Theology is based on the particular mythologies and traditions of past and present groups and has been used to separate us rather than unite us as a species. I feel that the only moral use of theology is to free people from the traditions that separate them from others.Technology has raised the possibility of our species' extinction and traditions that separate us are now lethal for all of us. Those elements in religions that are helpful are already encased in and originated in our humanities.We are birthing a new global and species-wide epoch and need visions to guide us. Visions are the fantasies of artists and materialize possible futures. At the beginning of epochs we need prophets and so we paint, write,make music,dance,propose theories, etc. We are creating new horizons. We are living in a time of epiphanies.
For me the most important aspect of post-modern thought is the rejection of worldviews that do not hold up under the light of critical thinking or have become irrelevant to the needs of the contemporary world. We are in a period when the old mythologies that were ( and in some places still are ) the basis for cultural values, norms, and social identities are being eroded by advances in the sciences, the availability of education, globalization, and the deconstructionist mind set of the twentieth century. For the first time in human history we are becoming aware that there is more that unites us than divides us. We are developing a new ontological ground from which to address the ancient questions of our species: 'What are we', 'Do we have a purpose', 'Is there anything after this life'. For me these questions lie hidden in our bio-psych-social journey not in the superstitions of the past. Art starting from this new horizon will be how we re-image ourselves and set the path for the continuation of the human journey.
From the dawn of mankind to the present, the belief that human life does not end at death but transitions into a new existernce has been persistent. The nature of what the after-life is varies from epoch to epoch, culture to culture, and religion to religion. Cultures, including those of our times, are built and regulated based on these after-life mystholgies. When one searches through the diversity of after-life mythologies from ancient times to the present, there are some consistent elements that appear. The idea that life is a 'journey' in which humans undergo a series of 'passages' is one of these elements. There is also an almost universal reference to the experience of a 'light' unlike anything experienced in this world. The discription of this radiance shows a consistency from the earliest mystics to modern day NDE survivors. I also find it referenced in artists such as, Rothko, Rembrandt, Friedrich, Rouault, Klee,Redon,etc. At one point in my journey I became aware that the objects in my paintings were not what the paintings were about, but it was the 'light' seen as a luminesence in the colors. This light is in some sense, the presence of a being that pushes through the two dimensional surface of the paintings seeking encounters-the paintings are channels. I don't attach religious significance to the light but rather that it is somehow relevant to an after-death existence that we do not yet have the physics for.
When I read about art and theology I usually find that art is seen as subservient to a religious tradition. Art is expected to promote or reveal the glory of existing items of a faith...whether those items be traditional religions or new age. In my experience though, while I understand that great art has been made in the service of religions, I do not think that what makes it good art was related to the religion. That which makes it good art is beyond the narrow confines of religious belief and the many gods for whom art was nominally created. For me, art is the only way that our species has of grasping and materializing that which is not material,i.e. 'spiritual'.Art is a form of knowledge and comes before any religion. Almost, if not all, religions have at their core a seminal artwork that captures and transmits the religion's basic epiphany. Art makes the initiating experience into a material form so that this world's adherents can experience it. Gods and their religions, adherents, articles of faith, etc. have come and gone but art has always been there.