I have a complicated relationship with religious buildings. In general, my brain has a big problem with the dogma they represent — the wars, the eradicated cultures and people, the intolerance, the privilege and lies. But at the same time, my brain is also well aware that inside the dogma, many of the faithful find community, calm, support, and answers — all beautiful.

The buildings themselves, though, I absolutely adore — body, mind, and soul. From the small grottos to the soaring gothic cathedrals, I love every single temple I’ve ever been in. Even though I don’t subscribe to the religion that the building invariably represents, the building itself calms me, providing a beautiful space for me to commune with my version of God. After time in any of these extraordinary buildings, I always leave more grounded and rested (and a small donation in the collection box).

After one trip to Europe, though, I was so turned around by my fundamental love for the buildings and my visceral dislike of the dogma that I took the schism to my therapist, who gave me some of the most remarkable advice I’ve ever heard: “Churches are built by the faithful, not by the religion. The love you have for the building itself is because the people who built it were driven by their own faith to construct something extraordinary. Of course you love the building — you are a person of faith and your body, soul, and mind connect with that energy. Next time you enter a church, don’t twist yourself up about the dogma, just enjoy the celebration of faith.”

Big love to Notre Dame — one of the best.

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