Tom Jubert posted an article which asked the question “Is Art a modern religion?” I find this claim to be preposterously silly, but have no issue linking to him as he seems to write well on other matters! So read his other stuff too to give him a fair shake, alright?
Now the intellectually fair thing to do for Tom is go and read the whole post. I was going to post his tl;dr, but no, read the whole post, it’s the fair thing to do. I’m interested in what others might have to say on the matter. What I post here is my reply to Mr. Jubert…
Before I begin, I want to say it’s great to challenge unquestioned social values and no subject should be beyond scrutiny. It’s great when someone presents a great, well thought out piece that challenges those beliefs. Alas, not today.
Art is an act of self expression. Something that religion (in general,) is antithetical to. Religion makes factual claims and places demands upon it’s practitioners. Religion claims to be objective and art, as you admit, is subjective (though some stubborn individuals might have some romantic disagreements on the matter). Religion is often considered beyond criticism, while art relies on it. At it’s worst, Religion seeks total compliance and stifles any self expression. Forget dystopian futures, religion already has a history of banning art, music, dancing and other forms expression. Why? Because you’re not supposed to think, you’re supposed to proselytize and follow. Conversely, in art you want to be an individual, sharing your feelings with the world in an abstract manner.
Beside both being inherently intangible, they’re pretty much complete opposites.
Is the issue assigning any value to intangibles? Love, friendship, communication? Happiness, sorrow? How about ideas like “Justice” or “Freedom”? Do we need to live our lives as Vulcans — fierce logic machines, striving to suppress our intangible selves? Is the issue with religion that it is intangible? I would think not. The issue with religion has always been its claims to reality and the strife it creates. Not too many people get offended at, say, Deists. We might find them to be a bit naive, but certainly not harmful. They don’t sit around and say “Oh don’t worry, my Deist god will fix it!” or “You heathen! You will die for not believing in my vague, ill-defined, non-intervening god!”. They just have another superstition that we are prone to having. So do artistic values -really- make people do foolish things? I have a hard time thinking of reasonable examples of this, but lets say someone reads a story with a perverse idea that sort of sticks with them. When we question his idea, can he hide under the guise of “Well my art said so, so it’s okay”?
No, and he will be justly ridiculed for making such a weak claim. Ideas are seductive, be they delivered through art, or through truth, or just sheer fabrication. They can be as simple as a cheeky sounding title for a blog post, that leads one to post on an ill supported premise, that undermines any actual point one might have. It’s all good, though! It’s all good because art does not sanctify ideas or put them beyond criticism. I can see a artfully saucy article title and realize that it’s artful cleverness does not impart any truth to it. I can still come here and criticize the idea.
… And sorry for being a little sassy, my art/religion dictates it so. :)