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Old 08-02-2007, 07:18 AM   #1
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God and the arts

This isn't meant to be a thread to argue for or against the existence of God or to see whose God trumps the others' gods or whether there is a God-hole (which I recall has been argued in this forum before).

This is meant as a recognition of the influence the concept of God has throughout our culture, throughout our arts even among people who do not believe. So, why is this so? (I will admit to an absolute fascination with the why of this.) Why does it seem important to so many that we come to terms with our position on God even when it is to deny him? Why are there so many works with God as a subtext even when not the text?

Dostoyevsky, Monty Python, Ingmar Bergman, Norman Mailer, Joseph Heller, Dante, Michelangelo, Jesus Christ Superstar. John Lennon---ad infinitum--(Sorry, my religious experience is limited to Judeo-Christian, so I'm sure others will add the influence of other religions' concepts on the arts and I hope they do. I've eliminated people I think are religious spokespeople of a sort, so I do not include CS Lewis, although I enjoy his writings). God is treated with challenge, respect, humor, question and with what I'm sure some would consider blasphemy. Even when the story is not particularly God-based, we find Biblical and other works' references strongly throughout--East of Eden for one.

Have we grown up with archetypal myths with psychological truths? Why does it add to our understanding to know that East of Eden takes its inspiration from the story of Cain and Abel? Do we use God as a symbol for something else ("God is a concept by which we measure our pain.") Is God merely a symbol for doubt and pain and faith --religious or not--and joy (in short, the symbol for the human experience)?

Why would a concept of God fascinate a nonbeliever? (I'm not saying it would fascinate all or even most or maybe even many nonbelievers). So maybe, I'm simply asking why does it fascinate me who has come to terms with my own unbelief for a variety of reasons?
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Old 08-02-2007, 07:46 AM   #2
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culture issue.

I guess some people grow up with more or less the influence of the religion, and not only religion. Folk stories, fairy tales even fiction characters would do the trick also.

Talk about myself, known the moon has nothing more than cold desert land would not stop me enjoy the moon festival, and I still look up and think about the beautiful dancing woman, who betrayed her husband to have a ever-lasting life, but forever lonely. The rabbit that pounding the herbs. Just like when I heard about Mars, I always think about E.T.; cats are called tom and mouse are called jerry....etc, etc.

People just like beautiful figures. Some artist, might just happen to pick up some figures form the stories they heard when they were a little kid, and these stories just happen to be some relgious stories due to the culture background they growing up with.

The only difference between religious figures and fairy tale, fiction characters is that for the second group, people can say it's not true, it's fictional. But for the first group, people can only "argue", because just like some people would never believe, some people would never gave up their religion either. At the same time, it only shows that no matter if the person is a believer or a non-believer, he/she was heavily influenced by the religion, therefore he/she considered it as an important issue to discuss.
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Old 08-02-2007, 07:58 AM   #3
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I know when you say 'arts' you are referring to a wide range of mediums, but I think the history of visual or fine arts is so entwined with god that the link just hasn't died. We derive from a history which was dictated by everything godly and as an effect, it infiltrated our psych toward art, or the arts. When we then became enlightened, we learned to think outside religion but there's still this invisible tie which binds us to writing and painting with god or gods never far from the scene. I don't think this is even a Judeo-Christian trend, as if you even glance at just the surface of many other cultures you can see god never really left.

I know this is not what you are even talking about - this happens all the time with your threads... I'm painfully distracted right now.
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Old 08-02-2007, 10:00 AM   #4
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this is a fascinating question, and one i'll try to return to, but my simple, quick, and somewhat smart-assed answer is that "God" is what is created in response to the fundamental absurdity of life -- born to die, etc., all those existential crises -- in order to imbue something that might as well be meaningless with meaning, and external meaning at that, something beyond what you yourself could ever give, thus giving it more meaning.

i dunno, am fuzzy this morning.
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Old 08-02-2007, 10:11 AM   #5
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Anna, I think you ARE addressing it. And I'm always looking forward to Irvine's response in this because it seems in the past to have been a shared interest and capable of being looked at in psychological, philosophical and literary ways. (Plus the meaning thing, which I don't doubt). And butter is accurate that the culture of religion weaves its influence on us.

Are we psychologically prepped to respond to myth? What is the psychological need or desire to do so? I watch this site and often see Bono raised to almost mythic proportions, a modern creation of a modest myth. Is it a primitive throwback? If we were not exposed to myth, would we create it now anyway?

My posts on this are bound to ramble, lol. Sorry. But I have a score of theories rolling around in my head that haven't found a cohesive form. Part of what I think it is also is an attempt to reconcile our primal with enlightenment (for lack of a better word)
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Old 08-02-2007, 11:52 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonosSaint
Why would a concept of God fascinate a nonbeliever?
Because it's a way of contemplating what it is to be human?

Really one might as well ask, why do we bother to tell stories, make art, sing, etc., period. The notion of the transcendent rational subject, who reasons in a decontextualized vacuum devoid of cultural and emotional influences and guiding metaphors embedded in language, which underpins much of Enlightenment thinking--Kant being a particularly clear example--is itself a kind of exquisite fiction about how people actually think, analyze, speculate and make choices. That's not to say it's 'false,' unless perhaps one takes it so literally as to buy the implied conceit that anyone will ever succeed in constructing a social order on those premises alone.
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Old 08-02-2007, 12:02 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland

Because it's a way of contemplating what it is to be human?
I think when all's said and done that is ultimately what it is and done beautifully in one sentence. There goes my thesis, lol.
But anyone's expansion is more than welcome. I'm hungry for it.
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Old 08-02-2007, 01:25 PM   #8
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I've spent some time in the Louvre over the years, and it's amazing how different cultures at different times have depicted contact between man and God. I find it interesting that artists throughout history have spent time contemplating, depicting, and re-depicting the relationship between God and man. It seems to be one of those innate cries of the human heart.

Interestingly, the word "inspiration" comes from root words that combined mean "Spirit breathed," which I think is interesting. One of my church's core values is that creativity arises from spirituality. Creativity is one of those places where I think spirit can be proven, in that the ability to bring something out of nothing -- to create or recreate a vision and make it palpable -- may be one of the greatest hints of the Creator's influence on us.
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