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      CommentAuthorrickiep00h
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
     (8121.141)
    Holy crap! Sound waves in action!



    Past that, I have no idea what you're attempting to get at.
  1.  (8121.142)
    @Rickiepooh. "Really well" has no objective value. So the scientist cannot quantify it. It is therefore meaningless in that context.

    Music is not just mathematically related vibrations. That would be as you point out sound waves. Sequenced soundwaves perhaps, but this tells us nothing about what we define as music, why it can be so evocative, why a series of tones can unlock forgotten memories. While science may provide a model to tell us how such tones cause a surge of neurotransmitters to a region of the brain, it cannot tell us what those memories are, what they mean, because objectively they have no meaning. It is up to us to do that. We do that through Fictions imaginings and myth.

    Fictions, imaginings and myth have a lot of personal value, they speak subjective truths that resonate in us and this should be enough. However religion has exploited these for control, they have created doctrines and ideologies out of rich fantasies and folk histories Stephen J Gould talks about Science and Religion being non-overlapping magesteria. He was wrong simply because what religion does is claim that it's fictions, its imaginings are objective. It infringes upon the realm of science and thus gets itself into hot water.

    However outside of that control error, they remain seperate fields.
    •  
      CommentAuthorrickiep00h
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010 edited
     (8121.143)
    @Rickiepooh. "Really well" has no objective value. So the scientist cannot quantify it. It is therefore meaningless in that context.
    How about "very accurately (outside of the disproportionately small penis, that is)" instead of "really well"?

    Music is not just mathematically related vibrations. That would be as you point out sound waves. Sequenced sound waves perhaps, but this tells us nothing about what we define as music, why it can be so evocative, why a series of tones can unlock forgotten memories.
    Because we associate that music wth feelings and memories.
    While science may provide a model to tell us how such tones cause a surge of neurotransmitters to a region of the brain, it cannot tell us what those memories are, what they mean, because objectively they have no meaning.
    Not yet.

    But really, yes, all music is is mathematically related pulses of sound waves that fire off certain bits of gray matter. Western music has been beaten to death. Almost everyone in western culture associates the same feelings with the same scalar intervals whether they've been trained in it or not. Eastern music I know less about, but you can still tell happy music from sad (I think), and so on.

    The whole thing is getting a bit sidetracked, here, so... I'm gonna go to bed. Y'all carry on.
    •  
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2010
     (8121.144)
    @Rachael
    But does the fact that I experience something that is not quantifiable, explainable, or tangible and do not refute it's existence make me a non-atheist and/or a non-realist?


    The atheists shouldn't be too bothered but things with the rational sceptics might be a little bit awkward for a while.
    •  
      CommentAuthortexture
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2010
     (8121.145)
    does the fact that I experience something that is not quantifiable, explainable, or tangible and do not refute it's existence make me a non-atheist and/or a non-realist


    Agree with what SteadyUp said, and I'm gonna quote Hamlet:

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."


    Which goes back to a point I was attempting to make earlier - it is hard to compare science and religion, because generally speaking, religions are doctrinal, closed-loop belief systems. Science is always malleable in its approach to what is fact or reality - it is improved upon, built upon, every day. Although I do agree with others who say that trying to make science into a belief system, as Dawkins et al are sometimes guilty of, makes a mockery of this distinction. There is nothing more annoying to me than a militant atheist.

    I don't wish to offend anybody, but I am going to chuck in my tuppence-worth one more time. As Alan Moore has said: "The one place in which gods and demons inarguably exist is in the human mind, where they are real in all their grandeur and monstrosity." In other words, what you believe from an inner-oriented point of view is entirely your perrogative, and I would never dare question its validity as either a cultural affiliation, comforting belief system, or moral compass or whatever. If anything, this is where I would locate things like chaos magic, NLP, positive thinking, the placebo effect, mind-over-matter, life after death experiences, meditation... anything 'not quantifiable, explainable, or tangible'.... either they are currently outside of the scope that science can explain, or they are facets of the very beautiful and still largely mysterious phenomenon we call consciousness (which will also, one day, be better explained by science). They do not in any way negate a healthy, rational skepticism - they certainly do not invalidate your atheism. Far from it! Your open-ness to these phenomena is what makes you credible, in my eyes. To disavow the possibility of these phenomena having some kind of explanation would be very closed-minded. Adherence to dogma is the province of religion: open-minded skepticism that of science. Occam's Razor.

    So to answer the thread's original question, from my point of view there is no problem balancing the explainable with the unexplained. That, ladies and gents, is the aim of the game - define your terms, narrow it down. Think.

    We live in an era where debate about whether or not gods and demons are or could be part of our consensus reality is largely futile, as far as I am concerned. I would love to exist in a world where belief was considered an entirely private matter, and rather than tiptoeing around fundamentalists with dangerously erroneous notions of what constitutes fact and fiction, it was considered bad form to even bring up the matter of 'beliefs' in public. I don't see it happening though - religion may be on the wane broadly speaking, but it will not disappear from human culture entirely within my lifetime.
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2010
     (8121.146)
    Let me put it this way. I'm Jewish, my wife is not (although she's seriously considering converting, it speaks to her in ways her Christian upbringing doesn't, but that's not what I'm getting at here).

    We have gone to many a Torah study class together, at several different temples, as we both find the subject very interesting.

    At your typical example of one of these classes, there will be a passage that is being discussed. Perhaps a couple of chapters from the Book of Jeremiah. As we go through it as a group, people will voice their opinions about what the meaning of the passage is, and there is polite and lively debate about it. The rabbi will help moderate the discussion, and will help answer questions, such as "what was the original hebrew word used in this part, is it possible there's another way to translate this?" Despite my wife not being jewish, she was free to participate, and in fact brought many valuable insights that the rest of the group deeply appreciated.

    One of the things my wife LOVES about Judaism is that this experience is very different from her upbringing, where the pastor would read the passage to the class, and *tell* them what it meant. No debate, no alternative interpretations, no discussion. She hated that.

    When I referred to evidence and precedent before, let me expand on that. In talmudic study or even the more informal torah classes as described above, people will often refer back to other portions of Jewish lore or writings to support their interpretation. Many a talmudic rebuttal starts with something like, "But Rabbi Akiva once said...". But your own feelings and interpretations are just as valid, and also that it is important to interpret what the biblical writings mean for us in *today's world*. Judaism evolves with the times -- particularly Reform Judaism, but even Orthodox changes with the times, albeit more slowly. Does the torah forbid the eating of pork? Yes, but that was in a time when trichinosis was a much more serious and prevalent threat. Does the torah forbid wearing garments made from more than one type of thread? Yes, but that's really not practical in today's world of cotton/polyester blends and so forth, and God's not going to piss on you for wearing a comfortable golf shirt from Casual Male XL when you go to work. But rabbi, why was this fabric issue necessary to begin with in those times? And so on and so forth.

    I really, really dislike the notion that a religious institution is by definition a stifling oppressive entity. Could it be one? Sure, and many have been in the past, and I've had plenty of those experiences too, which is why I consider myself Agnostic. But let's not assume that they all are, please. I've known many Rabbis and Priests who impressed me with the sincerity of their faith, and how they acted as servants of their community, rather than setting themselves up as little God-Kings of their congregation.
    •  
      CommentAuthortexture
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2010
     (8121.147)
    God's not going to piss on you for wearing a comfortable golf shirt from Casual Male XL when you go to work


    Well, thank goodness for that...
    • CommentAuthorVerissimus
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2010
     (8121.148)
    I'm going to be honest here: as an atheist, it just frustrates me that when I look at history (at least anything before the Renaissance) almost all the major artistic accomplishments seem to be linked to religion. Especially in literature. Also, it seems a bit sad. Weren't people allowed to write about other things? Or am I somehow overlooking a vast body of secular literature?

    Also, I wonder wether there's an atheist equivalent to the religious monastic community. I loved the community aspect of the way the monks lived in the Buddhist monastery where I stayed, the way they worked, meditated and enjoyed each other's company.
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2010
     (8121.149)
    Well, there is a passage in Leviticus that forbids wearing garments made out of differing materials. It's a classic example of why religion has to move with the times, and in most cases, people do understand that. We don't follow EvERYTHING the bible says we should do -- in the modern world, the context is either so completely different as to render the rule invalid, or the ethics of society have evolved that the rule is no longer appropriate, or the issue that the rule meant to address is no longer a problem (like the pork thing). I don't think there's anyone in this world who follows every single rule to the letter, it's just not a practical possibility.

    By the by, pointing this out is a nice way to shoot down bigots who claim discrimination against gays is "Mandated By God" in the bible. Martin Sheen did an epic version of this approach in an episode of the West Wing against a character meant to represent Dr. Laura.

    My point here is that there are intelligent people of sincere faith, who gain positive benefits from their faith and the community derived from faith, who follow a reasonable code of ethics. Many of these ethical decisions are based on writings from the bible, but many are also derived from common sense and their own personal feelings of what is right and wrong. Just because someone is a Christian doesn't automatically mean that they're an anti-gay bigot. There are Catholics who use birth control. There are Muslims who have no problem with the idea of representing the prophet Mohammed in representational art. There are Jews who eat pork and drive a car on saturday. Do these people sometimes get crap from others of their faith who hold with opposing viewpoints? Sure, and those who are completely inflexible about things like this and demand the same rigidity out of others are *assholes*.

    But let's at least allow for the possibility that there are people who are intelligent, persons of faith, and not assholes, all at the same time.
  2.  (8121.150)
    "But let's at least allow for the possibility that there are people who are intelligent, persons of faith, and not assholes, all at the same time."

    There's a word for that... tip of my tongue... oh yeah... tolerance.
    • CommentAuthorVerissimus
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2010
     (8121.151)
    Just because someone is a Christian doesn't automatically mean that they're an anti-gay bigot. There are Catholics who use birth control. There are Muslims who have no problem with the idea of representing the prophet Mohammed in representational art. There are Jews who eat pork and drive a car on saturday. Do these people sometimes get crap from others of their faith who hold with opposing viewpoints? Sure, and those who are completely inflexible about things like this and demand the same rigidity out of others are *assholes*.


    The problem is that the inflexible ones are the one that are doing it right, they are folowing the actual rules of the religion. If you take away those rules, and the priests say, well, you can do pretty much do whatever you think is best because in all honesty I don't know any better than you do, doesn't it mean that's Catholic in name only?

    If all that remains is "trying to do the right thing", and there is no longer any adherence to dogma or tradition, than that's not actually religion anymore in my honest opinion, that's just doing what every single human being on the face of the Earth is doing all the time.
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2010
     (8121.152)
    @Verus -- Well, religion was a much larger aspect of people's lives back then, and that colored much of what they did. If all you have is a hammer, everything around you looks like a nail. Even the old Greek plays had their roots in religious ceremony, although not everything they discussed *directly* related to the gods. As cultures, ethics, and methods of communication advanced, people's horizons were broadened, and a wider variety of topics got explored.

    I'm sure there are some cases where someone who wanted to secular art was forbidden to do so by a religious official, and that's a real tragedy, no question. But there are a lot of artists who focused on divine concepts, because it never occurred to them to do anything else, and it was something they loved doing.
    • CommentAuthorFan
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2010 edited
     (8121.153)
    > Especially in literature. Also, it seems a bit sad. Weren't people allowed to write about other things? Or am I somehow overlooking a vast body of secular literature?

    Well there was Chaucer, for example. And travelogues were popular. And tales, like the Chanson de Roland, and Arthurian legend.

    [These have some religion in too: for example, one of the reasons for travel was pilgrimage, Roland's soul is eventually taken to paradise by angels, and Arthur's knights quest for the Holy Grail.]

    There were books on natural history too: medicine etc.

    And they preserved all the classical literature (history and philosophy and natural science) that remains to us.

    > Weren't people allowed to write about other things?

    I think there was a time (in pre-Renaissance Europe) when, for reasons I don't understand, the only people who knew how to read and write were monks and priests. And, yes, they would have monastic discipline: routine, obedience, and a focus on religious matters. There were also clerks: employed by bishops and by dukes etc.

    Given that only clerics could read and write, it's not surprising that a lot of the (written) literature was religious.

    Within the more popular (than literature) art forms, e.g. the non-written songs and plays, many of them had religious motifs too; but some of them didn't, for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumer_Is_Icumen_In.
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2010
     (8121.154)
    @Verus -- Whose job is it to define identity? This is one of the key questions of humanity, in my opinion, and it's not an easy one that's going away anytime soon.

    However, I'll throw in another two cents on this score.

    I'll start with my own Judaism. There are roughly three major branches of Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. There is a HUGE disparity between these branches, and lots of other divisions within each branch, to the point that trying to contain all of Judaism within those three categories may already be outdated.

    Orthodox Jews (which includes Hasiddic Jews, the ones who wear the dark suits and hats, thick beards, and curly sideburns) tend to be the most hardcore about dogma. They try to adhere to as many mitzvot (roughly translated as "good deeds" or holy commandments) as they can, such as resting on Saturdays, peforming certain observances, and so on. Many orthodox Jews believe that the more mitzvot they perform or adhere to, the sooner the Messiah will come.

    Reform Jews (such as myself) tend to known as cherry-pickers. We're encouraged to study and understand the whole broadness of Judaism and Jewish thought, and then observe those customs or mitzvot that feel right and relevant to us. Some Reform Jews don't wear head coverings, for example, but some wear them just as much as an orthodox jew would, depending on the person. Reform seminaries will ordain female rabbis, wheras Orthodox does not.

    Conservative Jews fall somewhere in between Reform and Orthodox -- not as strict as most Orthodox, but not as choose-your-own-adventure as Reform Jews.

    There's also Humanistic Jews, who are essentially atheists but still revere their Jewish ethnicity and cultural heritage. Reconstructionist Jews, who take a even more modern-adaptive view than most Reform (such as considering Miriam, the sister of Moses, as a full Prophet of God, on equal terms with Moses). And even, awkwardly, the Messianic Jews, or "Jews For Jesus."

    The debate between these factions over "What Is A Jew?" is nonstop, and can get extremely heated at times. It seems like most of the row happens between Orthodox and Reform, with Conservatives getting caught in the middle like a kid stuck in a messy divorce. About the only thing these three DO agree on is that the Jews For Jesus make them EXTREMELY uncomfortable. One of the bigger defining traits of Jews being that they don't believe the Messiah has come yet, and that while Jesus is a prophet worthy of study and respect, that he was not of divine origin. Jews For Jesus fly in the face of that, and it doesn't help that JFJ folks tend to aggressively evangelize at other Jews.

    So there's all sorts of debate going on as to if any one faction are "Really" Jewish or not. Even the Orthodox are not 100% in keeping with The Old Ways. In fact, the Hassidic Jews were *THE* radical rabblerousers of their day, centuries ago, but now they're the Old Guard. Times change, even with the hardcore.

    So the debate goes on. It's our faith, and we'll happily debate this until the sun goes out. But how could we presume to judge some other faith? I have two Catholic friends who use birth control, and in fact want to make sure they never have kids. It would be ridiculously rude and disrespect for me to presume to judge her. "Oh, you're not REALLY a Catholic, everyone knows Catholics don't ever use birth control. You're a FAKE Catholic." How snide!

    Let's be even more specific. This whole thread started because an Atheist had an experience that they weren't sure what to make of, that caused them to wonder about issues of religion and science and how the two interact. If a person of faith, or even an agnostic had said to her in this thread, "You know, Atheists aren't allowed any doubts. I denounce you as a Fake Atheist, and will ostracize you if you ever claim to be such a thing ever again", that would've been the height of nasty, crude, cruel, and disrespectful.

    "The problem is that the inflexible ones are the one that are doing it right, they are folowing the actual rules of the religion. If you take away those rules, and the priests say, well, you can do pretty much do whatever you think is best because in all honesty I don't know any better than you do, doesn't it mean that's Catholic in name only?"

    There is no One True Way of doing it right, even within a faith! Even within a denomination within a faith! Even within one single church or synagogue of a denomination of a faith! Some people within that faith might *claim* there is, but they are assholes and hypocrites and should be scorned as such. So where does someone who's not even claiming inclusion within that group, claim the right to judge qualifications for it?

    If a non-Jew told me that I wasn't REALLY a Jew because I eat pork, drive on saturdays, don't wear a yarmulke, don't do this or that or the other, I would be PISSED. Really, seriously pissed. Does that critic know the first thing of what goes into being Jewish? Have they ever recited, or even read, the Shema? Stood for the Amida? Read from the Torah before a minyan at their Bar or Bat Mitzvah? Read from the Talmud or Mishnah? Given respect to a Mezzuzah placed upon a threshold? Contemplated the meaning of freedom and the horrors of slavery on Passover? There are untold thousands or more aspects of being a person of any given identity or group, and *no one* is going to meet all of them. We are not monolithic clones, we are human beings with differences. Viva la difference.

    One last thought. How pissed off do you think a bisexual person feels when a homosexual person says to them "you aren't really gay"? Quite a lot, really.
    •  
      CommentAuthorrickiep00h
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2010
     (8121.155)
    How pissed off do you think a bisexual person feels when a homosexual person says to them "you aren't really gay"? Quite a lot, really.
    Being bisexual, I don't really care. Because I don't care what other people think of me as long as they're not throwing punches. Which is, really, the whole attitude that people ought to adopt with regard to religion: it's a personal thing, you shouldn't try to force people to believe whatever your made-up coping mechanism is, and you shouldn't get violent at people toward their made-up coping mechanism.
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2010
     (8121.156)
    And I can get behind that idea 100%.
    • CommentAuthorVerissimus
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2010
     (8121.157)
    @Verus -- Whose job is it to define identity? This is one of the key questions of humanity, in my opinion, and it's not an easy one that's going away anytime soon.

    However, I'll throw in another two cents on this score.

    I'll start with my own Judaism. There are roughly three major branches of Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. There is a HUGE disparity between these branches, and lots of other divisions within each branch, to the point that trying to contain all of Judaism within those three categories may already be outdated.

    Orthodox Jews (which includes Hasiddic Jews, the ones who wear the dark suits and hats, thick beards, and curly sideburns) tend to be the most hardcore about dogma. They try to adhere to as many mitzvot (roughly translated as "good deeds" or holy commandments) as they can, such as resting on Saturdays, peforming certain observances, and so on. Many orthodox Jews believe that the more mitzvot they perform or adhere to, the sooner the Messiah will come.

    Reform Jews (such as myself) tend to known as cherry-pickers. We're encouraged to study and understand the whole broadness of Judaism and Jewish thought, and then observe those customs or mitzvot that feel right and relevant to us. Some Reform Jews don't wear head coverings, for example, but some wear them just as much as an orthodox jew would, depending on the person. Reform seminaries will ordain female rabbis, wheras Orthodox does not.

    Conservative Jews fall somewhere in between Reform and Orthodox -- not as strict as most Orthodox, but not as choose-your-own-adventure as Reform Jews.

    There's also Humanistic Jews, who are essentially atheists but still revere their Jewish ethnicity and cultural heritage. Reconstructionist Jews, who take a even more modern-adaptive view than most Reform (such as considering Miriam, the sister of Moses, as a full Prophet of God, on equal terms with Moses). And even, awkwardly, the Messianic Jews, or "Jews For Jesus."

    The debate between these factions over "What Is A Jew?" is nonstop, and can get extremely heated at times. It seems like most of the row happens between Orthodox and Reform, with Conservatives getting caught in the middle like a kid stuck in a messy divorce. About the only thing these three DO agree on is that the Jews For Jesus make them EXTREMELY uncomfortable. One of the bigger defining traits of Jews being that they don't believe the Messiah has come yet, and that while Jesus is a prophet worthy of study and respect, that he was not of divine origin. Jews For Jesus fly in the face of that, and it doesn't help that JFJ folks tend to aggressively evangelize at other Jews.

    So there's all sorts of debate going on as to if any one faction are "Really" Jewish or not. Even the Orthodox are not 100% in keeping with The Old Ways. In fact, the Hassidic Jews were *THE* radical rabblerousers of their day, centuries ago, but now they're the Old Guard. Times change, even with the hardcore.

    So the debate goes on. It's our faith, and we'll happily debate this until the sun goes out. But how could we presume to judge some other faith? I have two Catholic friends who use birth control, and in fact want to make sure they never have kids. It would be ridiculously rude and disrespect for me to presume to judge her. "Oh, you're not REALLY a Catholic, everyone knows Catholics don't ever use birth control. You're a FAKE Catholic." How snide!

    Let's be even more specific. This whole thread started because an Atheist had an experience that they weren't sure what to make of, that caused them to wonder about issues of religion and science and how the two interact. If a person of faith, or even an agnostic had said to her in this thread, "You know, Atheists aren't allowed any doubts. I denounce you as a Fake Atheist, and will ostracize you if you ever claim to be such a thing ever again", that would've been the height of nasty, crude, cruel, and disrespectful.

    "The problem is that the inflexible ones are the one that are doing it right, they are folowing the actual rules of the religion. If you take away those rules, and the priests say, well, you can do pretty much do whatever you think is best because in all honesty I don't know any better than you do, doesn't it mean that's Catholic in name only?"

    There is no One True Way of doing it right, even within a faith! Even within a denomination within a faith! Even within one single church or synagogue of a denomination of a faith! Some people within that faith might *claim* there is, but they are assholes and hypocrites and should be scorned as such. So where does someone who's not even claiming inclusion within that group, claim the right to judge qualifications for it?

    If a non-Jew told me that I wasn't REALLY a Jew because I eat pork, drive on saturdays, don't wear a yarmulke, don't do this or that or the other, I would be PISSED. Really, seriously pissed. Does that critic know the first thing of what goes into being Jewish? Have they ever recited, or even read, the Shema? Stood for the Amida? Read from the Torah before a minyan at their Bar or Bat Mitzvah? Read from the Talmud or Mishnah? Given respect to a Mezzuzah placed upon a threshold? Contemplated the meaning of freedom and the horrors of slavery on Passover? There are untold thousands or more aspects of being a person of any given identity or group, and *no one* is going to meet all of them. We are not monolithic clones, we are human beings with differences. Viva la difference.

    One last thought. How pissed off do you think a bisexual person feels when a homosexual person says to them "you aren't really gay"? Quite a lot, really.


    I see your point. Of course, everybody has the right to form their own rules, identity, etc. That's my point as well. However this is not how religion works traditionally; in religion ethics are mostly decided for you. Or that's at least the impression I always got from them. That's the egregious point of the whole thing, the groupthink that is inherent to it.

    I suppose you could let that go and form a personal version of the religion; in some religions, I guess reform Judaism might be one of those, people do that these days, however I think it is a valid question wether you're still "part of the group" once you do that. It's also a question of what you base your allegiances on: do you hang out with a certain group because you agree with them, or because of some sense of belonging, or shared heritage?

    It's like the scene in Life of Brian where Brian tells the people to be individuals, and to be different. If they do become true individuals, they should stop following him around, and you do not base a religion on that principle.
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2010
     (8121.158)
    Schism is a part of nearly every religion's history. When Martin Luther went on his tear against the church of his era, it ended up creating a whole new branch of Christianity. In their case, they decided that the "Catholic" label wasn't for them anymore, and went with Protestant instead, and now Protestantism is a worldwide religion every bit as relevant as Catholicism, if less centralized.

    On the other hand, American Catholics are considered to be very different from Catholics in other parts of the world, in terms of how certain subjects and dogma are approached -- yet they are still recognized as Catholics by the Vatican, and are considered a valued part of the church.

    So, sometimes the schism is too big, and the disagreeing people feel they have to (or are made to) go off and form a new group on their own. Sometimes, the differences are subtle enough that group identity is maintained. And it is possible to maintain a group identity while at the same time be an individual, thinking for yourself. We are large, we contain multitudes.

    All of us here are part of the group of Whitechapel. We have a shared identity as posters in this forum. But that's hardly all we are, of course.
    • CommentAuthorTwist
    • CommentTimeApr 30th 2010 edited
     (8121.159)
    I'm going to be honest here: as an atheist, it just frustrates me that when I look at history (at least anything before the Renaissance) almost all the major artistic accomplishments seem to be linked to religion. Especially in literature. Also, it seems a bit sad. Weren't people allowed to write about other things? Or am I somehow overlooking a vast body of secular literature?


    Verus there's a really good reason for that. Several actually.

    Firstly and above most things: The church preserves. The reason that there is so much religious art from those periods is because those that serve the big old institution often went to great effort to care for the art. If you've ever had the pleasure of walking through the Vatican galleries you'd be familiar with the sheer scope of what they have collected and preserved which is a selection of what they have not the entirety, I believe. Beyond that collection there is also the massive numbers of works that have been donated or sold to other galleries to be displayed. Call them what you want, but they have done the art world great service in preserving a large chunk of its history.

    Secondly: Money talks. Most art works that were preserved were paid for by the wealthy. The poor could not afford it. The wealthy wanted to remain in good graces. Often highly religious works from before, during in, and quite some time after the Renaissance would depict the people who commissioned it. Whether these remained in private homes or were donated to local places of worship. A great deal of sculpture had the same premises behind its creation. Money also comes into play when you speak about the raw materials. Pigment was extremely expensive, as were brushes which need to be replenished or replaced regularly. They didn't have the advantage of paint from the tube and synthetic brushes like we do now.

    Third: Education wasn't common. The Renaissance is seen as this massive cultural educational period of grace. Its wasn't as huge as you'd think. Schooling still cost, most of it was still confined to upper and more affluent middle class citizens. Before the Renaissance the Church itself was responsible for most of the educated outside of the aristocracy and merchant class. Hence most your literature was religiously based. There's also a matter of printing. Mass distribution, something we take almost for granted, wasn't really possible. The stories were there, but mostly spread the old fashioned way: dialogue, song, folk tales. There have been attempts to gather a lot of that old lore together, but we only really have dribs and drabs, and much of that is religious, just not Christian, or of spiritual/other worldly themes. The way we view story telling is very different to what it once was.

    Other factors such as the destruction of homes and public buildings (deliberately or by natural causes), weather conditions and bad storage have taken a lot of art from us. Especially portraiture which was the most common forms of employ for artists in those times. Artists were also bonded to guilds. You could not work unless you were a guild member in many countries. Hence limited art by women of the era, it was extremely difficult for them to gain the required sponsorship to become guild members. There's also the factor that artists needed to be paid, and those with money paid to keep up with the latest fashions and trends, and so we get the consistency of theme and composition in a lot of periods.

    The Church was responsible for a great deal of destruction at times, but they were also responsible for a massive amount of creation. The amassed power and wealth of the modern Catholic institution doesn't even begin to touch on what they were in the past. They had the money to pay artists, to commission them to do great works, and the power to force them to accept whether they liked it or not. They had huge influence over what people thought about as well, especially laymen who couldn't read and write. And at the end of the day you can't fault their preservation efforts on material that was of interest to them.

    Its also worth remembering that there was a time when the Church was a sponsor of the sciences...

    Hi, I'm an art geek of the exceedingly geeky kind :p

    Edit: If you do get the chance go to the Vatican gallery. It is amazing. And the Sistine Chapel is tiny. So much smaller than it looks in photos.
    • CommentAuthorVerissimus
    • CommentTimeApr 30th 2010 edited
     (8121.160)
    I was in the Vatican museum. It's all incredibly beautiful, but I found it odd to see the wealth they have amassed. I thought poverty was a Christian virtue. This and other things make the entire Christian faith seem like a huge scam to me.

    Its also worth remembering that there was a time when the Church was a sponsor of the sciences...


    Science didn't advance a whole lot in the time the Church sponsored science, and the Church leadership frequently tried to suppress certain scientific findings which went against the official line.