Looking Down: Houses Of Worship and The Poor


Why do houses of worship stand imperiously – almost mocking – overlooking the slums of cities? The photo above was taken in Casablanca; however, could just as easily have been taken in any city. It’s an almost universal issue with the world. The house of worship could be a Christian Cathedral, Islamic Mosque, Judaist Synagogue or Buddhist temple but the situation would be the same. They tower over the poor like a boot on the throat. The colossal Cathedral in my home town in Killarney was constructed during the Great Irish Famine in 1845, while millions in the country starved.

I’m a stanch atheist; however, do not have an issue with the belief in a higher power. What I do find abhorrent though are these institutions repeatedly positioning themselves contemptuously beside the disenfranchised.


It’s fair to say that globally governments and the rich repeatedly bulldoze through these communities to further and further marginalise these communities in order to build modern-day palaces. This in itself is an accepted actuality. The powerless being plundered by the powerful is a repeated historical rhetoric that we must all come to concede. Though still inexcusable, it becomes at least understandable that this occurs. Moreover, they claim no moral high-ground nor claim to anything else.

This is where my loathing of these institutions arises from. In every major religion one doesn’t need to search very far before  finding the suggestion that charity is staunchly claimed as righteous and pious. However, one doesn’t even need to engage with a religious body or enter a house of worship before the hypocrisy of this claim is realised. The poor are in theory sanctified  by religion but in practice at best ignored and at worst demonised by it.

I am not claiming that religious institution do nothing for the poor – this would be an oversimplification. However, all too often, what they do is either too little, conditional on belonging to that specific religious belief, or done in a condescending way. Moreover – as far as I am concerned – any good you do is void due to the draining of valuable resources to help the poor by building panopticonic palaces.  Palaces which simultaneously drain the resources of and stand judging the poor that – by their very teachings – they claim to help.



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