I'm in the middle of a six week trip in Europe; currently I'm attending the Amsterdam String Workshop.
I'm reminded of something that happened to me a year-and-a-half ago December when I visited the String Theory group in Amsterdam. I didn't realize until I starting doing touring on Sunday that my hotel was close to the main "red light" district, where the alleyways are full of semi-naked women in booths selling their bodies to the tourists. The main red light district is right in the middle of the oldest part of town, well worth seeing for the architecture, if you can ignore the vice peddling (which is easier during the daytime).
I was absolutely shocked in the red light district—but not by the prostitutes or the drug use, which I had expected. (Although these things are bad and degrading, don't do them.) There is a beautiful old Dutch Reformed church there, dating from the 1300's, which I wanted to see. I went in to see the church, but whoever was in charge had allowed an artist to set up a crass avant garde multi-media work of art in the interior, with disturbing images of unwholesome faces projected on the blank walls speaking nonsense phrases, and even representations of bright neon casino scratch pads, glowing on the floor! I felt it was an extremely disrespectful, if not diabolical, use of a space dedicated to our Father in heaven, and in which faithful Christians were buried.
There were a small number of middle aged couples roaming around looking a bit perplexed. I was outraged. I said to myself "How DARE they do this to my Father's house!" and I couldn't stay there any longer because I could not contain my rage. (I said something about it to the poor lady handing out tickets at the entrance. I tried to make it clear to her that my anger was not directed at her, but I had to say it to somebody.)
As I was wandering around in a daze, I noticed that there was another church in the district, a Roman Catholic church, which was free for anyone to enter. (The first church had had a 10 euro entrance fee, which is also wrong—what if one of the prostitutes felt a sudden urge to go into a church and pray?—but one quickly becomes desensitized to fees for entering famous churches in Europe). It was full of tourists but pious ones, and I felt such relief to know that, despite the theological differences, there was some place in the area dedicated to God which was still held sacred, and where the people had natural feelings. I sat down in an empty pew and wept.