We missed out on some of the positive effects or aspects of ‘religion’ in yesterday’s post, for, as in everything, there is a Ying and a Yang. The incredibly wonderful art-forms – music, painting, sculpture and architecture that have been created by those artistes who have been directly inspired by their Gods have brought immense pleasure to and evoked a sense of wonder in folk throughout the centuries – all the effects of their religious beliefs no doubt. Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Taoism and others, all have incredible works of art that have been produced by these adherents to their respective religious beliefs.
In architecture, among the earliest examples of religious buildings must be Egyptian and Sumerian. These were followed by examples in Greece and then by Buddhist architecture, mostly viharas and stupas, although Angkor Wat, considered a temple-complex, is a real mind-blower. Hindu architecture was apparently influenced by Buddhist structures and was also based on religious texts, astronomy and ‘sacred’ geometry. Byzantine and Roman religious architecture influenced Islamic temples with their minarets and domes, which in turn was followed by the Christian cathedrals, churches and monasteries. And more recently, the off-shoots of the main religions (like Taoism and Jainism) developed their own styles after their own influences.
Art followed soon after the architecture, which provided a medium for the expression of the devoted. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics on the inner walls of the pyramids and in the palaces of royalty, Buddhist texts and the Hindu pantheon provided for a variety of subject matter for their respective temple paintings, Islamic religious art was expressed not only in paintings, but also in the magnificent carpets with their esoteric symbolism, whilst the Christians’ best known religious artists are probably Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci although they were preceded and followed by many others.
In the field of religious music the probable ‘best-sellers’ would be the composers of the Baroque period with Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Tellemann, Pachabel and Mozart leading the way. The Gregorian chants were among the oldest forms of Christian music and still ‘sells’ commercially. The Hindu classical music evolved from ‘devotional’ forms and Sufi chants and rhythms are well known for their hypnotic effects.
All the religions have exquisite examples of sculpture but this is just too wide and varied for examples of excellence to be declared, however, Michelangelo’s (him again!) ‘David’ can not be easily ignored.
With all these examples of the positive effects of ‘religion’, one may speculate on the probabilities of such works of art ever existing had ‘religion’ not been around and if the world would have been bereft of such wonders of expression. No way of knowing that one, but it is certain that those particular individual works of art would never have existed. No doubt the lack of religion would have provided other works of art which may have been equally appreciated, but that will never be known.
So there you go! ‘Religion’ is so very important to so very many of us and has the power to inspire the creation of such beauty and wonder, and yet we have that ‘other side of the coin’ – the one that ‘religion’ is ‘responsible’ for – the stuff we pondered on yesterday. Keep the good and sling out the bad? That would be nice, wouldn’t it?