Most “Livable Cities” are the Least Religious

Not surprising the most “livable cities” are the least religious.

The Financial Times today carried an interesting piece swiping at lists of “most livable cities,” noting the extent to which such lists are compiled by yuppies for yuppies: “Most of these people are profoundly concerned with things like well-designed street furniture, a proliferation of eye-wateringly expensive artisanal retail, boutique hotels with good (English-speaking) service and environmentally friendly mayoral policies. . . . What they also do is to strip out all the complexity, all the friction and buzz that make big cities what they are.”

The author, Edwin Heathcote, concludes: “The most beautiful cities become monuments to their own elegance, immobile and unchangeable. They cannot accommodate the kind of dynamic change and churn that keeps cities alive. In London, New York and Berlin, it is their very ugliness which keeps them flexible.”

And that’s right—but we might carry the insight one step deeper. Those “most livable cities” have no horizon—no goal, no aim—beyond themselves. It’s no surprise that they are also the least religious cities on the planet. The maintaining of a kind of settled minor perfection remains the only purpose, the only reason for existence.

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