Appreciating religious works of art
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30-09-2012, 02:17 AM
Appreciating religious works of art
A friend of mine who is also an atheist got on me the other day for having a picture of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which I took while I was in Italy, as the background to my Facebook profile. He made it seem like it is wrong for me to appreciate religious art if I don't believe in God. So my question is, can you appreciate religious works of art for their artistic merits even if you do not believe in a God?

Although I am as hard-core atheist as one could possibly be, I have to admit that I ran all around Europe taking pictures of every gothic cathedral I came across, and also of the religious works from the great masters such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, etc...not because it did anything for me in a religious level, but simply because the artistic value of these works of art moved me in a way few things have ever done. Does one have to shun religious art and ignore the artistic elements of these works simply because he/she has no belief in God? How do you feel about this subject?

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30-09-2012, 02:20 AM
RE: Appreciating religious works of art
This is the picture that created the argument. Sorry if it's crooked, but a Vatican guard tried to knock the camera from my hands because apparently you are not supposed to take pictures of the ceiling.

[Image: DSCN1498_zpsc04ee8a1.jpg]

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30-09-2012, 02:47 AM
RE: Appreciating religious works of art
(30-09-2012 02:20 AM)Ozzie Wrote:  This is the picture that created the argument. Sorry if it's crooked, but a Vatican guard tried to knock the camera from my hands because apparently you are not supposed to take pictures of the ceiling.

Because they want you to buy their photobooks at the end of the tour. -_- I was there just a few months ago.

Listen, simply because they are religious works of art does not mean they aren't works of art. Whoever disagrees can go hump a stump.

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30-09-2012, 06:50 AM
RE: Appreciating religious works of art
An atheist who doesn't appreciate religious art as art has a real attitude problem.

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Science is not a subject, but a method.
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30-09-2012, 07:08 AM (This post was last modified: 30-09-2012 07:49 AM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: Appreciating religious works of art
Art is not the sole property of religion. It belongs to humanity, and if nothing else, demonstrates its forward march, to something else. We are what we are. We wouldn't be what we are without our past. No reason to deny it. Does he not approve of statues of Zeus, and Apollo, and Greek antiquities ?

He'd hate me. I still sing with my old choir's larger choral organization, once in a while, as we laugh and have a blast, and I like classical music. Most of them know I'm not a believer. They don't care. Why should I ?

And anyway. it's high irony indeed, that the Roman church's most famous ceiling was painted by a gay atheist who, in the ceiling, paints into it, all kinds of hidden, derogatory messages, including, purposely leaving OUT the traditional "spark" between the god's finger, and the man, and having god "moon" the church.

http://www.3pipe.net/2009/12/gods-arse-m...idden.html

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30-09-2012, 07:41 AM
RE: Appreciating religious works of art
We've had similar questions raised on this forum regarding religiously inspired music.

Of course you can enjoy and appreciate religious art, from music to visual art to film, etc. There's nothing wrong with that because as Bucky Ball said, the expression is human first and religious second.

And let's face it. Humanity is in its infancy and for most of its existence most it's artists have believed in one god or another. You can't just throw all of that expression out.

My issue is that certain songs and other works of art have lost their luster in my subjective mind due to heavy religious undertones, but I don't dismiss or disdain them. Just appreciate them as best I can.

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30-09-2012, 09:32 PM
RE: Appreciating religious works of art
I don't see any reason not to appreciate them for their artistic qualities. They're pleasing to look at and were created with great skill and talent, so I don't see why the subjects matter that much.
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30-09-2012, 10:52 PM
RE: Appreciating religious works of art
Art often captures the mythology of the time. It shows us where we come from.

The old gods are dead, let's invent some new ones before something really bad happens.
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01-10-2012, 04:25 AM
RE: Appreciating religious works of art
I recently commented on my love for religious art in the ongoing academic atheist survey. These were my exact words:

Quote: Lastly, despite my views on religion, I absolutely love religious art. This is because I see them as works of human culture. In the west, my favorite period of religious art comes from the Renaissance. This was a time when scientific study of anatomy and optics was applied to art to elevate it to all new levels of realism. My absolute favorite piece of Renaissance art is Michelangelo’s Rome Pieta, the statue of Mary cradling the body of Jesus. The piece speaks to me because of the shear skill that went into its making. To think such a young person—Michelangelo wasn’t even 25 yet—could transform a solid block of marble into soft fabric and sinewy flesh is just mindboggling. As for the religious art of Asia, I am quite fond of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures and paintings from India, China, and Japan.

I have emphasized what I consider to be the greatest value of religious works. To discredit art simply because it's religious in nature shows a level of dogmatic close-mindedness that we often accuse theists of (it's sort of like their negative stance on science). We shouldn't automatically close our minds off to it just because it disagrees with our worldview. The fact that these works were produced with human hands and minds makes them invaluable. If your friend considers himself to be an intellectual, just tell them about all of the science and history that went into the making of this art.

First and foremost, it took billions of years of natural selection to produce eyes for seeing, hands for grasping, and large brains for thinking beyond the natural world. It has been shown that even the great apes enjoy art and have their own color preferences. This means art is engrained in our genes. Second, it took thousands of years for art to progress to its current state. The oldest examples of human art were in the “form of perforated beads, engraved egg shells and pigments in Africa 70-100,000 years ago” (source). The oldest examples of painting are the 40,800 year old cave paintings of Castillo, Spain. These are also the oldest examples of religious-type art in the world. For instance, Chauvex cave, which is slightly younger at 32,000-35,000 years old, has shamanistic representations of half-human-half-animal chimeras. Each generation of artists built off of the techniques of those that came before them, making these paleolithic artists the forbears of people like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Third, the science and mathematics that we take for granted today were advanced by religious artists of centuries past. As I mentioned above, the science of anatomy and optics were utilized by Renaissance (as well as Asian) artists to elevate art to all new levels of realism. For instance, artists studied cadavers to improve their knowledge of anatomy and proportion. It was the study of cadavers that led to lifesaving medical breakthroughs. The study of perspective and light eventually gave rise to telescopes and cameras.

For those who have not seen the Pieta, here is a picture of it. The statue is almost six and half feet tall. Keep in mind it was carved from a single block of marble by a (not quite yet) 25 year old Michelangelo.

[Image: Michelangelo%27s_Pieta_5450_cropncleaned_edit.jpg]

Another amazing piece of religious art is the Kailasanatha Temple in Ellora, India. It is a temple complex devoted to the Hindu god Shiva that was carved from A SINGLE BLOCK OF BASALT ROCK!

[Image: Ellora_Kailash_temple_overview.jpg]
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01-10-2012, 05:57 AM (This post was last modified: 01-10-2012 06:13 AM by PoolBoyG.)
RE: Appreciating religious works of art
*yawn*

The Nazis had colourful banners, and impressive stadiums. And?

Every one of those pieces was built with insidious purpose (propaganda, indoctrination, etc), and paid for with stolen wealth (gathered from conquered lands, conquered peoples, taxes, diverting of resources for insidious projects, glorification of fear-ignorance-subjugation, etc), and the blood of the innocent (slaves, the conquered, the persecuted, countless victims laid down in order to make way for this ... "art").

You can find other uses in these pieces- utilizing them to promote some other philosophy, but there is no appreciation for what it really is. Think what was the purpose for these pieces, and what had to have occurred for it to come about (all mentioned above).
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