Religion as Art

Religion as Art March 18, 2016

By Gregory

I’ve been getting a lot of intellectual mileage out of thinking about religion and spirituality as art. And this ongoing meditation is helping me sort through my lack of clarity on many things.

What is the human impetus to create art? To draw? Paint? Sing? Write?

My sense is that the creative impulse is very similar to the religious impulse. Both human activities originate from similar roots. To pray, to worship, to commune – are acts with deep roots in the artistic impulse.

Think about it.

People engage art for a variety of reasons. They find different levels of meaning in the engagement. Two people can view the same work and reach different, legitimate conclusions. What moves me, might not move you.

Art allows an outlet for the deepest human drives and yearnings, much like religion. Art connects us to our creative, innovative, and fully human nature – as does religion.

Art is both an immanent and transcendent encounter. Art requires moments in solitude as well as community. Human existence is impoverished without both.

Going deeper – if religion is like art, then there is a valid aspect of personal autonomy in spirituality. Both religion and art touch us in ways mysterious. And what constitutes genuine religion may surprise us.

Even theology is artistic when at its best. Talking about beauty and goodness can be an exercise of artistic application – no need to abandon reason, it too, is beautiful.  Aesthetic values pervade all fields of study and human enterprise.

Ritual, music, décor, color, sound, smell – all these play a role in religious and aesthetic experience – where does one begin and the other end? Don’t they blend? Beauty is capable of pulling us out of ourselves – and in beauty we find the Divine.

Isn’t the good beautiful? And the beautiful good? Transcendental properties of being are universal – goodness, truth, beauty.

Both art and religion help us make life beautiful – and meaningful.

I leave you to ponder this – an essential aspect of Divinity is creativity. We share in the Divine image to the degree we, too, are creative. And creativity engages the whole person – mind, body, and soul. To think art doesn’t engage us rationally is to impoverish art and fail to do it justice.

Theology and art are both avenues to the Divine. And spirituality is akin to art in more ways than we may initially intuit.

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