Do you know the story about the man who wandered around a cathedral being built, asking each person what they were doing? The stone masons told him about cutting rocks to fit togehter so perfectly that they formed arches and flying buttresses; the scultors told about modeling allegories and saints; glassworkers spoke of telling stories in beautiful images that would teach churchgoers the stories they didn’t know how to read, and the woodworkers spoke of walls and screens, roofs and spires. Lastly he put the same question to an old woman sweeping away the dust and shavings of the day. “What am I doing?” she replied, leaning on her broom. “I’m building a cathedral to the glory of God”

That’s the faith it needs to build a cathedral that takes hundreds of years, but I don’t think it even matters whether you believe in God, only whether you are a good, decent and sane person. (You see, I am completely biasing my argument by ignoring those whose God is in their own cruel image, no better than a demon to punish those of whom they disapprove.) If you believe, then a God formed the universe whose workings and laws resulted in humanity, and it’s fitting to express our gratitude by creating whatever beauty we can muster in Their honor. If you don’t believe, then humans striving for goodness created the image of a God to reflect the best that they could find or imagine within themselves, and a cathedral is the physical expression of that striving.

(Again, I am simply omitting the Puritans and those who want a God only to be someone stronger and meaner than themselves who can punish their enemies. I don’t believe that kind of thinking can build a cathedral.)

There was and is beauty and truth in Notre Dame, even if the truth you find depends on which side you examine it from. It’s pure horror to see the spire fall, even if the bell towers were saved. I trust it will be rebuilt once again.