In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Another Technical Note
  2. La Ligne Maginot
  3. Actress Notes
  4. Technical Day
  5. Peripheral Explanation
  6. More Immigration Links
  7. Another Graphic Detournement
  8. Peripheral Artists (5): Mikhail Vrubel
  9. Illegal Update

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Comments | Main | New CultureBlogs »

May 15, 2003

Guest posting -- Andre Hattingh on Salingaros

Friedrich --

Lots of responses, via comments and email, to our interview with Nikos Salingaros -- lovely to see the interest and to take part in all the conversations. We'll soon do a followup interview with Prof. Salingaros. Meanwhile, I want to pass along one of the most eloquent responses, which came in as email from Andre Hattingh, writing from South Africa. Andre gave me permission to post it here on the blog:

Many thanks for the interview with Prof. Salingaros. He and his interlocutors have articulated my own long-harboured misgivings about the evident lack and/or denial of human scale and/or interests which have pervaded the field for much of the past century. We have tolerated the risible aesthetics of a despotic illiteracy for far too long. The recent competition for a WTC twin towers replacement has made that all too clear: the finalists and commission winner only serving to underline the prevalent denial of the humane dimension.

I was relieved to find at the tail end of the interview a reference to “ … some truths that religion has to offer are inevitable." Why is it that the 'R' word brings out, if the not the worst; then an all too often negative or skewed response in intellectually active people? Most of what we admire in and from the past was often prompted and inspired by the religions of their artisan creators. Nowhere more so than in the twin fields of art and architecture. (And this while these skills were still considered crafts as opposed to professions.) The current position of our civilization has grown out of and is rooted in that inspired foundation. Why, in hindsight, deny it?

If, when searching for simple solutions to Life’s mysteries, you omit religion -- in arrogance or fear -- from the equation, the result, though overtly convincing, seldom satisfies that search. In its long and arduous struggle up from ignorance, humankind adapted to, first, an awareness of and then an acceptance that the five empirical senses are not capable of explaining the questions that cloud our limited view of the horizon, let alone the universe.

For some time biological scientists, in particular, have sought to remove those clouds and expose the mysteries of life and the nature of all things to the bright light of knowledge as a concatenation of accidental principles. Yet the brighter the light and the thinner the clouds, the deeper the pervading mystery extends. These fundamentalist high priests [sic] of science, however, continue in their efforts to lay waste to humanity’s concept of any universal mystery; in its attempts to replace faith with a prosthetic and self-replicating fallacy: man is the measure all things … each unto his or her forgone conclusion. In, namely, what is not empirically explicit cannot therefore exist. Least of all a God, whatever any reactionary dissenter might conceive it, him or her to be. Q.E.D.

Any society without religion or at least a faith in transcendence inevitably disintegrates into a morass of discord. Western civilization is already showing signs of dissolution. Religion binds societies and links divergent cultures to a joint evolution, however disparate the paths: something Darwin would appear to have overlooked, perhaps because it couldn’t be confined to a petrie dish or put under a microscope and wouldn’t compress to a species chart. The route we’ve travelled may be troubled and be as littered with tragedy as with triumphs. However, harvesting and interpreting knowledge and our experience of it along that route is humanity’s destiny: not the sum of all its parts or purpose.

Man is not, nor has he ever been, the measure of all things … except perhaps of his own limitations. If it hasn’t been said already it should have been: ignorance is an infinite void the filling of which requires the challenge of much perspiration tempered by eons of humility. Which is probably why we all need religion. Even Voltaire understood that!

Many thanks to Andre Hattingh.



posted by Michael at May 15, 2003


Bravo, Andre.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 15, 2003 12:41 PM

Andre write passionately and well, but he shows a fundamental misunderstanding when he writes "These fundamentalist high priests [sic] of science, however, continue in their efforts to lay waste to humanity’s concept of any universal mystery; in its attempts to replace faith with a prosthetic and self-replicating fallacy: man is the measure all things … each unto his or her forgone conclusion."

Humans are definitely not the measure of all things, and most serious scientists understand that--one of the surest results of evolutionary cognitive studies is that what we can know, and even the vastly larger set of things we can think about, is constrained by our evolutionary history. But it is just as true, and for the same reasons, that we have no way other than science to reliably and verifiably understand those aspects of the world we can know.

As for "Religion binds societies and links divergent cultures to a joint evolution, however disparate the paths": hogwash. There's a great deal we can think about for which there is not now and may never be reliable knowledge, and any religion which claims revealed access to the "Truth" is necessarily divisive. We have a long bloody history to prove it.

Posted by: Mike Snider on May 15, 2003 02:22 PM


Andre wasn't calling any one religion the truth, s/he merely stated that it (religion) binds and links cultures, which it does. And, to her/his other point, science sometimes does try to offer itself as a replacement to religion or the transcendent, and usually (though not always) that's misguided.

As for long, bloody histories - pretty much every movement or nation has one. (Even science has some skeletons in the closet!) Does that invalidate any of them?

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 15, 2003 02:37 PM

I don't get it. Why complicate the task of building, as Phil Langdon would put it so nicely, a "better place to live" by introducing the issue of "Religion?"

It is a needlesss complication and a diversion, designed only, I am sure, by the devil to divert us from the task of creating places worthy of our possible creator.

Rather than focus on the worthwile and practical issues raised by Salingaros/Alexander, the very first comment avoids the physical organization of our settlements --- about which we can discuss and maybe even agree -- in favor of Religion, which is a certain way to cause discord. According to Patrick O'Brian --- and it makes common sense --- discussion or religion was forbidden at the officers' mess as the only outcome could be ugly faction, obviously an evil on a naval ship. Or in a civil society.

Certainly a place can be so well designed and built (i.e. created) that an individual can choose to see the hand of a creator at work. But to bring up religion a priori is to me an unnecessary element. If the good ship Alexander founders, it will be I believe because he introduces an inherently devisive element --- religion, spirituality etc -- to a subject --- the built environment ---already laden with heavy emotion.

My suggestion is that we attend to the work of building better cities and put religion aside for personal decision.

Posted by: David Sucher on May 15, 2003 03:14 PM

Yamdallah-- Andre said religion "binds societies and links divergent cultures" [my emphasis]. The bloody history is largely the result of the principal way religion has done the latter, whether historical Judaism in Canaan, the various Christianities in Europe and the Americas, Islam and in the Middle East, or both the latter in Africa. Even religions which do not claim a revealed truth often unify a society by sacralizing and "Us" vs "Them," as did the South and Central American native empires which shed plenty of blood in the name of their gods. It isn't necessary, of course--as brutal as the Romans could be, religious intolerance was not widespread until after long contact with "revealed" religion.

That history does not invalidate religion, of course, but it makes suspect any claim for the universal power of any religion to bring people together.

As for science replacing the sacred--take a look at Ursula Goodenough's The Sacred Depths of Nature. And can you read Stephen Hawking without feeling his sense of wonder?

Posted by: Mike Snider on May 15, 2003 03:43 PM

Who washed that hog or was it all in my imagination?
Oh dear me – what a nest I’ve inadvertently kicked over - and I’m not even a Luddite! Why is it that critics never appear to have ingested what they are assumed to have read and then seek to demolish. Regrettably, any such demolition serves only to support my proposition of the intellectual confusion cum bias which rears its distracted and distorting head when religion is introduced into any discussion.
Yahmdallah, (a light at the end of the tunnel?) got the point the first time round.
Which, Messrs Snider & Sucher, was not about the history and flaws of religion but the roots and fruit of our often troubled and disparate civilizations. In the western world, after the fall of the Roman empire, whom (or what) was it that preserved the legacy of the civilized world through and beyond the “Dark Ages”: was it Mr. Sucher’s ‘devil’ or the flowering of Islam and the harvest of the Judeo-Christian ethic? That was my point.
It was neither a moral argument or judgement; nor did it seek to justify any particular creed. Such matters I leave to the saints and forensic philosophers. I was writing, in this particular instance, about our architectural-creative heritage, (in the context of the interview), which owes much to such edifices as the temple at Luxor, the Acropolis in Athens, the Haggia Sophia in Istanbul and the great Cathedrals of Europe (up to and including Gaudi’s ‘Sagrada Familia’) besides the great mosques and sacred sites that bejewel the realm of Islam; or the splendid temples that crowd the Indian subcontinent and embellish the vision of the Buddha further afield.
Like it or not these edifices to the human spirit and its search for relevance and transcendence would not exist without the impetus of “religion” – however flawed or risible all cynics and doubters might consider such human aspirations to be. To the architects and skilled artisans of these structures religion was a given and the elemental inspiration: whatever other more secular motives a patron might conceal. This evidence of a striving for the positive and humane in the growth of human civilization is not only patent but blatant. The architectural scale might be monumental but it is designed to encompass, lift and give temporal form to the hope that ‘springs eternal in the human breast’. Could the same ever be said of that monstrosity of a Holocaust Museum that disfigures Berlin, soon to spawn a giant misanthropic glazed concrete bollard over the grave of the Twin Towers; or Gehry’s de facto folly de vanité in Bilboa; or that obese Guggenheim Gallery that squats so glumly on a New York City sidewalk?
Is religion really “divisive” in any; even all, discourse? Is it, as some might claim, an aberration in the short if violent evolution of homo sapiens? Perhaps, but only, I suspect, to those who fear it’s visceral potency or are burdened by an ignorance that finds sustenance in misfortune, misinformation, superficial knowledge and even less exposure. Which, of itself, could explain a great deal of academes’ overt disapproval. Conversely, if religion is divisive, perhaps we need to ask ourselves why; and how might we correct and eradicate such a division? (Always supposing any such need attains consensus. Ah, the wages of deconstruction!) However, the path to knowledge begins with self examination. To exclude religion from any discourse into the volatile needs and deeds of humanity is, to this sentient being, little more than a tacit concession that, after all, the Sun still orbits our planet. Ironic … isn’t it?
Footnote: While Stephen Hawking, a physicist, might inspire with “ his sense of wonder” his colleague and compatriot, Richard Dawkins, a biologist, inspires other more feral reactions. No doubt, like us all, he too has his compelling reasons. However, I fear Messrs Snider & Sucher, judging by their responses, might wish to erect and service a concrete, glass and steel modernist Babel to propitiate the acclaimed latter Professor’s oft broadcast anti-religious nihilism.
Nuff said.

Posted by: André on May 16, 2003 04:56 AM

I agree that religion has inspired great architecture. However, it's not at all a reliable means of binding people together.

The best I can say for the political effects of religion is that that the worst modern societies weren't religious, and it's at least possible that religion more or less kept the brakes on the megalomaniac desire to redesign humanity. On the other hand, even that might be a matter of timing--the power to cause massive damage wasn't in place until religion was fading.

Posted by: Nancy Lebovitz on May 16, 2003 05:46 AM

Not even Richard Dawkins would dispute that many beautiful things have been made by religiously motivated people. But the work of people like Dawkins, which shows that we are all literally one people, with common ancestors no more than about 5,000 generations ago, and that we are related to all life on earth, is potentially a better basis for human unity than any religion has so far been shown to be.

Posted by: Mike Snider on May 16, 2003 08:49 AM

Hmm, just to have the fun of muddying these waters for a moment... How about this set of modest assertions? Anything here we can all agree on?

1) Religion can have a variety of civilizing effects. It can also be barbaric, and can become dangerous when pursued with fanaticism.

2) On the other hand, the most human damage ever done (Mao, Hitler, Stalin) was done by explicitly anti-religious creeds. So it's not like being anti-religious is automatically a plus, to say the least.

3) Which brings up my particular hobbyhorse. As a friend once said, "people have a gene for religion." And as some great person whose name I can't remember said, "Keep people from believing in one thing and they'll start believing in another." We will tend to believe, it seems. The anti-religions that rose up as traditional religions faltered (Marxism, modernism, fascism, etc) became, in essence, religions for their adherents -- and became some of the most destructive religions ever known.

Do we have dissenters from these three assertions? I accept them myself and leap to certain conclusions from them. But maybe it's good to pause here.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 16, 2003 10:14 AM

Yahmdallah, where have you gone? Eager for a Yahmdallah response here.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 16, 2003 10:14 AM


We finally did it--we got a comment string going on the topic of religion and art. (After how many, many failed attempts.) Of course, we had to have Andre write it for us. Well, in the blogosphere as in the rest of life, you gotta go with what works.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on May 16, 2003 10:54 AM

No dissent from me on any of the three--and a great deal of interest in just what conclusions you draw.

Posted by: Mike Snider on May 16, 2003 11:10 AM


Eek! The spotlight! It burns!


I think Andre further articulated my point. (As far as I can tell, that is; some of those twenty-dollar words and phrases get kinda slippery for me.)

But to answer for myself:
In my experience, in the last decade there has been a lot of confusion over the role that religion has played historically, largely due to deliberate revisions of history towards the negative, with touches of misguided pomo deconstructionism thrown in. There are folks, either because of the science evangelism they experienced in college (some fields like anthropology essentially force conversions to atheism through threats of being taken seriously), or due to a terrible experience with religion or religious people, who can view religion only as the mustache-twisting villain in the top hat tying the screeching Polly Purebread society to the train tracks. They focus only on the negative because they hate and fear the subject so much, and/or have mistakenly fused the issue to one's perceived intelligence. Thus, in effect, you are dealing with a fundamentalist who will see no other view.

And the facts are that religion does have a checkered past, but - to draw a parallel - like most people with good intentions, the good in the past very much outweighs the bad. Only through religious traditions has the idea arisen that every human is valuable and has individual rights. (Later adopted by the more progressive political philosophies.) The majority of hospitals, schools, orphanages, and charities are the products of religion and religious ideals. Many of the best libraries, the preservation of historic writings, and even many scientific endeavors owe their existence to religion. ("How the Irish Saved Civilization" by Thomas Cahill is just one history out of many that illustrate this fact.) And, though this is what the anti-religious will shriek loudest about, religion has brought comfort and joy to billions of lives. It has brought people together, and has forced them to look past their differences. Yes, there were the inquisitions, the persecutions of some scientists and competing "pagan" religions, and so forth. Even things that have a religious cover, but were largely secular political endeavors in source and execution, such as the Crusades, the Al Qaeda* attacks on our nation, and even "manifest destiny" are blamed on religion rather than the secular cause behind them, which is like blaming the broken condom and not the act of sex itself for a pregnancy. Short version, even when a religion is directly to blame for some catastrophe, the positive results and actions vastly outweighs and outnumbers the negative, and nearly every time the catastrophe was caused an aberration within that religion. Some people refuse to see that.

*Al Qaeda, and particularly Bin Laden, are rich kids with a grudge, not "true followers" of Mohammed. They are hiding behind religion - a purposely misinterpreted and misguided form of Islam - but their motivates and means are secular and base.

I also think there is confusion on the part of those who hate religion in that they feel they have to like the religion in order to appreciate the good things it's done. In other words, they feel the means have to equate to the results, and if they like the results, they are required to extend that to the means. These are people who've never seen sausage being made. It's a form of naivete.

As segments of our society strive to push the religious out of public life, which in some cases is appropriate (vocalized public group Christian prayer in public schools, frinstance*), too many times they go too far by denigrating the religion itself, even to the extent of denigrating religion when it is kept in the proper context of private lives and activities. That will ultimately backfire on the attackers.

*Bowing your head alone silently can never be made illegal, so this debate really is about keeping invasive evangelism in a secular public place legal. Sorry folks, you'll have to keep the speaking in tongues and snake handling in church or your homes.

I agree with your three points, Michael. Particularly: "the most human damage ever done (Mao, Hitler, Stalin) was done by explicitly anti-religious creeds."

As for the "people have a gene for religion" issue, to me it's a "chicken or the egg" problem. Did God build in a "God-shaped hole" (ref: "MOFO" by U2) so we would yearn and then search for Him? Or, did such a behavioral trait assert itself as positive and adaptive and therefore beings with that gene flourished (and then invented gods)? I've made my decision on the answer to that question, of course, but it is just my opinion and belief. I wouldn't deign to force it on anyone.

Conclusion: Don't hate the building or the artwork just because the inspirational source was someone's religion. You don't have to be of that religion to enjoy it. Not denigrating that religion would be nice, too. Common courtesy and all that.

Corollary: But don't be surprised if someone reacts negatively to his/her religious icons being rendered in feces. If you wouldn't want to see that same kind of depiction of your mom or dad, then you can assume someone wouldn't want his/her most holy to be defaced like that either. ("I'm surprised I have to explain these things." - Joe Bob Briggs.)

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 16, 2003 12:04 PM

What a hummer of a comments thread! Talk about getting down to the kernel of things! Thanks to all. Much to brood about here.

Hmmm, Friedrich von? Time for a few of those postings on art/eroticism/religion that we've been threatening, but have been too cowardly and lazy to see through?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 16, 2003 12:13 PM

I have no idea what this discussion is about any more. :) I am a very goal-oriented person and my goal is to help build better cities. So I genuinely get confused when (as now) religion seems to come up as a factor in achieving that goal.

Andre started by picking up on (what I consider to be) the weakest aspect of Salingaros' interview: the introduction by Alexander of "religion" as a component of building interesting places.

Specifically, Andre wrote: "Most of what we admire in and from the past was often prompted and inspired by the religions of their artisan creators. Nowhere more so than in the twin fields of art and architecture."

For what it's worth I disagree, insofar as "architecture" stands for city-building. Yes, for example, London has marvelous churches but the warp and woof of London is by no means a creation of religion. And I especially disagree with the idea that "religion" in any organized form has much relevance to the issues we face in creating "civil" settlements NOW.

Andre writes:

" If, when searching for simple solutions to Life?s mysteries, you omit religion -- in arrogance or fear -- from the equation, the result, though overtly convincing, seldom satisfies that search."

There is no useful way for me to comment. If one is motivated by a religious sense to build, that is excellent. Go build.

Perhaps that's where Jimmy Carter comes from in Habitat for Humanity. But his motivation is irrelevant. The key is that he helps build houses for people.

But I personally do not think that the act of building is part of searching for "solutions to Life's mysteries." We build to keep out the rain and the wind and to create a hearth around which life can flourish. We build because it is satisfying to create something of value to others. Wouldn't God would be gratified if we simply took such goals and did a decent job of it?

All I was suggesting, and I suggest it again, is that it simply muddies the waters to bring up religion as a matter of public policy. And it is in the cauldon of public policy that we now build our cities. To introduce "religion" is, I suggest, a needless complication. Certainly, who could disagree that our cities lack grace? Let's even stipulate that they lack "spirit." So where does one go from there except to hector? Our contemporary cities are largely a creation of our zoning/building laws, which in turn reflect popular taste and values. To introduce "religion" as an element of these laws is something we have decided not to do under our notion of separation of church and state.

Of course these laws do reflect "values" and so a discussion of what is important in a building and what is not, what is to be required and what is to be prohibited, is indeed an essential element of our social life. For example, we say that buildings of a certain size must have two exits because we value human life; (we have found empiricaly that at a certain size a structure needs two or more means of emergency exiting.) So yes, our laws do reflect basic human values. But we are careful to write such laws in a manner which avoids reference to spiritual matters. And I think that is a wise thing.

As to my own sensibilities, irrelevant as they may be, yes, I think that "concrete, glass and steel" are excellent materials so long as they are used (and they can be) in a manner which is _comfortable_.

Of course, perhaps I simply misunderstand Andre's basic point, in which case I apologize.

Posted by: David Sucher on May 16, 2003 12:38 PM

Incidentally, whatever the disagreements here (which I suspect aren't large, finally), everyone interested in buildings and neighborhoods will enjoy David's site, here.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 16, 2003 12:50 PM

Many thanks to Yahmdallah for his support (at least that's what I take the "$20 words" to indicate) and for broadening the debate and spelling out my slippery phrases.
Is religion genetic, Michael? I wonder ... maybe its just blowing in the wind? As for tending to believe - well that's why I mentioned Voltaire up front; who stated, more or less, that if there was no God man would invent Him. Well Mao, Stalin and Hitler sure tried, didn't they?
I also wonder if Mike Snider realises that his defence of Dawkins only serves to underline my prime contention: as perhaps does the Dawkins theory that 'memes' are the genes of the unconscious? Whatever! Maybe religion is a universal contagion - except for those with a built-in imunity.
Live long and prosper.

Posted by: André on May 16, 2003 12:59 PM


In looking through the posts to see how David S. worked around to assuming that Andre's article (which I read as an op-ed piece about not neglecting the sublime and the transcendent in art due to prejudice) was a call for "bring[ing] up religion as a matter of public policy" and "to introduce 'religion' as an element of these [zoning] laws", I noticed this question that I missed first time through:

"Take a look at Ursula Goodenough's The Sacred Depths of Nature. And can you read Stephen Hawking without feeling his sense of wonder."

Yes, they wax rhapsodic and orgasmic when contemplating the big, sparkly cosmos. But "sense of wonder" and "belief in God/the creator/transcendent reality" do not really equate, to me. They do intersect, but one subject is a bit more comprehensive than the other, here. One's an endorphin rush when Carl Sagan says "billions and billions" yet again (at least *I* get one) and shows a laudable appreciation for the complexity and beauty of things; the other is a basis for a life's philosophy and action. Trying to replace one (wonder) with the other (God) is like trying to offer a tot an ice cream cone in exchange for their mother.

(And Stephen Hawking's atheist evangelism gets on my nerves. I don't like evangelism of any stripe.)

David S.,

I don't think anyone is suggesting we consider God in the zoning laws, unless of course you're planning to put a nuclear waste site next to a day care center, and then pragmatism should prevent that before religious concerns do. Unless I misunderstand Andre's point, s/he is simply calling for the due consideration of the religious and transcendent where appropriate when contemplating works of art, including architecture.

To me your post is an example of the hysteria (apologies) that can result when a religious person says to a non-religions person, "you have to understand that I also consider things in relation to my beliefs". Evidently, the eyes bug out, and the non-religious mind leaps to Monty Python peasants crowing, "BURN THE WITCH!" Where the religious person was merely remarking that the spire on the top of the building pointing to the heavens is a nice touch, maybe it's pointing to God. This kind of overreaction is disproportionate to the reality, and is just silly.

"Great Scott! They're saying we've got to have God in the zoning laws! All buildings must have stained-glass windows and a Buddha on each banister!" I mean, puh-leeze.

(Oh and let me save you the "but they pass laws about putting up the Ten Commandments in public buildings" cycle. Yes, they do, and they are wrong to do that. I hope and expect the courts will always strike down such laws.)

If I have misunderstood anyone's point, I apologize.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 16, 2003 02:45 PM

No need for an apology, Yahmdallah,

It could be that we are talking past each other, speaking about very different things.

So to back up for a moment I have questions for you and Andre, asked by way of clarification:

Are you, as Yahmdallah suggests, ?simply calling for the due consideration of the religious and transcendent where appropriate when contemplating works of art, including architecture??

And if so, do you mean due consideration by the individual? Or by the body politic?

Also, when is it appropriate? or when not?

Do you think "religion" in organized (or even any personal) form has relevance and utility to the issues we face in creating "civil" settlements in this era? e.g. controlling sprawl. And if so, could you please offer an example of how such consideration should work in the real world?

Posted by: David Sucher on May 16, 2003 08:23 PM

It's not about "controlling sprawl". It's simply that some art and architecture is informed by the religious view of the artist and/or the audience. Just that.

It can be comparable to your liking a particular color. If you really like red, perhaps red is always going to show up somewhere in your design for a building. If you really like the name "Nina", maybe that name will be in every one of your line drawings. If you believe in God, perhaps you'll always make a reference to that in your design.

Then, one day, someone comes along and says red has caused a lot of problems, you know. Think of the issue with bulls, for instance. Red is wrong.

And you come back with: but red can be nice sometimes. Think of red dresses on women.

Only to be met with: only stupid or weird people like red. What if everyone required red in the zoning laws. What is it with you and this red thing already?

Etc. ad infinitum.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 17, 2003 01:29 AM

Are you, as Yahmdallah suggests, ?simply calling for the due consideration of the religious and transcendent where appropriate when contemplating works of art, including architecture??

Yes David, but also throughout the concept and design stages and in all allied utilitarian decisions. Any environment created for human use and occupation should seek a sound balance between the practical applications of scientific/sociological formulae and humanity’s spiritual if less concrete needs. Why should it be nature’s sole task to lift the human spirit in the blaze of a New England Fall or in the sweeping rains that end a drought. Humanity possess inspired skills to lift and ennoble life above its all too mundane existence. Such skills are crippled by abuse– or wither from disuse.

And if so, do you mean due consideration by the individual? Or by the body politic?
Also, when is it appropriate? or when not?

I’m not sure how one divorces the former from the latter? Due consideration?, yes, not only by - but to. As for appropriate – who’s to say whether the Golden Gate bridge is less or more relevant to our cultural aspirations than, for the sake of argument, let us say … Jefferson’s Monticello? The one fills a gap: the other crowns it. (San Franciscans, no doubt, perceive their own priorities and have no truck with crowns.) Its all a matter of scale and perspective. “Unto every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose …”

And yes David, you clearly misunderstood my point.

I neither claimed nor intimated that religion was a prerequisite to erecting any structure intended for human habitation, occupation and utilization. With however many entrances, exits and whatever variety of finishes and drainage problems. (Although I can’t see what harm it would do - in our multicultural paradise?) What I was attempting to comment upon was a theme within the Salingaros interview which implicated the Modernist Movement and its offspring in a pronounced lack of human empathy; because of egotism and entrenched self-propagating scholastic opinion. The interview’s inclusion of a potential religious dimension (or current lack thereof) struck a responsive cord: and by now you will be fairly familiar with its consequences.

In cultures increasingly prone to avoid their historical roots or factor in for human needs and frailty the evidence of that denial is all too manifest in the growth of urban: even suburban blight. As far as I know, whilst still fairly youthful, the science of urban planning wasn’t born just yesterday. Modern cities have become little more than social plumbing structures designed to move, disperse, channel, store and retrieve human beings as efficiently and cheaply as possible. A house of cards waiting for a door to slam or that one automobile too many which breaks the gridlock’s back.

Salingaros and Christopher both question the general acceptance of this situation and its continued imposition by persons who, thanks to an academic education and/or political ambition, are supposed to care and know better. A pedant will respond by pointing to the ‘real’ world and its multitude of deep-seated problems and inflexible fixed interests of both patrons and markets – the status quo.

Which brings me back to the religious dimension. In the West, over the last century, Humanism; a fashionable substitute for religion and a convenient euphemism for social engineering, has come to dominate the twin arenas of politics and academe. (I do not exclude theologians from the latter generalization. Contagion has seeped in everywhere.) Through ignorance or indoctrination Joe Public has mutely abdicated his welfare from the cradle to the grave unto the dictates and whims of clerks and bureaucrats; with their targets, statistics and budget constraints. One direct result of which is the Victim Society where someone else is always to blame; where yet another someone will fix it and make it better - or else I’ll sue – maybe I’ll sue anyway! That’s the fate of people without any or very little religion. There’s no room for mea culpa where the ‘self’ is of paramount interest and never ever an inconvenient responsibility.

Now with religion it’s a whole different ball game (cliché intended). Religion is a community thing whatever its provenance. Such communities do indeed take care of widows, orphans and travellers. What's more they cherish and exercise joint as well as individual rights and responsibilities. They also celebrate a shared humanity in how and where they live, while avoiding what hinders that community’s prosperity in devising solutions to avert conflict. That is how religion binds a culture and feeds its aspirations. And, before you leap for your craft knife and duct tape - how does that affect their creativity? Well, its all a matter of what (not who) defines a human scale I suppose; a scale that frees us to resonate in harmony with each other and our habitat; a scale that doesn’t alienate; where we feel we belong and contribute just by being there – but I’ll it to the Shaker ethic to deliver my coup des grace; with a sassy black southern Baptist choir to belt out the Hallelujahs! If that gives offence – too bad; and if it sounds like a retro Jimmy Carter crossed with Henry David Thoreau – even better!

In closing let me add that without the hope that religion nurtures in the human breast, call it an opiate, like Marx did; if you must, and without hope’s fragile beacon I fear we’d all still crouch in musty caves, along with the hanging bats and dread’s chill groping shadows. However, darkness catalogues rather more than low light levels: which brings us full circle to the Modernist tyranny and its fickle disciples.

By now it must be clear to any reader that the hands that stumble over this keyboard belong to a believer who recognises and applauds all evidence of and searching for the human spirit’s nobility. I don’t demand that anyone should share my revelation, although company is always welcome. I only require that you respect that position as I am committed to respecting yours. Perhaps I’d better add a caveat, in order to avoid all future litigation, that I live in hope; as perhaps do you.

The prosecution rests – so please conserve the slings and arrows of your outraged fortune for another day and other insurrections.

… Andre's article (which I read as an op-ed piece [was] about not neglecting the sublime and the transcendent in art [and architecture] due to prejudice) …
Thank you.

FOOTNOTE: Yahmdallah, I’m not sure we should be giving those Blowhard twins so much to crow about off in the cyber wings. And as for its “… time for a few of those postings on art/eroticism/religion” … well, I ask you, what is the world coming to? Being recently disqualified from commenting on religion and with the jury still out on art – eroticism, for me, means Marilyn standing over a subway air vent or Cary Grant taking a shower in ‘Charade’: fully clothed. I mean, Anita Ekberg’s glands selling milk on and off a billboard in ‘La Dolce Vita’ was verging on Cinemascope porn – admittedly post ‘One-Foot-On-The-Floor’ Hayes (who evidently had never read the Kama Sutra) but still way back when the world and I were somewhat younger; and movies came in black and white as often as in Technicolor: all graded by the eagle eyes of Pauline Kael. Now, instead of sitting in movie theatres and popping corn, or playing the Marlboro Man while being deflowered in the back row – we crouch endlessly over tacky keyboards wired to Bill Gates or Steven Jobs.
Won’t someone out there please open a new window.
Or at least explain to me how James Dean has morphed into Eminem and how come E.T. now needs a cell-phone?
Michael Blowhard are you listening?

Posted by: André on May 17, 2003 07:24 AM

Another thought I'd like to state, which I haven't because I felt it was obvious, but now feel perhaps I should state the obvious.

Anyone who designs a building or creates any form of art should not feel compelled to include anything that is not of their expression, including God and religion. If you are not a religious artist, of course no one should suggest the addition thereof to your art.

What I was speaking of was simply not denying or deriding religious inspiration the work of artists who are so moved.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 18, 2003 04:49 PM

Nice site. Keep up the good work

Posted by: FREE PORN on May 29, 2004 07:16 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?