Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Glory be to God

There's a sign outside a house that I walk past quite often with the dog. It says "If God DID exist, what would you ask?" It's pretty clever psychology, and I get sucked into considering my question every time. It's usually a good fifty metres before I get distracted by something else, and then don't give it another thought until I go that way again.

I did the God thing when I was a teenager, following custom and precedent; also enjoying a good hymn. In those days we sang them at school assemblies, too, incredible as it is to think of that now; and I got a lot of pleasure from the words and the ritual. But science triumphed in the end, and it's a long time since I was even ambivalent.

Now the only time I go near churches is when I'm travelling - but then I make a meal of it. I may mutter to myself about all the wars, oppression and evil that have occurred because of religion; but if there were no God for people to worship, how much beauty we would miss. I love churches and cathedrals: they're simultaneously homely and awe-inspiring, and it's glorious when I'm in one if the organ's being played or the choir practising - or even just a few people scattered through the pews, praying.

I look at those amazing soaring ceilings, the puddles of soft colours from the windows thrown at the bases of the pillars, the gleam of gold, the wear in the wood, and I don't need God, I'm just happy with the physical beauty that's been created in his name, all over the world.

The photo's of the ceiling in La Compania de Jesus in Quito, by the way: totally over the top, but when we're talking seven tonnes of gold leaf, I find I can forgive a degree of excess.

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