Isn’t our culture tainted by religion?

Apr 23, 2013


Discussion by: benoniboy

So what if hypothetically, in the best of all possible worlds, belief in the nonsense of religion would disappear? Say the Roman juggernaut would shut down; the Pope, cardinals and priests would all get real jobs; the primitive Baptist and Islamic fundementalists would see the error of their ways and 'convert' to rationality. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

My problem is that almost everything I love has somehow been tainted by religion. The great works of music, literature and art until perhaps 100 years ago, have all been born out of the belief in, or at least influenced by those irrational and infantile ideas, which most people in this forum including me reject out of hand.

But I don't want to do without Bach's St. Matthew Passion or the Verdi Requiem, or Jesus Christ Superstar. I like Carols at Christmas. I enjoy looking at great art, (even not so great art). The US economy would hardly function without Santa Claus at the Mall every year and I want the throngs to patronize my store and buy all the Christmas rubbish I have to sell them.

All of the above is created out of and predicated on utter superstitious nonsense. But I like it.

Can I have my cake and eat it?

Discuss

 

 

23 comments on “Isn’t our culture tainted by religion?

  • 1
    canadian_right says:

    Yes, you can still enjoy religiously inspired art.

    Religion is part of our shared history, and if we one day all move beyond primitive superstitions will still be able to enjoy the art and music inspired by these beliefs, much like we can enjoy Homer’s epics, Egyptian art, and much other art that was inspired by ancient societies and beliefs. We will learn about Christianity like we learn about Zeus – as a long by gone superstition.



    Report abuse

  • And if it wasn’t disappearing what would you be sentimental about? Truly then, this is the best of all possible worlds. ;^)

    —-//—-

    People will preserve great art. I guess specific religious experiences and sentiments will likely fare much worse. But change is inevitable, and at least we can be thankful for the advances that allow us to record our history with great detail and in multiple formats.

    Also, you can’t possibly wish for Christmas to last forever, can you? I think it may be sad if that was the end of our creative efforts in this regard, and the same goes for everything like it.



    Report abuse

  • 3
    SaganTheCat says:

    of course you can!!!

    all culture is tainted by the superstitions that existed before enlightenment. religion only claims so much art because there was a time that the only way to make a living as an artist of any sort was to work for the religious authorities but look at the ritch cultures in other countries that have been built on other myths in other countries. religion, certainly in europe hijacked most culture at some point but it’s in the past now and you can still enjoy it.

    i love religious music, classical, choral and definitely gospel and i noticed an awful lot of funky house music seems to have a bit of god-botheriing in it but i don’t care. when i listen to an uplifitng piece of music i’ll happily join in with the praising. it means nothing, just a way of getting a bit of a seretonin hit.

    I used to listen to a lot of black metal too. some kids believe in all that nonsense, i don’t but still enjoyed the escapism and fantasy of it all.

    think of religion, in our culture as the reptilian part of your brain. you evolved with it already in situ, if you could redesign your brain from scratch you probably would to make it more efficient, as with any evolved organ but you get by with it and furthermore you enjoy the emotions it can give you, the rush of adrenaline on a roller coster or the oxytocin when you fall in love.

    don’t forget Richard himself regularly attends carol services, presumibly as it’s part of his culture, part of what makes life a bit more fun.

    enjoy the fruits of superstitious nonsense without the tummy ache of religious guilt



    Report abuse

  • 4
    gryphaea says:

    I haven’t seen anyone argue that a more adult approach to the world results in reduced imagination or artistic output. In fact I think the opposite is well evidenced. At the very least the arts do not suffer. Perhaps they might even have more money for investment if it wasn’t being spent by people how it is. We spend alot of money keeping our fictions and self delusions intact, and we employ alot of people to work out how old books really knew what they obviously did not, or how the genocide of children can be fitted into the wrong shaped moral hole.



    Report abuse

  • I particularly like the structure of churches, from the grand cathedrals to the quaint little country churches. They need not be used only for the perpetuation of silly nonsense, but can become great libraries, restaurants, museums, extremely interesting houses, shops, medical centres, school halls and many other uses. These conversions are popping up all the time as their congregations dwindle and die out. Human beings are adaptable and are able to reuse elements of a once relevant cultural system.



    Report abuse

  • 6
    Mormon Atheist says:

    You absolutely can! Why not? Religion may be based on superstitious nonsense but that mixed with our enlightening has given us a culture that has some pretty nice traditions. I mean yes Christmas is supposed to be a Christian holiday but ultimately now it has woven itself into our society and it seems are celebrated by both secular and non-secular alike. I not really why it matters that religion might have inspired something beautiful like carols and religious art. Isn’t irrational to reject something beautiful like the religious artwork and music created by religion simply because of our own bias against it?



    Report abuse

  • 7
    Steven Mading says:

    When a people stop believing in a religion they don’t throw away all the things that were done by the culture that contained that religion. You give far too much credit to religion when you try to attribute everything a religious culture did to the religion that was in such a culture. Religion is where the money was, so religion is where the sponsorship for many art works came from. But it’s not the reason the art is good. Any work of art in which the religious element in it is actually mandatory for the art to be good is in fact a terribly shitty work of art. The Last Supper is a good painting because of its tremendous skill and its beauty, not because of the story being told in it. Contrast that with the sort of utter tripe that you get with things like modern “Christian music” or “Christian books”, where there is no art value to them and they’re terribly low-quality that people only “like” because they feel a religious obligation to like them.

    As far as what happens to cultural art after a people no longer believe the religion of their predecessors who made the art, we already have plenty of good examples of that TODAY.

    How many of today’s fans of The Iliad believe in Zues, Athena, and so on?

    How many of today’s admirers of the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx believe in Ra, Imhotep, Set, and so on?



    Report abuse

  • 8
    AFriend... says:

    I see no reason why you should not be able to enjoy art that is related to religion, since religion obviously is not all there is to it.
    I suppose you deliberately referred to BACH’S St. Matthew passion, and not the WORDS of the St. Matthew passion written in the bible for a reason, stressing the importance of the music itself this way (By the way, if you havn’t already done so, give the St. John’s passion a chance too!!). To me there is beauty in this peace of work that lies in the music, (regardless of whether you think the story is true or just a remarkable piece of fiction) that can definitely be enjoyable, whether you believe in the truthof the story or not. What you are enjoying in this case seems to be the end-product, that takes the (fictional) story of Jesus and makes a great peace of art out of it, and I see no reason why this should be objectionable. After all, you would not have the same concerns about ‘Les Miserables’ or ‘Macbeth’, just because the story being told is a fictional one, merely embedded in historical context.
    So in my eyes the (religious) fundament of the work should be seen as exactly what it is, something that served as inspiration for the great piece of art that is the product. (Also, remember that the great sources of money for artists of whatever kind in the times of Bach and co. were mainly noblemen and the church, and after all even artists have to make a living with their work, so it’s not surprising that once in a while remarkable pieces of art popped out that were related to religion.)
    In other words religion is (and even more was) a part of the society we are living in (for the record, I don’t know where you live, but I just assume this statement also fits on you ^^), but that should not mean it owns the pieces of art that develop(ed) out of it.
    So, in a nutshell, I think you’re not eating the cake of religion but the cake of your culture (of which religion happens to form a part), and there is nothing wrong about that.



    Report abuse

  • 9
    Dublin-atheist says:

    Yes why not enjoy Christmas, why not enjoy gospel music, my sweet lord by George Harris what a great tune, but I don’t take the lyrics literally.



    Report abuse

  • 10
    zengardener says:

    Yes. You can enjoy the wonderful things that religion has brought us, just like you can still appreciate the Iliad and the Odyssey, Superman movies (I hope), and movies about Faster Than Light Space faring adventures.

    If people don’t take it seriously, there is no problem.



    Report abuse

  • Personally I do just fine without Bach’s St Matthew passion, I find carols pretty boring at christmas and Santa Claus is basically derived from the Norse god Odin, with a little of Saint Nicholas sprinkled in… but the modern concept is nothing to do with either and certainly isn’t religious, and his magical powers are acceptable because he is known to be fictional.

    But either way, I thought it is fairly obvious that you can enjoy tradition without having to belief it as fact.



    Report abuse

  • 12
    Stuart M. says:

    I doubt many will agree with my take on this, but I wonder how much REALLY all these composers and artists were inspired by religion. I picture Bach slaving over his desk at night by candlelight, not because he wanted to please some god, but because he had a deadline to get something finished on time that his rich patron had ordered. He probably had uppermost in his mind the feeding of his very large brood. I’m sure his brain wheels were just whirring with brilliant ideas to knock the socks off his patron and wow the assembled crowds. As far as art is concerned, it is well known that artists loved to depict scenes from Greek mythology because it gave them the chance to depict risque subjects or demonstrate their skill in drawing the naked human body and certainly not because they believed in the mythology. So whenever some god-botherer tries to argue that religion has inspired such great art and music, I always say wait a minute. These guys were just responding to the market place, one that was dominated by the church or wealthy patrons eager to justify their “divine rights,” demonstrate their piety or buy a ticket to heaven because they worried they might be headed to the other place. Ignore the message, admire the messenger.



    Report abuse

  • In reply to #12 by prietenul:

    I doubt many will agree with my take on this, but I wonder how much REALLY all these composers and artists were inspired by religion. I picture Bach slaving over his desk at night by candlelight, not because he wanted to please some god, but because he had a deadline to get something finished on time that his rich patron had ordered. He probably had uppermost in his mind the feeding of his very large brood. I’m sure his brain wheels were just whirring with brilliant ideas to knock the socks off his patron and wow the assembled crowds. As far as art is concerned, it is well known that artists loved to depict scenes from Greek mythology because it gave them the chance to depict risque subjects or demonstrate their skill in drawing the naked human body and certainly not because they believed in the mythology. So whenever some god-botherer tries to argue that religion has inspired such great art and music, I always say wait a minute. These guys were just responding to the market place, one that was dominated by the church or wealthy patrons eager to justify their “divine rights,” demonstrate their piety or buy a ticket to heaven because they worried they might be headed to the other place. Ignore the message, admire the messenger.

    Hear, hear! The artists were inspired by their need to make a living. Fortunately they possessed the skill to pull it off. Amazes me that many can supposedly see into the heart of the artist and detect the motivation.



    Report abuse

  • 14
    SaganTheCat says:

    just as an aside ot any religious lurkers who might thinnk we’re in some way being hypocrites;

    reframe the question, can a christian still enjoy pagan festivals like yule and eostre? hell yes, it can not only enjoy them it can steal them all and claim to have invented them!



    Report abuse

  • You don’t have to believe in Zeus to appreciate The Odyssey. You don’t have to believe in Odin to like the Eddas. You don’t have to believe in God to enjoy the Bible–or at least some parts of it. There’s a lot in there that doesn’t make sense, and some of it is just loony. But some parts of it are really quite wonderful.

    Take, for example, the Sistine Chapel. It’s beautiful if you believe and it’s beautiful if you don’t. So is the Pantheon. What if religion disappeared? What if people stopped taking it seriously? They’d probably still keep creating the same sorts of things, the same sorts of songs, the same sorts of stories, but they’d frame it under a different narrative. Maybe they’d invent something entirely new.



    Report abuse

  • 16
    hueman0un says:

    well when it comes to great works of art with religious themes…the artists weren’t inspired by religion. that’s a common misconception. the church was one of the wealthier dominant institutions and thus hired the most skilled greatest artists and sculptures to do work FOR the church.



    Report abuse

  • 17
    Myles_Delfin says:

    First of all, I cannot help but wonder if it is even rational to assassinate three different religious groups in the span of one paragraph. In my mind, it would have been better if we started with a discussion of their specific flaws and how they can be corrected, from within their organization, or from without.

    Secondly, the things that you like are not “tainted” by religion, most of them were commissioned by churches for their own use and disposal. Historically, and whether we like it or not, the arts and the sciences were previously supported by religion, the Catholic church in particular. Artists of that time had no choice whether they subscribed to religious teachings or not, the church controlled almost all of the resources that they needed. Therefore, you are simply appreciating work that were paid for by the Catholic church. If you owned Coca-cola, for example, would you pay for a composer to make a song about Pepsi? You would not. To think that art is “tainted” by that reason alone leads me to think that you are only beginning to appreciate such things. You should enjoy art for what it is or you will never understand what it represents.

    Third, I notice that in many “thinkers'” forums, there is a sublime misunderstanding of the things that many disagree with by default. In order to disagree, one must first understand. If not, you are merely subscribing to peer propaganda. Most of religious literature is based on ideas that are meant to teach goodwill, this is a fact. What most people do not agree with is the method with which they are employed. Therefore, it is the function of the church that is disagreeable instead of the ideas that are in the literature. Besides, we are not children, I think we can easily discern the difference between fact and fiction. In much the same way that we do not live in fear of the un-dead after watching a movie about zombies. We cannot just make broad statements about things that we agree or disagree with without becoming infantile ourselves.



    Report abuse

  • A painting of a religious subject is still a painting. It is not a commandment to behave a certain way. You are not even required to believe it represents an actual event. Botticelli painted the birth of Venus. I doubt he believed in the goddess Venus either. It was just a springboard for his skill.

    Music is even less tied to religion. Some Bach (e.g. Violin Sonata No.1 in G minor) expresses sweet sadness. It feels the same as mine, even if his might have been tied up with notions of Jesus being tortured.

    I read some history of the renaissance painters. Basically you painted whatever your patron wanted you to paint. You had to work within that framework. Painting were for status, and thus usually had religious subjects. Painters were not necessarily inspired by religion at all.

    So enjoy away, guilt free.



    Report abuse

  • 19
    Jeroen says:

    I disagree with the most comments on this post. Art is not just art. Art is tained with metafors. I tained with message. I think we need to seperate things.

    1 Is it good art

    2 What is the message of the art

    3 What is the historical context of the piece of art

    Is it good art
    If you say yes it is good art and you can think that

    What is the message of the art?

    This is the part I disagree with the most post. I think message of art doese matter to me. If I don’t like a message in a art I can see I don’t want to listen or look to it. Message does matter!!

    What is the historical context of the art?

    You must place people lik bach in context of the time. People already did in the post before me.

    Conclusion
    I think listingen to great artist is not wrong and you can do that even if you not agree to the message. Be critiec to good art. If the message of the peace of art is not what you agree make art by yourself that is good and have the message you want.



    Report abuse

  • 20
    Alistair Blackhill says:

    Our culture is built on religion, classical philosophy and commercial b*&&^%ry. The legal system and the precidents it has worked to for centuries grew from ecclesiastic law. (Portia, the doctor of law saving her boyfriend’s pound of flesh…the odd one out was Machiavelli, of course.) The industrial revolution and rise of high energy magic has taken over in some areas (maritime and mining laws, design rules for motor vehicles etc) but there’s a lot of emotive landfill in the foundations of our cultures yet.

    You can have your cake and eat it, if you want to do law for the lifestyle it will support instead of doing law to help people!

    Cheers!



    Report abuse

  • 22
    sffmadman66 says:

    Organized religion isn’t for me, but I hope people will retain the the right to have their own personal beliefs. And heavy metal! There really is just “Too Much Heaven on Their Minds….”



    Report abuse

  • nothing suggests that irrational beliefs inspired great pieces of art I believe it was without a doubt human imagination and vast curiosity that inspired all forms of art and most of all it was and is imperfection that drives creative inspiration, which religion is nowhere near imperfection “obviously”.



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.