Canadian photographer Mark Schacter's new book "Houses of Worship" is filled with 200 images capturing the beauty and allure of "churches, synagogues, mosques, Hindu, Buddhist and Baha'i temples and Sikh gurdwaras" across North America.
While the photographer and author says the book will appeal to individuals of all theological stripes, there's one fact that might raise some eyebrows -- and interest: Schacter is an atheist, and is unattached and unaffiliated with a house of worship.
He told TheBlaze in an interview that, despite his secularism, he has an ironic tendency to photograph Christian churches.
Thrangu Buddhist Monastery, Richmond, British Columbia (Photo credit: Mark Schacter)
"I don't know why," he said. "Not only am I an atheist, but I was raised in the Jewish faith."
In "Houses of Worship," Schacter captures stretches beyond the Christian realm and presents a diversity of worship centers -- buildings he said offer up power in both their symbolism and imagery.
Schacter said that even though he's a non-believer himself, churches and other houses of worship are signs of community and a part of the human experience.
"It's a visible manifestation of the invisible phenomenon of faith," Schacter said. "You can't see faith, but you can see man-made or human-made signs of it -- and that's what a house of worship is."
Mount Charleston Baptist Church, Mount Charleston, Nev. (Phot credit: Mark Schacter)
He added, "I look at it as a physical representation of this longing that people have in a world where everything is transient and so much is uncertain -- people have a longing for truth and certainty and attachment to something that goes beyond an earthly lifetime."
So far, the photographer said that he has received positive reactions to the book, though those closest to him were surprised by the subject, especially knowing his atheism.
But Schacter said he was motivated by trying to unearth why people are drawn to religion and why faith has such a powerful hold over people.
"Although faith can bring out the worst in us, I think it also has the capacity to bring out the best in us as well, because what it stands for is really fundamental to us all ... some sense of permanence and something to latch onto," he added.
B'nai Israel Synagogue, Grand Forks, N.D. (Photo credit: Mark Schacter)
In addition to the 200 photographs, Schacter also interviewed ministers, a rabbi, a Buddhist scholar and an imam to better understand how they view their respective houses of worship. These interviews are also in the book.
In a CNN opinion piece published over the weekend, Schacter said that he pressed these religious leaders "to explain how they reconcile their sometimes opulent houses of worship with the fact that religion is ultimately about transcending worldly things."
In the end, the preachers and faith leaders said that the spiritual houses of worship are really, regardless of their appearance or opulence, meant to help build peoples' faith and bring them into a religious state of mind.
"Houses of Worship" is available now in Canada and expected to be on sale in the United States in February 2014.
Featured image via Mark Schacter