07 March 2013

Atheist temples

The interesting article in Good, A Truly Godless Place: Why We Designed a Temple for Atheists, brought to mind the temple which Howard Roark designed in The Fountainhead. When I read Ayn Rand's novel as a teenager, I thought that she and her hero were psychopathic monsters, but I admired the Temple of the Human Spirit which she described Roark building.

Here's the description, provided by a critic who hated it in the book:

Mr. Hopton Stoddard, the noted philanthropist, had intended to present the City of New York with a Temple of Religion, a non-sectarian cathedral symbolizing the spirit of human faith. What Mr. Roark has built for him might be a warehouse—though it does not seem practical. It might be a brothel—which is more likely, if we consider some of its sculptural ornamentation. It is certainly not a temple.

It seems as if a deliberate malice had reversed in this building every conception proper to a religious structure. Instead of being austerely enclosed, this alleged temple is wide open, like a western saloon. Instead of a mood of deferential sorrow, befitting a place where one contemplates eternity and realizes the insignificance of man, this building has a quality of loose, orgiastic elation. Instead of the soaring lines reaching for heaven, demanded by the very nature of a temple, as a symbol of man’s quest for something higher than his little ego, this building is flauntingly horizontal, its belly in the mud, thus declaring its allegiance to the carnal, glorifying the gross pleasures of the flesh above those of the spirit. The statue of a nude female in a place where men come to be uplifted speaks for itself and requires no further comment.

A person entering a temple seeks release from himself. He wishes to humble his pride, to confess his unworthiness, to beg forgiveness. He finds fulfillment in a sense of abject humility. Man’s proper posture in a house of God is on his knees. Nobody in his right mind would kneel within Mr. Roark’s temple. The place forbids it. The emotions it suggests are of a different nature: arrogance, audacity, defiance, self-exaltation. It is not a house of God, but the cell of a megalomaniac. It is not a temple, but its perfect antithesis, an insolent mockery of all religion. We would call it pagan but for the fact that the pagans were notoriously good architects.

This column is not the supporter of any particular creed, but simple decency demands that we respect the religious convictions of our fellow men. We felt we must explain to the public the nature of this deliberate attack on religion. We cannot condone an outrageous sacrilege.

I liked the sound of that temple. I would visit that place and nourish my spirit there.

And yeah, it does sound pagan to me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it would've been a great place..one to visit for sure