While in Norwich this weekend, the wife and I paid a visit to the cathedral.
Neither of us has any religious belief, but it's still interesting to walk around old churches and cathedrals from both a historic and architectural point of view.
At over 900 years old, Norwich cathedral makes an interesting comparison to Ely, and makes us realise just how incredible Ely cathedral really is and how mad it is that we walk by it so often without really noticing because we're so used to seeing it.
That's not to say that Norwich cathedral is in any way a let-down, because it isn't, and it still amazes me with all these buildings that they managed to create such architectural works of art so many centuries ago without the benefit of machinery, relying on craftsmanship and manual labour.
It's hard to imagine anything so beautiful and intricate being built today with the proliferation of steel & glass structures which although impressive in their own way still lack a certain something.
The interesting thing about these places is the sense of quiet awe that they inspire, despite my lack of religious belief. The feeling I get when surrounded by what would have been incredible grandeur to everyday folk centuries ago hints at the power the church held over the uneducated masses. Yet my overwhelming thought when looking at the 'treasury' in Norwich cathedral was that while the Christian religion taught the value of being humble and not accumulating wealth and possessions on Earth, instead focussing on doing the Lord's will to gain a place in heaven etc etc, the church held a formidable cache of wealth and possessions. Clearly a case of "Do as I say, not as I do".
To me, this is further confirmation that religion is nothing more than a form mind control to keep people in their place, and I have no time for it. But that's just me.
On the other hand, I have no problem with anyone following a religious faith if it makes them happy.
I've met plenty of people of all sorts of faiths and never had a problem - to me they're just people.
The only time religion is a real problem is when people use it as an excuse to be shitty to each other - or if they're knocking on your door on a Saturday morning trying to shove it down your throat....
For me, Stephen Fry summed it all up wonderfully in his recent interview with Gay Byrne.