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Going religious in Cuzco?

Written on: Saturday June 16th, 2007

A journal entry from: See you next year!

In the novel "Night train to Lisbon" from Pascal Mercier, a book I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed, one of the main characters is expressing his ambivalent feelings about the church. He is saying he can't live in a world without cathedrals and all the physical appearances that come with it. He needs them for their beauty and solemnity. But at the same time he feels he can't live in a world where you're not allowed to think for yourself, because the doctrine of the church dictates what you can and can not do or think.

This struck me because I also have an, although not completely so strong, ambivalence towards religion and religious buildings. Or other institutions or institutional buildings for that matter.

When visiting a city or town, one of the things that make it beautiful to me are its historic buildings. Often beautifully decorated churches, temples or mosques. Otherwise mostly (former) governmental buildings.

But while admiring the sheer beauty of it, I think about why that building is there and what else could have been done with the money and effort (and sometimes lives) that went into it. And I think about the ideas this building is or was representing.

So in Cuzco I was in for a serious treat. Beautiful churches, old colonial buildings and Inca ruins. So while admiring a church I wonder about the sometimes ridiculous influence of religion on people´s daily life. While seeing these beautiful colonial buildings the history of the encomienda system comes to mind, and the lives of all the indeginous people that went with it. And when visiting Inca ruins I try to imagine how they must have lived and why they needed to sacrifice little children.

And I am enjoying it, because all these buildings are a feast for the eyes. But still, wouldn´t the world be a better place without all this crazy thinking behind these buildings?