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  1. #11
    Sniffles
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    Quote Originally Posted by simulatedworld View Post
    Are you saying that a strong religious base is necessary for any art or culture of value to develop in any context, or merely that it has been a crucial part of Western cultural development?
    No it's true of any culture. The greatest works of art produced within history were usually of a religious nature, even when they served secondary political motives. When a ruler wanted to demostrate his greatness and power for eternity, he usually enshrined his legacy by building massive temples, churches, or other places of worship.

    Of course this was not just true for rulers, but even communities themselves. Polish immigrants in Amercia were determined to build grand cathedrals, much to the irritation of Irish and German Catholics.

    Yet building such grand cathedrals and so forth had an important social function, since it binds people together as a community in the service of a collective goal. That an ordinary villager can feel a sense of pride in a cathedral that his community has built over a period of 100 years or more is a valuable social glue, and that has all sorts of benefits in terms of the obligation that people feel in looking after each other.

  2. #12
    Freshman Member simulatedworld's Avatar
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    Couldn't all of these great works of art and positive effects on the community occur in a secular context?

    Great art is going to be made by great artists anyway; the fact that much of it was directed toward religious ends is simply a function of the popular religious attitudes of the time in which it was created. Leaders can organize the common people into all kinds of positive community service projects, with or without religious context. How about getting the people together to build a great library, which could stand for hundreds of years and offer both boundless educational opportunities and the same social glue of which you speak?

    Correlation doesn't prove causation, so I don't see how you can assert that great art cannot be created without religion, even though it's been a part of lots of great art in the past.
    If you could be anything you want, I bet you'd be disappointed--am I right?

  3. #13
    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Can't say I'm too surprised by the article. The reason, for example, that most British people do not realise Easter "celebrates" the resurrection of Jesus (real or not) is that they do not consider it relevant to them, and are not brought up to do so.

    If one could find a section in the Bible to recommend which store would have the cheapest chocolate eggs, it would be much more popular.

  4. #14
    Senior Member lowtech redneck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simulatedworld View Post
    I'd agree with you that the Bible has been extraordinarily influential in literature and art, and so it's definitely useful to study it from a literary standpoint.
    I think its even more useful to study it in order to understand history, for the same reasons that history itself is important to know. A major problem is that its virtually impossible to teach it in K-12 without a bunch of parents believing that a teacher is attempting to either convert their kids or undermine their religious beliefs.

    I agree that religion is not strictly necessary for art or advanced culture to develop; for many of the ancient greek city-states, religion was usually a secondary concern (at best) in the realms of art, literature, and philosophy...though it could very plausibly be argued that religion provides a common frame of reference that would otherwise be missing in large societies without mass-media capabilities.

  5. #15
    Sniffles
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    Quote Originally Posted by simulatedworld View Post
    Couldn't all of these great works of art and positive effects on the community occur in a secular context?
    Only for so long. As the religious influence within society declines, so then does the art.

    Leaders can organize the common people into all kinds of positive community service projects, with or without religious context.
    History proves otherwise. The only forms of community service that have stood the test of time have been those of more religious inspiration. Secular-based projects usually do not last more than a generation or so.

    Let's also remember that a strong sense of community based upon a strong religious conviction and connection among its members. Even in secular-based contexts this is referred to as "Civil Religion". This helps explain why even secular movements often had to try to co-op traditional religious beliefs and practices towards their own ends.

    Michael Burleigh has written two very good studies on this: Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe from the French Revolution to the Great War and Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror.

    Few examples: the secular Risorgimento actually tried to protray its leader Garibaldi as a Christ-like figure coming to save Italy's soul.

    There's also the more famous examples of how the Communists protrayed their great leaders in religious-like manners. The Russian emigre philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev noted how Bolshevism was largely a perversion of traditional Russian religiousity.

    Then there were the de-Christianization attempts made by the Jacobins during the French Revolution. Yet what they tried to replace it with was some vague cult of the Supreme Being, with vestiges of Greeco-Roman paganism.

    So like it or not, religion is an important part of social organization and function. As far as secularism goes, the issue becomes one between an authentic religious base for society or one based upon "Ersatz religions" as Eric Voegelin termed them. Much of the 19th and 20th centuries show that such Ersatz foundations do not provide mucn of a secure base for social and cultural vibrancy.

  6. #16
    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    Only for so long. As the religious influence within society declines, so then does the art.
    Really? How so?

  7. #17
    Sniffles
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    Really? How so?
    With religion, you have something aspiring man's talents towards to the highest heavens. Without that, what do you have? Nothing really, but petty self-absorption. Great art is like a water spring: eternal but always fresh.

    The grandeur of Classical, Medieval, Renaisance, Baroque, Neo-Classical, Romantic, etc. art will stand for generations to come because it sought to give expression to such eternal themes. But in order to do that, one must first believe in eternity to begin with.

    Modern and Post-modern art is largely obsessed with narcissistic themes, which by it's very nature limits its value. One precept of Modernist art was even that art didn't have to be beautiful to have value, as long as it gave the artist self-expression or whatnot.

    And that's the constrast between great art influenced by religion and shitty art inspired by irreligion: religion forces people to seek value in something greater then themselves - the greatest thing in the whole COSMOS in fact!

  8. #18
    Minister of Propagandhi ajblaise's Avatar
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    Artistic and cultural output suffered in the Dark Ages, when religion dominated all aspects of life. Art became "Christianized".

    When the secular Renaissance came about, it flourished.

  9. #19
    Sniffles
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    Quote Originally Posted by ajblaise View Post
    Artistic and cultural output suffered in the Dark Ages, when religion dominated all aspects of life. Art became "Christianized".
    The very notion of a "Dark Age" has actually been discarded by scholars for at least 50-100 years now. The "Dark Ages" were a very rich era in terms of culture.

    One recent work dealing with this topic is Julia M. H. Smith's Europe after Rome: A New Cultural History 500-1000. Of course this is only one among many many many MANY other sources one can consult.

    There's also Peter Brown, who has written much about Late Antiquity and notes that the early Medieval period was far more vibrant an age than previously thought.

    Just for fun, here's his remarks about one lasting legacy of the "Dark Ages" which still effects us to this day:
    "The Roman world still speaks to us. But we must remember that it speaks to us now only through books whose shapes came into being through the silent labor of generations of "technicians of the world" - lawyers, bureaucrats, and monks - in the centuries of Dark Age Christian Europe."
    --The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity AD 200-1000 pg. 23

    Yes you heard it, the book as we know it today was developed by Christian scribes during the "Dark Ages". On a related note I should mention that the practice of putting spaces between words was also developed during this period by Irish monks.

    Much has also been written about the great Renaisance of the 12-13th centuries.

    When the secular Renaissance came about, it flourished.
    It'd be more accurate to describe the Renaissance as "anti-Clerical" which is not the same thing as secular. Need we forget that the Papacy was the greatest parton for artworks during this time, which was a bone of contention with the more austere Protestant reformers.

  10. #20
    Don't Judge Me! Haphazard's Avatar
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    All I know is that I'm annoyed as Hell when my literature teachers keep telling me to pick up on all the religious symbolism when nobody ever taught me any.
    -Carefully taking sips from the Fire Hose of Knowledge

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