Friday, May 23, 2014

The Panthéon as a humanist monument

I felt a particularly strong hankering for Paris after reading this article by Kevin Dolgin at  After noting that Europe, and in particular France, are in many ways more congenial to humanists than the US, the article sketches the history of the Panthéon, France's secular monument to some of its greatest people, and describes its ambiance. I remember being moved as I walked through parts of the crypt, and this piece captures the feeling very well:
"Churches do inspire awe, they are humbling, and are perhaps designed to make one feel small in the presence of God. The Panthéon has a similar effect but is devoted to an altogether humanist ideal: feeling awe in the presence of human greatness. Where a church belittles humankind in comparison to an abstract divinity, the Panthéon celebrates humanity: one inspires submission, the other emulation."