There's an interesting debate going on in Malaysia over the recent assertion by the deputy prime minister that Islam is its official religion and it's a Muslim country -- just in case you needed a reminder that the religious freedom and church-state separation we enjoy in the U.S. is not universal.
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ON GREAT ART AND IDOLATRY
My wife and I were with friends that evening, and later we talked some about the role of religion and art and whether this kind of expensive space functions as a sort of temple to which art worshipers come on a pilgrimage to pay homage to the art and the artists.
I haven't figured out quite what I think about all of that, but I am both moved and a little discomforted by the idea that in such museums and galleries we may have created something slightly idolatrous. Or, if not, at least something that should give us pause about idolatry and what we worship.
I am not very well educated in great art. I've never swooned even when I've seen world-famous paintings in museums in such places as Paris. And yet I certainly am attracted to particular paintings and to other works of art, from music to architecture. But I think of art not as an end in itself but, rather, as a vehicle for giving us the opportunity to think and feel beyond ourselves.
I will have to return to the Nelson again and again before I've clarified my thinking about art, idolatry and religion. But I'd be interested in hearing about your own experiences when you visit such secular shrines.
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