Atheist art

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A Soviet propaganda poster disseminated in the Bezbozhnik (Atheist) magazine depicting Jesus being dumped from a wheelbarrow by an industrial worker as well as a smashed church bell; the text advocates Industrialisation Day as an alternative replacement to the Christian Transfiguration Day.

Atheist art is art which uses themes and/or imagery from atheism or atheistic concepts.

Despite atheism existing for thousands of years and predating Christianity, there is a small proportion of art compared to religious art. For example, Wikipedia, which was founded by an atheist and agnostic, has no article on "Atheist art", but Wikipedia does have an article on Christian art.

Atheists generally apathetic about atheist art

Most atheists and atheist groups do not use the limited amount of atheist art which is available. The atheist Austin Cline wrote: "Aesthetics almost never comes up in atheists' discussions about religion...there is little to no 'atheist art.'"[1]

The atheist and feminist Skepchick writer Any Roth wrote about the atheist population having apathy about atheist art: "Does art matter to atheism? This is actually an interesting question that I don’t think movement atheist thinks much about."[2]

Historically, religious institutions sponsored great works of art and architecture. Atheist groups do not have a tradition of sponsoring great works of art and architecture.

Atheist art commonly employs mockery and/or ugliness

See also: Atheism and mockery

An atheist posted to atheist Sam Harris' discussion board: "This idea started when I googled “atheist art”. You see I was expecting to find art. Instead, what you get is a whole bunch of knockoffs of famous religious art that has been disfigured and mutilated. This made me slightly ashamed."[3]

Atheism and architecture

See: Atheism and architecture

Low amount of quality atheist art: Atheism is an uninspiring and negative concept

Uninspiring nature of atheism

See also: Atheism and inspiration and Atheism and apathy and Atheism and wonder

Atheist Francois Tremblay wrote: "One last problem that undermines any propagation of atheism is inspiration. Let's be honest here, "there is no god!" is not a very motivating call for most people."[4]

The ex-atheist Alister McGrath has repeatedly pointed out the uninspiring nature of atheism.[5][6] According to McGrath, atheism is "stale", "dull" and difficult to believe.[7]

John Updike wrote:

Among the repulsions of atheism for me has been its drastic un-interestingness as an intellectual position. Where was the ingenuity, the ambiguity, the humanity...of saying that the universe just happened to happen and that when we're dead we're dead?".[8]

The British columnist Giles Coren wrote in The Times:

But it’s not the nihilism, the soullessness, the lack of poetry, the moral and physical ugliness, the shallow iconoclasm or the vainglory of atheists that bother me most. It’s the boringness.

Is there anything more boring in the world than an atheist?[9]

Atheism is a negative concept

See also: Definition of atheism

Atheism, as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and other philosophy reference works, is the denial of the existence of God.[10] Beginning in the latter portion of the 20th century and continuing beyond, many agnostics/atheists have argued that the definition of atheism should be defined as a mere lack of belief in God or gods. [11][12] [13]

Thus, atheism is a negative concept which involves denial/lack (see also: Atheists and the fallacy of exclusion and Atheism and historical revisionism).

Atheism is a depressing worldview

Atheists have a higher suicide rate than theists.[14] Please see: Atheism and suicide

Atheism is also depressing worldview (see: Hopelessness of atheism and Atheism and depression and Atheism and suicide).

French atheistic art and depressing worldview of atheism

See also: Atheist worldview

Michael C. Sullivan wrote in his book In Search of a Perfect World: A Historical Perspective on the Phenomenon of Millennialism and Dissatifaction with The World As It Is:

Yet, the communications media of the 1990s still expressed a end-of-age weariness, cynicism and apprehension. Savvy media watchers and art critics resurrected the French literary term Fin de siecle (end of a century, age or period) from the 1890s to describe certain aspects of contemporary art and society. The historic meaning of the term, which originated from an 1888 French play, encompasses an attitude that is free of social or moral traditions or conventions — even decadent. It also expressed a general malaise in French society, in which in which alcoholism, atheism, crime and immorality were rampant.[15]

Skepticon 7 conference and art

In 2014, the Skepticon 7 conference indicated that is was looking for artists. However, given the bland/boring nature of atheism, no requests for artists to depict atheism were requested. Instead, the request for artists was for the Skepticon Planetary Science Art Show and the request indicated: "The art HAS to have something to do with the science of planets or the cosmos."[16] See also: Atheism and wonder

Hostility of the secular left to the argument from beauty

See also: Argument from beauty and Atheism and purpose

The argument from beauty argues the existence of beauty in the natural world testifies to the existence of God who both designed natural beauty and who possesses a divine beauty. Objective beauty exists and beauty is not merely subjective in nature.[17]

Author John C. Wright wrote in his 2014 essay How We’ve Been Robbed of Beauty by the Left:

The strongest argument against the atheism so beloved of the Left is not an argument that can be put in words, for it is the argument of beauty. If you see a sunset clothed in scarlet like a king descending to his empurpled pyre, or wonder at the gleaming thunder of a waterfall, if you find yourself fascinated by the soft intricacy of a crimson rose or behold the cold virgin majesty of the morning star, much less see and enter a cathedral or a walled garden...or Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, if indeed you see real beauty and for a moment you forget yourself, then you are drawn out of yourself into something larger.

In that timeless moment of sublime rapture, the heart knows even if the head cannot put it into words that the dull and quotidian world of betrayal, pain, disappointment and sorrow is not the only world there is. Beauty points to a world beyond this world, a higher realm, a country of joy where there is no death. Beauty points to the divine.

The Left hates this argument, because – since it is not put into words – it cannot be refuted in words.[18]

Ritual atheists, Christian art and church attendance

A Rice University study found that 17 percent - about one out of five scientists who describe themselves as either atheists or agnostics - actually go to church, although not too often.[19]

See also: American atheists and church attendance

The Christian Post reported:

In a new study of the various types of nonbelievers, researchers from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga say "one of the most interesting and unexpected" types they examined is the "ritual" atheist or agnostic, who finds some value in religious teachings and practices.

Those who fall into this category, according to the researchers, are nonbelievers who may have a philosophical appreciation for certain religious teachings, who like being part of a community, who want to stay in touch with their ethnic identity or who simply find beauty in certain religious traditions, symbols or rituals.

"The implication of this particular typology is that you could be sitting next to somebody in church right now who may, in fact, not buy into the theology that the rest of the congregation buys into," said principal researcher Christopher F. Silver in an interview with The Christian Post.[20]

Militant atheism and the destruction of beautiful church buildings

According to the University of Cambridge, historically, the "most notable spread of atheism was achieved through the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which brought the Marxist-Leninists to power."[21] See: Atheism and communism

The atheism in communist regimes has been and continues to be militant atheism and various acts of repression including the razing of thousands of religious buildings and the killing, imprisoning, and oppression of religious leaders and believers.[22]

Destruction of thousands of churches in the Soviet Union

Author Dimitry V. Pospielovsky wrote: "The People's Commissariat for Education boasted of having convinced the department dealing with historical monuments to reduce the list of architecturally precious churches under its protection from 7,000 to 1,000 automatically condemning 6000 church buildings to future destruction.[23]

Although some Soviet churches were converted to atheist museums or used for other purposes, they generally did not replace them with beautiful buildings related to atheism.

Contemporary Chinese communist destruction of Christian churches

See also: Growth of Christianity in China

A People's Republic of China propaganda poster stating "Destroy the Old World & Forge the New World," with a worker smashing a crucifix, a Buddha murti, and a classical Chinese sacred text; 1967.

World Religion News reported in 2015:

The destruction of churches in China’s Zhejiang Province has been on-going for some time, yet the Protestants and Catholics have continued to rebuild and restore their symbols. In some areas, evangelicals have replaced their crosses three times in a day. Christian pastors fear a greater crackdown on religion is on the horizon. In December of 2013, Zhejiang officials began knocking down crosses, taking these symbols of faith from over 450 different churches.

A $5,000,000 Sanjiang edifice was demolished shortly after its completion in Wenzhou. One of the largest, government-sanctioned churches, Yanxie, was demolished on June 8th. The destruction and persecution has been almost non-stop for the past 2 years. The Chinese government has justified the destruction of these buildings with the criminal code that deals with “cults and sects using superstition to undermine law enforcement.”[24]

On November 1, 2014, an article in The Economist entitled Cracks in the atheist edifice declared:

Officials are untroubled by the clash between the city’s famously freewheeling capitalism and the Communist Party’s ideology, yet still see religion and its symbols as affronts to the party’s atheism...

Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China’s Christian population the largest in the world. Mr. Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire.[25]

Propagation of religions/worldviews via art, music and culture

See also: Atheism and apathy

Michelangelo, The Last Judgment

Art, music and culture is often employed as means of evangelism and/or serve as an means of introduction to a religion/worldview.

The journalist and ex-atheist Peter Hitchens, who is the brother of the late atheist Christopher Hitchens, said upon seeing an art exhibit of Michelangelo's painting The Last Judgment he came to the realization that he might be judged which startled him.[26] This started a train of thought within Peter Hichens that eventually led him to become a Christian.[27]

According Pew Research:

In the 2014 Religious Landscape Study, self-identified atheists were asked how often they share their views on God and religion with religious people. Only about one-in-ten atheists (9%) say they do at least weekly, while roughly two-thirds (65%) say they seldom or never discuss their views on religion with religious people. By comparison, 26% of those who have a religious affiliation share their views at least once a week with those who have other beliefs; 43% say they seldom or never do.[28]

Most atheists are apathetic about the spread of atheism in terms of their own individual efforts (see: Atheism and apathy). At the present time, global atheism is shrinking in terms of its world percentage of adherents (See also: Desecularization).

See also

Notes

  1. What is Aesthetics? Aesthetics is the Philosophy of Art, Beauty, Perception by Austin Cline
  2. Three reasons why art should matter to atheism by Amy Roth
  3. Atheist post at Sam Harris' discussion board
  4. Herding Cats: Why Atheism Will Lose by Francois Tremblay
  5. Clear Voices 2014 - Alister McGrath - C. S. Lewis’s Vision of the Christianity
  6. In the Aftermath: Provocations and Laments By David Bentley Hart, page 136
  7. Updike, John (1989). Self-Consciousness: Memoirs (New York, NY: Knopf), ch. 4.
  8. I don’t believe it – they’re doing atheism at GCSE by Niles Coren
  9. Multiple references:
  10. Day, Donn R. (2007). "Atheism - etymology".
  11. Definition of atheism by William Lane Craig
  12. Putting the Atheist on the Defensive by Kenneth R. Samples, Christian Research Institute Journal, Fall 1991, and Winter 1992, page 7.
  13. Adherents.com - suicide rates
  14. In Search of a Perfect World: A Historical Perspective on the Phenomenon of Millennialism and Dissatifaction with The World As It Is by Michael C. Sullivan, page 118
  15. SkeptiCon is Coming and a call to ARTISTS!
  16. Is Beauty Objective? by Keith E. Buhler, posted October 24, 2007
  17. How We’ve Been Robbed of Beauty by the Left
  18. Atheists Who Go to Church: Doing It for the Children. ABC News, 2011
  19. Researchers: 'Ritual' Atheists and Agnostics Could Be Sitting Next to You in Church
  20. "Investigating atheism: Marxism". University of Cambridge (2008). Retrieved on July 17, 2014. “The most notable spread of atheism was achieved through the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which brought the Marxist-Leninists to power. For the first time in history, atheism thus became the official ideology of a state.”
  21. Multiple references:
  22. Soviet Antireligious Campaigns and Persecutions: Volume 2 of a History of Soviet Atheism in Theory and Practice and the Believer by Dimitry V. Pospielovsky, page 38
  23. [ http://www.worldreligionnews.com/?p=15004 China Destroys Christian Crosses – Christians Rebuild Them], World Religion News
  24. Cracks in the atheist edifice, The Economist, November 1, 2014
  25. Interview of Peter Hitchens - Video at Vimeo
  26. Interview of Peter Hitchens - Video at Vimeo
  27. 7 facts about atheists, Pew Forum