Karl Schmude has rightly drawn attention to several of the benefits to society provided by churches and other sacred centres ("Ideas, not moral crusades, are the stuff of politics", 31/12). To those he mentions can be added something especially vital: the ways in which churches, temples and mosques arouse and maintain in people an awareness of the Beyond, of the mysterious Otherness of the universe, of our ongoing ignorance of its origin, purposes and overall nature.
This is a good that goes far beyond theology, worship, charitable works and the sustaining of national solidarity. Its stress on inspiration encourages new creation in the arts. Its humility makes possible the discovery of new aspects of existence and also makes for wise caution in statesmanship and a sensibly conservative approach to proposed changes in education and other social contexts.
Nigel Jackson, Belgrave, Vic.