The Connection between Religion, Spirituality and Art

Spirituality can mean many different things to different people. The main difference between spirituality and religion is that the latter tends to be creedal and dogmatic. While the former does often have its guidelines, it generally allows for a broader exploration of aspects of life that the individual wants to explore. Religion and spirituality are something that are both uniquely of the human consciousness. No other animal on earth has ever been found to engage in any activity even remotely like a religion or spirituality, or even seem to carry any concept of life outside of this world.

The various media of art have long since been an outlet for expression of religion and spirituality whether in a group or individually. One of the earliest known religious artifacts is the Woman of Wildendorf, which is thought to have been made sometime between 28,000 and 25,000 B.C. and was discovered in 1908 during archaeological excavations in Austria.  The figure is generally believed to represent feminine fertility and childbearing. Another example is that of churches, especially the Catholic church, which have long been known for their stained glass window art, a tradition which is thought to go back as far as 900 A.D. 

Since art is so unlimited, the results do not have to appear religious or spiritual in nature for the experience to have been spiritually relevant.  For example, in the book, “Spirituality and Art Therapy”, the author cites an example of an art therapist named Brenda who was working with a group of delinquent teenage boys who often thought of all women as the “B-word”. This bothered Brenda so much that while she was working with them that day, she constructed an image of herself as a medieval witch holding out her arms in a crucifix-like posture while wearing a black robe.  When she did this, it not only calmed her but also helped her to understand that the boys viewed women as dominating dictators, and as a result were mentally and verbally crucifying women. 

So, why do religion, spirituality and art seem to fit together so well? Is it because of our urge to leave something of its message for future generations; our need for others to see inside of our thoughts? Or is it a combination of both? Whatever it is, art is a significant part of what has helped us keep the traditions alive.

Try to imagine a world without art. Where would we be? What would we be practicing? Who and what would be answering our most profound questions about life?

Art is not only a significant means of carrying on culture and tradition, but in some spiritual traditions, is even thought of as co-creating with God.  These pantheistic spiritual adherents believe that the Spirit in every living being is part of God and that is what drives our compulsion to create, whether it is through art or other means.

Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that art, religion and spirituality have, and will continue to have, a strong connection to each other, and it is something we should never stop embracing.