If I’m a non-believer, why patronize theist music, film and other forms of artwork?

The Merriam-Webster website definition for patronize here that I use is the following:

“3 : to be a frequent or regular customer or client of

And not the derogatory meaning of the word, although this should not mean that all theist work of art, music, etc are all praiseworthy (at least from my viewpoint).

One of the things people ask me, assuming they know I’m a non-believer, is how I can possibly enjoy theistic works of art, music, etc. without believing in their religion, or even in theism itself.

What I would normally reply, given the appropriate amount of time, is that it’s quite easy to understand or imagine, really. This reply of course has little assumptions of its own, and one of those is that the listener should have an open mind. For the listener to somehow even ‘glimpse’ the reason why or how I can enjoy theistic works of art, music etc, he/she must have at least a mind that is open to rational,sensible logic and imagination. He/she must also not be one of those religious fundamentalists, whether it be in Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, etc. What I mean by religious fundamentalists in this sense are those people who kill or are willing to die and kill others, not just themselves, just because their holy books think it’s appropriate to do so. Although I’ve actually never met someone like that before, I would think that it will be really hard, if not impossible, to reason my cause with them. And I believe the reason for that deserves another blog post on it’s own.

Going back to the reason for my answer as to why I manage to enjoy theistic works of art, music, etc while being a skeptic, my answer is this:

For those of us who enjoy, for example, The Lord of the Rings trilogy or Star Trek , or Disney movies, we gather the fact that we acquire entertainment and amusement and wisdom from these works, without ever believing the characters really existed. Even as kids, teens, young adults, and adults, we enjoyed watching them, and probably at some points in our lives we deemed them to be true to life, we now know for a fact (I hope so) that they didn’t really happen or the characters never existed at all. We can enjoy songs by Josh Groban or Pavarotti for example, and be moved by how they sing, the emotions they put in their songs, the beautiful compositions, and the abstract or poetic meanings of their lyrics and still not be lulled into believing myths and fantastical stories they refer to in the scriptures.

Star Trek TOS (Spock & Kirk) - Alice in Wonderland (Alice & the mad hatter) - Return of the King (Aragorn & Frodo)

From this reasoning, it follows that one can appreciate, enjoy, marvel at, and even be astounded, amazed, and moved by works of different people from different walks of life and belief. And from that reasoning also it should be clear that when, for example one sings or watches or buys theistic works, be they movies, books, paintings, songs, one doesn’t (and I believe should not) have to believe in all those supernatural stories and myths. One can appreciate and enjoy Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and other great artists and their works, as purelyfiction, and nothing more.

Of course the argument that what motivates people, artists, geniuses to create their masterpieces is faith, theism or religion is another matter altogether, and again deserves another blog post. One good reference for that is professor Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion in the chapter titled The Argument From Beauty.

The God Delusion -by prof. Richard Dawkins - UK paperback edition

In that chapter prof. Dawkins excellently explicates ( I always admire alliteration ) the arguments pertaining to this line of reasoning. Prof. Dawkins goes on to say that, since there was hardly any other option other than to believe in the local religion back then (particularly Catholicism or Christianity if we’ll be talking about European artists in this case), naturally the artists would’ve decided to be theists. The other, extremely harsh consequences of not believing in God then was not receiving any funding (even for example, food and money) to complete one’s work, a chance to display one’s talents, and it would even be tantamount to death. In other words, it’s believe or suffer/die. Obviously the choice is usually rather easy. And people of different religiosity, theistic or otherwise  derive their sense of awe, wonder, their motivations and inspirations not from the belief in a supernatural creator, but if you look closely, to more human sensations and experiences: respect, love (e.g. for a mate, one’s country), death, suffering, sex, etc.

In closing, for us non-believers (doubters, skeptics, agnostics, what have you) to be bothered as to why we allow ourselves to be immersed and to be able to appreciate theistic works of art, music, etc, thinking that it contradicts our non-belief, please don’t be. Enjoying something and believing it to be true are two entirely different things. For those of you out there who still cling onto faith, religion and theism just because you think you can’t leave your craft, be it making music, movies, books, etc. while being mentally gnawed by the irrationalities and inconsistencies of religion, you don’t have to be. There is a way out, and you can still enjoy your lives and your craft.

 

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15 comments

  1. I take up music in UST, and appreciating the pieces of the Masses and Requiems by a number of composers has really nothing to do with the object they adore. What's beautiful about analyzing a piece is you don't make hasty generalizations that "fuck, this must be a work of God" unless you really intend it for a metaphor. If we felt the beauty of God in these pieces, maybe its a matter of consciousness nalang that the God we've felt is the same as Tridu depicted in Mascagni's opera Cavalleria Rusticana, or a hero in Wagner's The Ring. That holiness is subject to literary artistic appreciations.
    Music has nothing to do with mysticism or anything sublime. I say again, MUSIC ISN'T SUBLIME.
    Another thing, religion is also a vital factor during the olden days when the obscurities of religion are the primitive society's trends. I myself could see religion a vital factor too for my art because of its hundreds of interpretations made up by religious composers.
    One of these is the Annunciation of Mary. This could be put into one opera, depicted are the scenes where a handsome unknown male knocks on Mary's door, attracted by her traits for a greater person as he is, then fucked her. Then she will dream, and out of her imagination figments Gabriel said she was pregnant, then she'll wake up and the man already gone. Mary will tell her chick Elizabeth that she's impregnated by the man she do not know – where Elizabeth will say, "That must be God". Then the problem of single motherhood will be resolved when Joseph faced the challenge of taking care of a pregnant woman. And they will give birth to a lovely bastard. The them here is how to overcome pride, hehe.

  2. Can a Christian not enjoy architecture and art of other religions or cultures? Same same. I'm an atheist but boy do I love religious aesthetics.

      • That's why many Christians are limited from enjoying more art and music because "too bad it's secular." Thesis works of my fine arts friends have been questioned and picked apart for that reason. Religion is inhibiting.

        • I suppose they are quite limited in that sense. In films as well. 🙂

          They've been picked apart for being secular? Oh that's too bad. Yes religion can be quite inhibiting, especially if you're a fundamentalist, for obvious reasons. The more moderate ones, they can still be inhibited, or rather, confused or bothered by the seemingly conflicting views of religion and what they seem to enjoy. Thus is the point my post was trying to make: there is a way out.

        • Great series and I’m glad to see more than a few ilvididuans, particularly men, stepping up to the plate and commendably asserting, as did Ronald Lindsay, that “threats of violence should not be condoned, tolerated, or treated with indifference by anyone, let alone by those who call themselves humanists or freethinkers.” Behaviour that is well beyond the pale and well across the Rubicon.And it really has been a bit of an eye-opener to see the extent or rather the depth to which far too many people, mostly men by the look of it, have descended with some rather vituperative language and with some decidedly hateful and savage threats. It might be instructive to ask ourselves exactly why such virulent misogynism has so much currency.However, while I don’t want to be raining on anyone’s parade, I think it is unwise to be thinking that all women are as enlightened as feminists in general and as Skepchick supporters in particular. Or even to be thinking that all feminists and all women are entirely blameless in whatever processes led or contributed to the various manifestations of that attitude. Or appearances of it: not all criticisms of women or feminists justify such charges.For instance, while many of the “men’s rights” supporters give some indications of being decidedly off the wall – rage being all the rage these days, one can’t help but get the impression from some of the saner ones that they might have a point or two in their favour: where there’s smoke one very frequently finds some incendiary causes that are other than self-inflicted arson.Might be a step in the direction of rapprochement to give some consideration to some of those claims.

  3. i bet a large number of christian fundamentalist also watched jurrasic park. the bible says that the world was created only 4,000 years ago, that makes the dinosaurs younger than the pyramids of giza.

  4. I believe that if a story is well-written enough, a message or moral that was originally inspired by one religion can become something universal for viewers of other beliefs (or non belief).

    For example, the Bukas Palad's "Pilgrim's Theme" is cleverly written as to leave out any direct references to the Abrahamic God or Jesus. While believers can appreciate the song, I as a deist also like it because of the way it portrays one's personal search for purpose in a seemingly conformist society.

    Here's a sample of the lyrics:

    Tired of weaving dreams too loose for me to wear
    Tired of watching clouds repeat their dance on air
    Tired of getting tired of doing what's required
    Is life a mere routine in the greater scheme of things

    Through with taking roads someone else designed
    Through with chasing stars that soon forget to shine
    Through with going through one more day – what's new
    Does my life still mean a thing in the greater scheme of things

    Religious movies, I can appreciate too if they're well-written, they don't feel like they're proselytizing, and they portray people of other faiths accurately. Kingdom of Heaven comes to mind.

    • "Religious movies, I can appreciate too if they’re well-written, they don’t feel like they’re proselytizing, and they portray people of other faiths accurately."

      Agreed. 🙂

  5. @yudzin

    I actually like and appreciate a lot of church songs, and am taken by their lyrical and musical make up. If you just leave the underlying irrational or fundamentalist message, they're quite good to listen to. 🙂 Same thing goes for religious art pieces.

  6. Just a footnote:

    Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and Alice in Wonderland creator Lewis Carroll are both skeptics of religion. I just used them for emphasizing my point, not to mention them being a few of my favorite art works. 🙂
    So only The Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkien seems to be religious, which can be quite seen in his LOTR books.

  7. nice post… even i, still loves christian music.. and still do play them… ^_^ regardless of what the lyrics means.. LOL… i love music, that's all…. hehehe…

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