My current class is an art appreciation class and I was given the title question as an essay assignment. Let me start out by saying I don’t really know anything about art, except that I think a lot of it is garbage. I used to have some readers that were great art-minds, so if anyone has some opinions to share feel free. In my response, I am intentionally being controversial, yet it is what I really think.
Religion and art have had a checkered history. The relationship between them has been at times cordial but always uneasy, particularly in the West. Though much could be said about the history of art in Western Christianity and what theories there are for reconciling the two, the purpose of this essay will be to say that art does not serve religion in our time, because today’s art is construed as being something oppositional—it is against whatever is perceived to be established.
It may be true that artists can use their creativity to give tangible expression to the unknown or feelings of awe and majesty like they did in the past. But this sense of mystery and wonder is not valued by today’s religion nor does it seem to be valued by today’s culture, hence nullifying the main purpose art can serve in religion. This is not to say that people in general do not have existential moments of wonder and mystery today; rather, it is our culture in general that does not seem fascinated by such sacred realities.
On the contrary, religion has fallen into disrepute among artists as evidenced by the vast amount of iconoclastic creations adorning our Modern Art museums. In the modern age, art has been influenced to value autonomy above all else even to the point of divorcing art from beauty. In the past, artwork that did not contain beauty was deemed to be a failure. Today, innovation is so highly valued that anything that smacks of tradition is uniformly opposed. This distorted view of creativity, so valuing originality to the point that it seeks to reject everything, has brought all kinds of ugliness into the art world, much of it offensive to moral and religious sensibilities, and reduces the artist’s quest to attaining celebrity and notoriety rather than expressing beauty.