I am horrified and deeply distressed to hear about the fire that is raging in the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It is a truly terrible tragedy.

As I wrote in my book Reason for Hope, the cathedral played an important part during a very difficult time in my personal life, and the experience I had there, when I visited in 1977, marked an epiphany in my thinking about my place on Planet Earth and the meaning of my life.

My thoughts and prayers are with the firefighters tackling the frightful flames, and all those in France for whom Notre Dame is an integral part of the French nation and especially for all who worship there.

Excerpt from Jane in her book Reason for Hope:

Many years ago, in the spring of 1974, I visited the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. I had wanted to go inside this glorious cathedral ever since reading Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Little did I know just how important that visit would be.

There were not many people around, and it was quiet and still inside. I gazed in silent awe at the great Rose Window, glowing in the morning sun. All at once the cathedral was filled with a huge volume of sound: an organ playing magnificently for a wedding taking place in a distant corner. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. I had always loved the opening theme; but in the cathedral, filling the entire vastness, it seemed to enter and possess my whole self. It was as though the music itself was alive. 

That moment, a suddenly captured moment of eternity, was perhaps the closest I have ever come to experiencing ecstasy, the ecstasy of the mystic. How could I believe it was the chance gyrations of bits of primeval dust that had led up to that moment in time—the cathedral soaring to the sky; the collective inspiration and faith of those who caused it to be built; the advent of Bach himself; the brain, his brain, that translated truth into music; and the mind that could, as mine did then, comprehend the whole inexorable progression of evolution? Since I cannot believe that this was the result of chance, I have to admit anti-chance. And so I must believe in a guiding power in the universe—in other words, I must believe in God.