Can an atheist be an artist?
I’m an atheist, I admit it. I used to say I was an agnostic, but as I’ve gotten older and read more and thought more about religion, I’ve decided that every one is humankind’s creation. I’m cool with my beliefs, but I wonder if society really is, especially among those who, like myself, think of themselves as artists.
My uncertainty stems from the countless interviews I have read with songwriters, most of whom claim that their songs do not come from within, but rather from without, either as gifts of god or as creations of a force greater than humankind, creations that can only be gathered by those who pay attention. I disagree with these conceits, and let me tell you why:
First, I think art is the most human of achievements, and to give some deity credit for it devalues people.
Second, claiming that some god wrote your song is not the height of humility, it’s the height of arrogance. After all, you’re basically saying that of all the people on earth, the god you believe in chose to give you a particular song. Wow, you must think you’re pretty special.
Three, claiming that all songs are all out there, floating around in the universe, set free by some Prime Mover, and you just happen to hear them first, is not only pretty damn arrogant, it’s also utterly preposterous. In addition, it devalues all the thought you have given to your music. I mean, why bother, right? Just sit down, tune in, and wait for a song to drop out of the ether.
Last, and least, all these great songwriters proclaiming how their works are divine makes me sound like a total ass when I talk about how I think my songs come from me, thank you very much!
And that’s my point: because of the way artists talk about how they create, namely, some deity does it for them, a perception has been created that true artists are somehow closer to god than the rest of us. Well, for the record, I do think I am an artist and do not think there is a god of any kind.
Stepping off my podium…