Saturday, January 5, 2008

Paglia on Religion and Art

Camilla Paglia holds a special place in my heart and mind, if for nothing else, for turning me on to the Faerie Queen. I confess, that after Sexual Persona, she lost me. But here's a piece I can warm up to.

I have no supernatural inclinations, do not even get what it means to "believe" in the gods.. or God, but religion has always fascinated me. I majored in comparative religion as an undergrad. Assigned to Martin Buber (without his consent or participation) the job of guiding me from adolescence to intellectual maturity. I loved the J narratives in the Hebrew bible enough to teach myself Classical Hebrew--even did a few years graduate work on Rabbinic texts, where I proved myself more fecund in imagination than scholarly acumen. Religion is the font of the arts. There's no way around it, and Paglia, I think, gets it mostly right in this piece from Arion.

Here's an excerpt:

I would argue that the route to a renaissance of the American fine arts lies through religion. Let me make my premises clear: I am a professed atheist and a pro-choice libertarian Democrat. But based on my college experiences in the 1960s, when interest in Hinduism and Buddhism was intense, I have been calling for nearly two decades for massive educational reform that would put the study of comparative religion at the center of the university curriculum. Though I shared the exasperation of my generation with the moralism and prudery of organized religion, I view each world religion, including Judeo-Christianity and Islam, as a complex symbol system, a metaphysical lens through which we can see the vastness and sublimity of the universe. Knowledge of the Bible, one of the West's foundational texts, is dangerously waning among aspiring young artists and writers. When a society becomes all-consumed in the provincial minutiae of partisan politics (as has happened in the US over the past twenty years), all perspective is lost. Great art can be made out of love for religion as well as rebellion against it. But a totally secularized society with contempt for religion sinks into materialism and self-absorption and gradually goes slack, without leaving an artistic legacy.

Read the rest HERE This is a long piece, but worth downloading and reading at leisure.

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