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Thread: Are music and cinema replacing the functions of religion?

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    Captain Azure Patrick_Bateman's Avatar
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    Are music and cinema replacing the functions of religion?

    This is a topic I have used to base a research assignment presently and I thought I would share some thoughts from prominent Sociologist and spark a discussion on this subject.

    At the Univeristy of Leicester last year staff and students were asked to reveal their music listening habits in a survey.

    Dr Clive Marsh believes that practices such as regular film watching, interaction with fan sites, regular listening to music and devoted viewing of DVD boxsets are becoming the 'spiritual disciplines' of the present.

    He said

    “I am interested in the ways in which people consume music – what are they doing with it? Walking through Victoria Park in Leicester you see lots of people listening to their iPods seemingly caught up in their own private worlds. People devote hours and hours to music, often having daily or weekly listening rituals that they follow.”

    “People are starting to identify ‘canons’ of material from popular culture: resources which are worth returning to, again and again, for enjoyment, yes, but also to help people ‘think things through’.

    “They are also locating ‘authoritative communities’ – sometimes virtual communities: groups of people whose views they trust, who gather around music, bands, TV programmes or film-sites, not just to talk about music, TV or film, but to reflect on how their listening and viewing habits inform their living and help them develop their philosophical, religious, political or ethical commitments.”
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    I think there are way more differences than similarities. What's the function of religion anyway? If taken seriously, it's a claim about the truth value of certain claims. As a by-product, it labels people and creates groups and communities. Music and television is primarily entertainment, though they can serve as 'identity givers' (here's the small connection you might be able to zoom in on).

    The key difference is that religion is mostly 'inherited' from the parents, whereas one's taste of music more closely resembles that of peers.

    And calling watching televion a 'spiritual discipline' is a terrible use of the word 'spiritual' in my opinion.

    I listen to my iPod all the time when I leave the house. Why? Because then waiting for trains, or walking to certain places, is less boring. Similar with television and movies, it's just something to have fun with. I doubt religious people ever randomly pray or perform certain rituals if they're bored.

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    Captain Azure Patrick_Bateman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dodo25 View Post
    I think there are way more differences than similarities. What's the function of religion anyway? If taken seriously, it's a claim about the truth value of certain claims. As a by-product, it labels people and creates groups and communities. Music and television is primarily entertainment, though they can serve as 'identity givers' (here's the small connection you might be able to zoom in on).

    The key difference is that religion is mostly 'inherited' from the parents, whereas one's taste of music more closely resembles that of peers.

    And calling watching televion a 'spiritual discipline' is a terrible use of the word 'spiritual' in my opinion.

    I listen to my iPod all the time when I leave the house. Why? Because then waiting for trains, or walking to certain places, is less boring. Similar with television and movies, it's just something to have fun with. I doubt religious people ever randomly pray or perform certain rituals if they're bored.
    I think what he's saying is people turn to music and film rather than religion to help them through personal crises.

    People today find comfort in music and their favourite programmes and movies during difficult times rather than beseeching God Almighty for help or guidance. And that therefore listening to music is like the ritual of prayer or attending church/communion etc.

    Dr Marsh is saying that going to church has died out and that music and film have filled this void that has appeared with the forsaking of religion and the commitments entailed with the faith.

    I don't think he's saying people are listening to music with a conscious awareness of it being a substitute to attending church, but rather that their use of music and entertainment is a substitute for the inherent spiritual needs of a human being.
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    Actually, what I think has replaced religion to a large extent are self-help books and therapy culture. There is even a kind of salvation being offered: being happy. In many ways, psychiatrists are secular priests.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick_Bateman View Post
    I think what he's saying is people turn to music and film rather than religion to help them through personal crises.

    People today find comfort in music and their favourite programmes and movies during difficult times rather than beseeching God Almighty for help or guidance. And that therefore listening to music is like the ritual of prayer or attending church/communion etc.

    Dr Marsh is saying that going to church has died out and that music and film have filled this void that has appeared with the forsaking of religion and the commitments entailed with the faith.

    I don't think he's saying people are listening to music with a conscious awareness of it being a substitute to attending church, but rather that their use of music and entertainment is a substitute for the inherent spiritual needs of a human being.
    I would agree with these statements. I would also throw video games in there (really a great stress reliever) and the creatives: some people play an instrument, some people make art, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick_Bateman View Post
    Dr Clive Marsh believes that practices such as regular film watching, interaction with fan sites, regular listening to music and devoted viewing of DVD boxsets are becoming the 'spiritual disciplines' of the present.”
    The evidence just doesn't stack up.

    To be real, he'd need to show that religion has declined in concert with an uptake in music. The examples of USA, Italy and Ireland would prove him wrong at once, while the decline in religion through Europe long pre-dates iPods and MP3 players.

    How unusual for a sociologist to leap to conclusions from incomplete data.
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    Patrick, I believe you have hit on a trend, which is why I believe I focused my blog on disability film arts rather than disability in literature, even though both topics can be considered esoteric.

    I have no data to back up your claim, just my experience and my age, and social media is at the very least augmenting physical social structures. When I was a kid, going to church was still what believers did, but now evangelicism has its own media substructure, films that are slightly worse than b-grade science fiction, prayer shows.

    I have also seen black clerics, of late, moving liberation theology to video. You could argue this is still religion, but I see it as a slow, possibly radical transformation, of human spirituality, and I do see evidence that secular music and film is a more cohesive force than the more traditional mass or service.

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    I think the premise is flawed by some dodgy observations.

    I think the basic premise that religion is being replaced by other things may have some truth in it. We no longer consult the local vicar for advice and guidance, we go to therapists and councillors for that.

    We often choose civil weddings in registry offices, and there are civil funeral services. In fact all the rites of passage can be managed in a non religious way.

    Perhaps there was some entertainment value in church - choirs etc, but these can be replaced with concerts etc.

    Medicine is dispensed by an extensive medical network that they didn't have in the past.

    I think the idea is correct, but the asssertion of music and film replacing them is not.

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    The notion of the individual seeking the spiritual experience beyond the confines of the church is not a new idea. The Romantics commonly sought and spoke of the spiritual experience in response to nature... especially to the more sublime natural environments. In the late 19th century there was already talk of the museum replacing the temple and church. I somewhat wonder if this was in part as a result of the proliferation of Protestantism which rejected the sensual pleasures of the visual arts and the sheer pomp and circumstance which undoubtedly made the Catholic churches a spiritual experience. If one thinks about the life of the common peasant of the Renaissance and then imagines the experience of entering a space such as one of the great Gothic cathedrals... the vast architecture, the light pouring down through colored glass highlighting the vast array of carved stone saints, the unearthly music of Allegri or Monteverdi ringing in one's ears, the gilding, the glorious embroidered vestments, and the scents of incense and candles... the entire experience can be imagined as designed to carry the individual away... to induce an ecstatic sense of the spiritual. And surely it must have been enough to convince the masses of the very existence of God.

    When the church abandoned this... theatricality... it certainly lost much of its power to seduce... to enchant... to enrapture. Of course it was the role of the arts to support this transportation of the believers to the spiritual... and in many ways art continued to engage in such an endeavor... only outside the church. Film, the theater, the opera, the painting or sculptural exhibition, the musical performance, etc... still have the ability to inspire a spiritual response... to instill a sense of the spiritual in the audience. The danger is that the seductive strength of the arts can be employed for good of evil. One cannot but recognize the brilliance of the Nuremberg Rallies or the films of Leni Riefenstahl... as well as the speeches of Martin Luther King.

    In many ways, art lost much when it lost the patronage of the church. As Andre Malraux suggested, there are rarely any "hacks" to be found among the medieval and Renaissance artists. He argued that in many ways this is because artist had a clear "higher" purpose. Today many artists struggle with the purpose of art. Malraux suggested that art only rose to the greatest heights building upon the highest beliefs, values, and aspirations of the artists and mere entertainment and the mad rush for money make a poor substitute for God.

    Of course as I respond to this I am listening the the hair-raising Coronation of G.F. Handel and can only imagine what these must have been like performed in the space of St. Paul's Cathedral.
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    Mmm, I am certainly not adverse to the return of patronage, mon ami. There is something uncomfortable, all the same, about the loss of social cohesion in a media saturated age, with Ebert virtually ecstatic about the power of Facebook. I increasingly would like to take a time capsule back to the 1970's. We might have been as shallow as we are today, 40 years later, but my memory has a sense of more space, of not always being on. I sometimes would drive to St. Madeline's by myself. The church was properly prefabricated American, as opposed to Catholic, but I had the mental space. The basillica in my current parish more readily conveys the Roman sense, but I rarely drive in during a service, as I am not good at facades, and really don't believe in "the Jesus stories" as one Vatican official calls it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jozanny View Post
    Mmm, I am certainly not adverse to the return of patronage, mon ami. There is something uncomfortable, all the same, about the loss of social cohesion in a media saturated age, with Ebert virtually ecstatic about the power of Facebook. I increasingly would like to take a time capsule back to the 1970's. We might have been as shallow as we are today, 40 years later, but my memory has a sense of more space, of not always being on. I sometimes would drive to St. Madeline's by myself. The church was properly prefabricated American, as opposed to Catholic, but I had the mental space. The basillica in my current parish more readily conveys the Roman sense, but I rarely drive in during a service, as I am not good at facades, and really don't believe in "the Jesus stories" as one Vatican official calls it.
    You caught my attention with this post. I too would love to travel in a time capsule. I like your description of more space and not always being on. Actually, that is the way I like my life to be. I began to notice you around the forum and you have an amazing descriptive ability, an amazing writing ability.

    You have a different way of thinking. You said that you have a lot of pain in your life, and that you had posted about it a lot on this forum in the past. In time I will read everything on this forum to find those threads, because I really want to know you're experiences. And I really just like your writing.

    You said that you had participated on forums in the past, and your experience was that people in pain tend to be run off forums. It hasn't happened to you here, and it isn't happening to me. I can see that you like the people here.

    I can relate to you about this loss of social cohesion. People may have been as shallow then, but there was more space. You're not good at facades, and you don't believe the Jesus stories.

    You have a lot of wisdom. In time I will sift through this forum and find all of it that I can.

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