For all the problems religion has created throughout history, it has also inspired some of the world’s great music, art, and architecture. We lost a little bit of that today — thankfully, not more — with the fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.
It’s more than a Catholic institution; it’s a landmark of engineering that has survived for hundreds of years, through wars and restorations, through the French Revolution, through natural disasters, and now through a fire. It’s rare, in my experience, to see people visit Paris without at least taking a picture outside the cathedral.
Anyone who dares to celebrate a blow to a religious monument, as if it’s somehow a win for atheists, is missing the larger picture of what this building represents. (Not that I’ve seen much gloating outside of anonymous trolls.)
To quote Christopher Hitchens, “The great cultural project… may very well be to rescue what we have of the art and aesthetic of religion while discarding the supernatural.”
This is terrible news. One of the world's outstanding architectural treasures. https://t.co/uoLLMK2ZJL
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) April 15, 2019
The cause of the disaster appears to be an internal accident due to renovations. Not terrorism. Not anti-Catholicism. Not vandalism. No deaths. No lost artwork or artifacts. That’s a relief.
There’s currently a post on Reddit Atheism (I know) that put it beautifully:
Regardless of personal beliefs and convictions, regardless of religious sentiment or lack thereof. Regardless of political, economic and cultural division all well-meaning people will agree on this, it is important to treasure our heritage and honour the accomplishments of those who came before us.
We lament the loss but choose to be hopeful for the future, to trust that the people of France with their usual fortitude and determination will rebuild and restore.
We hope that the brave men and women who risk their lives fighting to contain this fire will come through unscathed and the fire will be under control soon.
This subreddit and people the world over value the contributions the people of France have made to our shared global culture.
Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.
We trust that the Notre Dame will be restored to its former glory, in time.
If you’re so inclined, you can donate to recovery efforts here.