Churches: glimpses into different times.

  • March 9th, 2012

    VIEW OF THE GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH. TAKSIM.

    You’ll seldom get much more than a glimpse of a church in Istanbul. Perhaps it’s the landscape we’re in. Space is definitely at a premium and many old things are not respected, let alone valued the way they once were.

    I’m not religious, but I refuse to leap aboard the anti-religion bandwagon. Religion has played such an inextricable role in the thought and development of just about every culture you can name that to try and excise it completely, or refuse to look at its place in our social development seems to me a little strange, perhaps even unwise.

    GREEK CHURCH SUNKEN BENEATH A SIDEWALK. YENIKÖY.

    This doesn’t mean we should discount or ignore the bloody atrocities that religious institutions and their “faithful” flocks have committed throughout history, it just seems to me that as in all of us, there is both good and bad, and we should explore this history without either credulity or outright hostility.

    That’s why I’m so drawn to religious sites, especially the minority ones. They are living fragments it seems, sunken beneath sidewalks, hidden behind high walls, obscured by bakkal (grocery stores) or büfe selling döner.

    A GLIMPSE THROUGH A HALF OPENED GATE. YENIKÖY.

    Personally I’m fascinated by the role that faithful men such as Avicenna and Roger Bacon played in the development of science and philosophy. Greek science was largely preserved thanks to the work of medieval Muslim clerics — if you’re interested in this subject as I am, check out John Freely’s excellent book, Aladdin’s Lamp. Imagine what would have been lost to the world if these scholars hadn’t chosen to transcribe and preserve many of the works of Plato, Aristotle and other fascinating players in the history of ideas.

    Perhaps if we’re going to understand where we’ve gone wrong, both recently and in the past, we need to take another look at history. Let’s make it a look at the whole, though, and not obscure the parts that don’t serve us.

    FRAGMENTED STONE. ORTHDOX CHURCHYARD, TAKSIM.

    What do you think? Is an honest dialogue on religion’s role worthwhile? Is it even possible, or are we too biased to look at the subject any longer? Have you read Alain De Botton’s Religion for Atheists

    I’d love to know your thoughts.

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