Did some of the worlds greatest masterpieces arise out of religion? Symphonies, paintings, murals, architecture, poetry, plays, novels. If religion had never happened, would art have been less moving, less passionate? Think of how many classic writings include demons angels, and confessions to god. If no one had ever believed any of it, could it have been strong and moving? If it weren't for religion, all of this heartfelt material would be non-existent, or at least nothing more than a fairy tale with no ones faith to back it up.

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There are still emotions that are expressed without religion; so I think many would have had the same outlet with different inspiration.

Paintings and murals would have still gone to the highest bidder. Dawkins talks about this in God Delusion, that some of the famous painters were not religious, but painted what the highest bidder commissioned. Since the church and religious nobility did most of the commissioning, most of that great art is religious. If, by some alternate reality, science had been the wealthiest party, we would likely have much different (but beautiful nonetheless) works.

I think we would still have great works, they would just be much different.
We'd have fairies instead of angels. Now we have both! Yay, religion! Finally an argument for it.
Oh. Wait. Nevermind. The fact of it is that religion IS a fairy tale that isn't backed up. That means it comes from the human imagination and would have popped up eventually anyway. Heh. Humans invented religion. Religious artwork is therefore no more credited to religion than it is to talent, environment and ability of artist. Give credit where credit is due.
(I'm personally a HUGE fan of demonology and what-ifs of Christianity. This is reflected in the short story blog posts I toss up occasionally. Did a non-humorous one tonight, as a matter of fact.) My theme is religious, but I'm an atheist. Can you only write about ghosts if you are dead? Vampires if you are immortal? Literotica if you're a pornstar?
Fiction is fiction, plain and simple.
I happen to think it's even more beautiful that way. Knowing that we are capable of such color and imagination is amazing, if you think about it.
If there had been no religion, then other topics would have risen to inspire great art, music and architecture. Such passions will find a way to express themselves, and in much of the past, the church was who had the funds needed to pay for it.
Indeed. I've seen lots of fantastic and inspiring art devoted to science fiction, and last I checked, Star Trek was fiction.
*checks*

Yep, still fiction. Some of the technology is becoming more likely, but I don't think that James T. Kirk is likely to show up in the Enterprise after having done another wild slingshot around the sun anytime soon.
A lot of truly beautiful art has been inspired by religion -- just look at the Sistine Chapel.
People create art from their imaginations. People create religions from their imaginations. I don't believe religion is required for great art or great imagination. The fact that the subject of much of the world's art is religion only reflects that much of the world believes in a religion. Art is an external representation of our ideas--religion is certainly not the only human idea.

"A lot of truly beautiful art has been inspired by religion -- just look at the Sistine Chapel."

I was more impressed with Michelangelo's David. It was possibly the most impressive, beautiful piece of art I've ever seen. And though it represents the Biblical David, it's just a sculpture of a man. And though they have religious elements, Botticelli's Primavera and Birth of Venus are paintings of women, of people.
I mostly agree with everyone here, but I still feel that inspired religious art, especially stories, are in some ways more powerful than fantasies or science fiction that no one actually ever believed in. If religion had never arisen would there be literary substitutes for classics like The Divine Comedy, or Goethe's Faust?

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