I would like to focus my discussion on religion's reflection in architecture and hope it will not be too lengthy.
Religion forms the foundation of cultural identity and has decisively shaped world civilizations based on differing, but not exclusive, views of ultimate value: mercy and benevolence in Buddhism, morality and ethics in Confucianism, respect in Shintoism, devotion and mystical unity of divine Self in Hinduism, obedience and perseverance in Judaism, love for the Creator and one's fellowman in Christianity, and submission to the will of Allah in Islam.
Shrine-like buildings found at Catal Huyuk in Anatolia (now modern Turkey) date as far back as 9000 B.C.E. Within two thousand years, similar sanctuaries would be established in Jericho and elsewhere in the Near East.
Hindu architecture testifies to the intense spirituality of the Indian subcontinent. Designed to represent a cosmic mountain, the Hindu temple serves as the earthly residence of the cosmic deities. Temple architecture embodies the faith's complex cosmology, with sanctuary walls accommodating statues, sacred emblems, and myths of the Hindu pantheon. Unlike the Christian churches and Jewish temples that house believers in collective worship, Hindu temples ordinarily do not contain large internal spaces. They are tabernacles preceded by halls used for rituals, music, and dance. Because Hindu architectural styles are expressions of faith, adopting new forms would be a denial of the entire past.
The supreme sacred monument of Buddhism is the stupa, whose basic form is a solid dome crowned by a parasol. Stupas were initially burial mounds for relics. The stupa form, with its vertical axis representing the axis mundi, or world axis, has cosmic implications. The parasol is one of the kingly symbols associated with the Buddha, who had renounced his former life as a...