Is Art a Modern Religion? No, that’s dumb.

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. :)

5 thoughts on “Is Art a Modern Religion? No, that’s dumb.

  1. Hmm, I might just have to write about this myself.

    One that would be more stimulating to write on, in my opinion, would not be “Is Art a Modern Religion” but instead “Is Modern Religion an Art”. If you’re a Rand fan perhaps Ellsworth’s speech to Keating in The Fountainhead comes to mind. It must take some skill to make people believe some of the more outrageous claims that religion makes when virtually anybody in the developed world has access to mountains of empirical evidence that disproves these claims.

    Also, any chance you can add a skin option or something to your pages sometime? White on black can look really nice but once your word count gets above 200 it starts straining the eyes.

  2. Yeah I think the only point I really liked that he made was that people shouldn’t make art their whole life purpose and not question that they are doing so. I personally don’t know anyone who does that, but I think it would be kind of sad.

    Anyways, cool post, and like the above guy said, if whatever you use offers a skin option, try it out for us? :D

  3. I think Jubert is trying to get at ‘There are some ideas for which it is implied that they must have some value from some source and for which the specific source of that value can be disagreed upon but the general idea that they have value is not up for debate.’

    If you disagree with someone about a specific religious doctrine, then you may be wrong, but at least you aren’t godless(see related words ‘evil’ and wicked).
    http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/Godless
    If you disagree with someone about a specific law, then you may be wrong, but at least you aren’t an anarchist(see related words ‘mutineer’ and ‘terrorist’).
    http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/anarchist
    If you disagree with someone about whether a specific piece of art is good, then you may have bad taste, but at least you aren’t a vandal(see related words ‘barbarian’, ‘savage’, and ‘terrorist’).
    http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/vandal

    I agree with Oni on trying other skins.

  4. Hmmm, I can’t quite tell what the above poster is trying to communicate when he/she says the “but at least…” thing. Perhaps yaddayadda meant “but that doesn’t necessarily make you…”

    “…but that doesn’t necessarily make you godless….”

    “…but that doesn’t necessarily make you an anarchist…”

    “…but that doesn’t necessarily make you a vandal…”

    But , if yaddayadda quite deliberately chose those words I find it kind of funny. As I disagree with most people about religious doctrines. Why? Well, I’m an Agnostic-Atheist.

    I also disagree with people about laws, specific and otherwise. Why? Well, I’m also an Anarcho-Capitalist.

    I also disagree with people about certain works of art. Why? Well, since I’m an Anarchist it is mandatory for me to carry a bomb or a Molotov cocktail at any given time so I’m kind of a vandal… Oh wait…

    But, yeah. The whole “but at least you’re not godless” gives the impression that the speaker is saying that being godless is a definitively worse position than having a doctrine.

    Maybe I’m totally missing the point of yaddayadda’s post, though.

  5. @Oni

    Yes, I recognize that someone can reject a specific statement by rejecting a large set of statements that has that specific statement within it.

    “But, yeah. The whole “but at least you’re not godless” gives the impression that the speaker is saying that being godless is a definitively worse position than having a doctrine.”

    The generic form would be ‘but at least you don’t reject the premise of what I’m saying, you merely reject the specifics, so I don’t have to convince you of my premise before getting to the specifics’. Which of these conversations sounds easier; Convincing someone who already plays some video games that Super Metroid is a good game, or convincing someone who rejects the idea that any video game could be good that Super Metroid is a good game?

    I suspect Jubert has simply not met other people who don’t accept that art has value or has not brought up the subject to those people.

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