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McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The very first human art we know about may have been inspired by religion. The cave paintings of ancient humans, such as those at Lascaux, France, discovered in 1940 and dating to approximately 30,000 BCE, inspire awe and wonder. What source of pigment and light did they use? Why travel a mile down into the bowels of the earth through dark, dank, dangerous passageways to produce these masterpieces?

Cave art was possibly used in religious rites associated with hunting cultures. If they were offered to the gods of the hunt, as some archaeologists believe, the cave paintings would have been religiously inspired works of art, as opposed to the art of personal adornment. Since then, religion has continued to inspire art of all kinds.

Bach, Handel, Beethoven, and Mozart are four composers among hundreds whose work is performed weekly in places of worship and regularly in secular concert halls as well. Michelangelo's paintings, not least the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, attract thousands to Rome each year. Literary works like Ben-Hur, about a Palestinian Jew battling the Roman empire at the time of Jesus, still inspire Hollywood to make epic films. John Milton's Paradise Lost is required reading at colleges and universities. The Japanese form of Haiku poetry is a distinct part of Zen Buddhism, allowing bright but fragile images to pierce through a very strict literary form. Hindu goddess statues, even a very ancient figure in the lotus position, are still being uncovered by the archaeologist's brush.

Because religious-inspired art was an early form of human expression and appears in all cultures, a good argument can be made that art is what makes us human, separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, and provides a window through which we see that which is "other," spiritual, or eternal. In short, it can be said that art is a medium of expression by which we experience divinity.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


(Action Real-Time Strategy) See MOBA.
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