December 7th, 2013
09:16 AM ET
An atheist photographer focuses on faith
Opinion by Mark Schacter, special to CNN
(CNN) - I don’t believe in a divine presence, nor do I subscribe to any organized religion.
And that, perhaps oddly, is why I am drawn to the mystery of faith.
With the wonderment of an outsider, I try to understand the seemingly incomprehensible (to me, at least) pull that faith exerts over so many people's lives.
As a photographer approaching this mystery, I am confronted by what might seem like a contradiction: Photographs capture what can be seen, and yet faith is often invisible.
But even if personal faith can't be seen directly, there are some tangible traces of its existence, and that's where I point my camera.
In particular, I photograph houses of worship, whose bricks and clapboard, stained glass and steel are often the largest and most visible manifestations of religious faith.
I've photographed Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Baha'i sanctuaries in the United States and Canada.
I've also interviewed Christian ministers, a rabbi, a imam and a Buddhist scholar about the significance of their spiritual homes, pressing them to explain how they reconcile their sometimes opulent houses of worship with the fact that religion is ultimately about transcending worldly things.
Often, they answered that the magnificent building is of little consequence. It serves a valuable purpose only if, through its grandeur, it transports worshipers to a spiritual state of mind.
“The point of the building is to leave people feeling awestruck,” said the Rev. Michael Busch, rector of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto.
But is it the building itself that gives the space a sacred quality, or is holiness derived from the devotions of worshipers, present and past, who have occupied the space?
I don't pretend to know the answer to that question. But I do know this: Even an ardent atheist can look at a house of worship and see the signs of an invisible human longing that is common to us all, believer and unbeliever alike.
Mark Schacter is a photographer based in Ottawa, Canada. Mark's newest book of photography, Houses of Worship, has just been published. It's available now in Canada and will be released internationally soon. His website is www.luxetveritas.net.
The opinions expressed in this commentary belong to Mark Schacter.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
I laugh when Christians say that atheists are conceited because they don't believe in a god. Oh the irony!
Christians believe that their imaginary sky daddy created this entire universe just for them. The ultimate conceited, narcissistic, self absorbed view!
Atheists believe in all that is proven and visible and factual. We know that we are just beings that inhabit this universe and make up a tiny blip in time and space. We know our place, without all the Christians' delusions of grandeur!
This has nothing to do with atheism or religion. The problem is that we, as humans do not really know where we came from. We just give our opinions with little support, but the reality is that we don't know where we came from.
Atheism is a form of belief. Do you know for sure were we came from? If not, then you can't rule out another possibility, unless you can prove that you know for a fact with 100% certainty the details of our origins.
You all worry too much!