How Can Secular Institutions Inspire the Same Awe of Religious Ones?

Religious institutions seem to understand how to trigger human awe relatively well, so why can’t their secular counterparts keep up? Asking this question in another Shots of Awe entry is Jason Silva, and he makes a good point: Perhaps humans need to understand the context within which we build our cosmic shrines. Then, finally, we can harvest the inspirational nature of scientific exploration.

Planetarium from wikimedia.orgThe Hubble, for his example, has the potential to evoke profound human connection with the cosmos. Unfortunately, people don’t seem to understand the significance of this tool unless its purpose is poetically articulated. If not regarded as the eye’s augmentation peering deep into the vast expanse of our universe, it’s simply another telescope built for an unknown reason.

With that in mind, perhaps our museums, theaters, and other monuments of man could inspire this same kind of wonder by illustrating the context in which we praise the universe. If religious beliefs developed under the majesty of the Milky Way during a period of zero light pollution, maybe our secular institutions can capture that same environment in the modern times by bringing people closer to the beauty of the stars inside their buildings.

Outside of pitching ideas, though, we should take time to acknowledge the importance of marketing secularism to the masses. If humans could enter a museum and feel a similarly spiritual experience as a cathedral, we might be able to channel their wonder into productivity for all of mankind. Besides, as loyalty to mythical stories wanes in the face of scientific evidence, the popularization of secularism is inevitable. It’s only a matter of time before we’re using science to quench the human thirst for transcendence.

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