Shrines and Temples

I don’t often agree with John Halstead, but I rather like his most recent post entitled “Church is no substitute for religion, Part 3: Why we need Pagan shrines not ‘temples’“. I would love to see more shrines so that I could leave offerings there.

I do take issue with a particular point:

What I find interesting is that most of the discussions of Pagan temples seem to have in mind something that is both a place of worship and a community center.  The concept seems modeled on the Christian concept of a church.  But if we look back at ancient pagan places of worship, many of them looked less like community centers, and more like what I would call “shrines”.  For many Western religions, these two functions are merged in one building.  And when Pagans talk about building “temples”, we often follow this model, which unifies the community center with the shrine.  It’s another manifestation of the conflation of “church” with “religion”[.]

I suppose that one might argue that some concepts are based on Christian ideas due to familiarity, but I think that this is missing an important point. Shrines are definitely needed, yes, but community centres serve a vital purpose in our current stage of growth, regardless of religion. Our numbers are small and having any place to gather is a boon. A coffeeshop isn’t very impressive in my mind.

Both public shrines and temples are fantastic and have their places, so writing one off does no good. It is, however, also a matter of scale. An elaborate temple is costly. It needs some sort of staff, even if it’s a single volunteer to lock up at night. Taxes and utilities add up. The location itself might be astronomically expensive, especially if the temple is located somewhere easily accessible. Star Foster in 2012 brought up the issue of money; the requests for money add up. A shrine may not have these issues potentially.

Nevertheless, this has inspired me to do something outside my home. The Charles River is very close to me. It’s a beautiful river, at least when it’s not being ruined visibly by pollution. I’ve left offerings at it before. Along the Charles River Bike Path there is a number of secluded areas; some require trudging through muddy areas or following twists and turns. Building a shrine on the shore would be lovely. It’s definitely a worthwhile project and something that I would like to share with others.