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Religion for Atheists: a non-believers guide to the uses of religion


My copy of Alain de Botton’s book is currently misplaced. Look for one on remainders and lend it to me. His other titles include Art as Therapy and The Architecture of Happiness. Interesting guy—and an atheist to boot. His point: don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

I’ve designed four of Agincourt’s many churches and collaborated with my friend Richard Kenyon on one other. In each case my attention to detail—I am a Capricorn, after all—has lead me inevitably to other, smaller choices: communion ware and Stations of the Cross, for example, as integral parts of those spiritually charged places. St. Joe’s has been a special favorite due to its connection with the Tennant family.


Communion, for example, is for Botton a shared experience. The Pascal Meal as family get-together. When I was in Chattanooga last May, and found myself at Saint Paul’s Episcopal church on Pentecost of all Sunday’s, I ended up at the communion rail just because it was easier than having all those folks crawl over my fat thighs in the narrow 19th century pews. [Were people really that much smaller in 1890?] Episcopalians do Communion row by row, and everyone goes to the rail. It didn’t seem right, though, for me to accept a communion wafer and the chalice, so thinking quickly, I asked for the Laying on of Hands, perhaps the only one who did that Sunday. Though I was there for vastly different reasons and had come to the rail with a considerably different mind set, it was a remarkable spiritual experience. It was a happy accident for me personally and also as a student of William Halsey Wood’s architecture—which is the real reason I’d gone there in the first place. Everything else I experienced was frosting on the cake.

This chalice showed up on eBay the other day and seemed so “right” for Saint Joe’s. I probably won’t win it. So this picture may have to do. Can you imagine it being elevated to a triplet of stained glass in the early Sunday morning light? [Priests then still faced away from their congregation and most Anglo-Catholics still do.]

My plans for a baptismal font in the purported exhibit of 2015 have fallen behind. Ask me some time and I’ll explain. “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp/ Or what’s a heaven for?” [Robert Browning]

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