Long Live Flanders - Where there's mussels with fries - Where a chicken is spit-roasted - Where the church stands right in the middle of the village - Long Live Flanders - Where they can still praise the lord ... (© Raymond Van Het Groenewoud - Flemish singer-songwriter)
Before embarking on my rant and for the record: I would like to be able to say that I have absolutely nothing against religions…but alas that is not the case. Anyone who knows me is aware that I am an incorrigible atheist who bases his actions on a logical, deductive approach and not a narrow set of twisted customs and belief systems prescribed during an ancient era when the worldwide consensus was the earth was flat, deadly diseases were caused by curses and the most popular kids movie in Greece was "Troy Story".
By the way did you know that in ancient Rome, long before the advent of the Christian Bible, Roman men swore to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” by placing their right hand on their testicles? It is from this ritual that we derived the term “testimony.”
To the faithful, not believing simply doesn't make sense. They are much more forgiving of someone of a different faith than of someone with no faith at all. Atheists are at the bottom of the food chain.
And I'm ever so lucky I'm living in Belgium and not in a religious paradise like Saudi Arabia or Iran where I would be stoned to death just for thinking what I'm writing here. In Belgium, 55 percent of the population identify as Christians. That is the lowest score in Western Europe after the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Only ten percent of Belgians still regularly go to church. That result is striking, because 83 percent of the Belgians surveyed indicate that they were raised in a Christian way. Together with Norway, Belgium is the country the most Christians rejected their faith. Of the Belgians, 19 percent call themselves atheists, the highest number in Western Europe.
I’m often asked, “why bother with religion? Why not instead just let believers pray as they do, and leave them alone? Trouble is, I don’t have that option for one simple reason: because they just won’t leave me alone. Oh no! The religious faithful insist on invading every sphere of my human existence. Even in Belgium religions still want to deny me the right to die if and when I want, to deny women the right to control their own bodies, run interference in family planning, recently threw a tantrum again when the Belgian government declared its intention to remove abortion from the penal code, in order to avoid stigmatizing women. Surprisingly 70% of Belgians are unaware that abortion is still a crime ... the church still even seeks to control who we are allowed to love or how we should enjoy our sexuality ...really ?
The catholic church, a centuries old male bastion of inveterate bachelors, many of whom wander around in women's clothes, homosexuals and pedophiles, who consciously do not want to procreate...giving the rest of us instructions on sexuality?
Or more of the same from Muslim clerics who justify pedophile marriages with 9 year old girls using verses from the Qur'an, clearly advocating this abominable practice. Duh...!
Take from any religion the miraculous, the supernatural, the incomprehensible, the unreasonable, the impossible, the unknowable, the absurd, and nothing but a vacuum remains - oh and some nice buildings, a "godsend" (pun intended) for photographers. These churches stand empty most of the time now but the buildings are part of our immovable cultural heritage.
Roam the countryside and one can still see these usually beautifully restored ancient church buildings. Dating back centuries and indelible proof of the European Christian roots, Christianity being practiced in Europe since the first century.
A lot of these church buildings are also witness to a more violent past and the ability of religions to assimilate and absorb in order to acquire additional resources. Several of the church- and bell towers were in fact defensive towers used by the military. Churches were then constructed next to these towers. Clock towers were not a part of Christian churches until about AD 600, when they started adapting military watchtowers. At first they were fairly modest and entirely separate structures from churches. Over time, they were incorporated into the church building and capped with ever-more-elaborate roofs until the steeple resulted.
Enjoy the photos !