty should be wasted on ridiculous magic spells and mummery performed by sequin-garbed priests in funny hats, though. I propose they be turned into the following uses, instead:

Taverns

Bed-and-breakfast inns

Museums

New Age crystal healing shops (irony, or something)

Indoor water parks

Casinos

Mini-malls

The world's fanciest 7-Eleven

A rainforest zoo

Hippie smoke shops

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