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Christianity And Creativity


wanderinstar
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It has been thirteen months since I realized the christian religion is not true and that their is no evidence for any interventionist, personal gods. Suddenly I am flooded with creative ideas, and I am actually creating some decent work in writing and photography. Prior to being a christian, sixteen years ago +, I was writing a lot of songs on the guitar, with vocals, and also had been heavily involved in theater arts, acting from a young age in community or school productions. While I was still a mellow christian, not fully immersed, my songwriting continued but the more seriously I took my faith the less creative works I produced, until finally my output shut down completely about nine years ago. The christian music I created was ok (compared to the christian music standard, which is pretty poor) but it was nothing on my earlier work, and took much more time and effort to produce. It was like my creativity had been suffocated.

 

Another important factor at work here is the fact that I have suffered from clinical depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. No doubt these would have a big impact on my ability to be creative, to concentrate and be motivated to work, but I was very depressed (unable to work/study full time levels) before I was a christian and was actually incredibly productive. I remember bemoaning the fact with a group of christians while on a retreat in England in the year 2000, and one new christian had the opinion that most good christian music is a poor cousin to good secular music, and I had to agree with him. He then went on to use Bob Dylan as an example by comparing his pre-christian music to his christian music like the 'Slow Train Coming' album. Again he had a point. He even agreed my pre-christian music was superior to my christian music, and none of this was because he was an unhappy christian; he just loved good music.

 

Not being able to produce high standard creative work has been quite depressing in itself for me over the last fourteen years as I have always wanted to be a professional artist of some sort. Now I have lost so much in my life and have poor physical health it is such a joy to be reunited with my creative gifts and the fact that they have come back so swifty after ceasing to be religious has made me wonder. Has anyone else experienced something similar? Or perhaps the opposite effect? I am really curious now. smile.png

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Very similar. My life is defined by creativity. When I became a christian, everything I came up with (except certain kinds of music) was shot down by members of the church. I also viewed music the same way, though I did hear (and create) some christian music that wasn't as bad as that, it stood on its own for what it was. The key there was to not try to make it sound like popular music, to let it be what it was, christian music with its own character. It was starting to get really good when i started working with a christian guitarist who knew how to write original music on the fly, but that was the time I de-converted, and so I took the material and didn't give him the scores. I took them to the doctrinal grave so to speak. The thing is, since then I studied music in college; music history shows the most successful composers authoring both "sacred" and "secular" music. Bach did this. I'm inclined to believe Bach was a christian. There was Mozart, who I firmly believe was a non-christian. Mozart wrote sacred music. This is in my view true intelligence; being able to create anything and not allow beliefs to prevent you from making a living.

 

Anyway, after de-conversion I resumed exploring my full range of talents once more. Christianity stifled that terribly. It's no wonder I was out of control manic bat-shit christian; fanatical. Creativity has always been my socially appropriate mania buffer. I'm bi-polar. Sounds like you might be too. Depression is a debilitating, sorry companion of mine as well.

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Hmmmn...you may have an interesting point there voice with regards to a bipolar link. Up to this point I have never been diagnosed with Bipolar but my current psychiatrist and therapist (also qualified to diagnose) suspect it as I just had a clear hypomanic phase, don't respond to anti-depressants and have only responded well to Lithium. I was a fanatical christian too, perhaps that hid my manic episodes from the detection of my (then) christian psychiatrist. He was pretty useless all round anyway. Maybe religion took all my creative energy and now I don't have religion I need somewhere else to channel it, and thankfully I now have good channels for the creativity. 

 

My thoughts on christian classical composers is that they were in a culture that was almost exclusively christian so it is not surprising most of them were christian. What kind of christians they were I do not know as I haven't studied music history that much. I am guessing most would be like todays artists who thank god in their award speeches before going wild at the after party. There are exceptions of course, Bach being one of them, and his music is exceptional. Some hymns are very moving to me still as is some more modern christian music. Perhaps it is all the things we are told as artists that we cannot do as christians, that stifles creativity. I felt so guity playing my old music (it was mostly alternative, grunge and folk music) once I was a fanatical christian that I stopped playing it for years. I was trying so hard to live a pure life and felt god wanted me to 'lay down' my gifts for his service alone. :( 

 

Oh well, I am just thrilled to be able to play whatever I want and explore my creativity till my heart's content.

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Hmm, my creative urges come and go in phases, but I haven't really noticed a difference. I used to make music (if you can call it that), but I haven't for a while, and I've never been good at lyrics so it was all er.. instrumental so I never felt Christianity held me back from expressing negative emotions in it or centring the songs solely about how marvellous God is.

I was going to do a series of paintings/slightly 3D artworks based around scenes from Revelations just because it could look kinda trippy and fun to try and visualise but now I want to distance myself from that kinda thing. Still think it may be quite interesting to do!

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I am much like exXex in that I have not noticed any creative differences while I was a Christian or now that I am in full questioning/agnostic mode. I write music with a friend regularly and I feel that I am just as creative now as I was as I lived out Christianity. Maybe it was a mental thing for you or maybe the narrow minded thought patterns that Christianity teaches stifled your creativity, but regardless, you are now free to be who you want to be. There isn't anything better than that.

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I am much like exXex in that I have not noticed any creative differences while I was a Christian or now that I am in full questioning/agnostic mode. I write music with a friend regularly and I feel that I am just as creative now as I was as I lived out Christianity. Maybe it was a mental thing for you or maybe the narrow minded thought patterns that Christianity teaches stifled your creativity, but regardless, you are now free to be who you want to be. There isn't anything better than that.

 

It was totally about restrictions placed on creativity by the church.  I was bursting at the seams with creativity but anything coming off as "of the world" was basically forbidden, rejected by peers and elders, a short cut to deliverance prayer with laying on of hands.  What I ended up doing was propaganda drawings with perma-smiles on characters' faces, just like on Later Day Saints fliers.  Ughgh...

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When I de-converted, my creativity went wild. I took voice lessons, then started performing, and have started singing jazz around town and at benefits. I wrote a book, (but need to edit it). I'm documenting a lot of the local jazz scene in audio and video. Not sure yet what I'll do with it, but no one else is doing any recording. So much talent that I used to consider "worldly" and hell-bound. Ha!

 

This from someone who was ultra-shy and introverted, constantly battling the invisible creatures of darkness, blah, blah, blah. Once that whole filter fell off my eyes, life became very exciting, and I'm much happier now.

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I think it might be fear. We get trained to believe that all things secular are wrong.

 

I wanted to work in the music industry, being a song writer, involved in marketing etc, but I was scared because it was the "secular" world. People always told me to do something with my love for music (I literally light up when it comes to music) I guess I let that passion fade.

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Anyway, after de-conversion I resumed exploring my full range of talents once more. Christianity stifled that terribly.

The Christian social environment doesn't encourage or appreciate creativity. That's because it discourages individuality. In some cases it doesn't even accept or allow certain instruments. My primary instrument is the drums, and when I became and Adventist many years back the drums were a definate no no. Their arguement was that rhythms and certain melodies caused people to become too enchanted by the music, and this was evil. A creative mind really needs to be free in order to create good music, writing, or other works of art.

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Nice post.  Thought you might enjoy this!

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RJBd8zE48A

 

Lol! It reminds me that you can be creative as a christian, as long as it fits within narrow parameters. Man, I tried hard to create some good work inside those boundaries but I just could not pull it off. The biggest barrier I hit up against was the subtle rule that you had to be positive and optimistic, within a christian framework or course. Most of my work had expressions of intense emotions, or experiences which in christianity were only allowed if you were praising god, or in a psalm like way, where you complain to god of you suffering then praise him for being wonderful anyway. This is why I always loved psalm 88 as it expresses great sorrow, with no happy ending. Of course if I tried to do that it was ungodly. When I am not depressed, I do feel great joy as I am an intensely feeling person all round, but as a christian I was again limited to expressing the positive in a christian context. The legalism over creativity really stifled me. I did write a few worship songs that were pretty decent, but even though I adored god while i was a christian, the songs still feel forced as I was overly conscious of every little sound and word to make sure my pastor wouldn't disapprove.

 

I hope every one is enjoying their creative freedom, whether it be in craft, cooking or music. :)  

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Nice post.  Thought you might enjoy this!

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RJBd8zE48A

 

Lol! It reminds me that you can be creative as a christian, as long as it fits within narrow parameters. Man, I tried hard to create some good work inside those boundaries but I just could not pull it off. The biggest barrier I hit up against was the subtle rule that you had to be positive and optimistic, within a christian framework or course. Most of my work had expressions of intense emotions, or experiences which in christianity were only allowed if you were praising god, or in a psalm like way, where you complain to god of you suffering then praise him for being wonderful anyway. This is why I always loved psalm 88 as it expresses great sorrow, with no happy ending. Of course if I tried to do that it was ungodly. When I am not depressed, I do feel great joy as I am an intensely feeling person all round, but as a christian I was again limited to expressing the positive in a christian context. The legalism over creativity really stifled me. I did write a few worship songs that were pretty decent, but even though I adored god while i was a christian, the songs still feel forced as I was overly conscious of every little sound and word to make sure my pastor wouldn't disapprove.

 

I hope every one is enjoying their creative freedom, whether it be in craft, cooking or music. smile.png

 

Your words, like the video, make me think of how controlling Christianity can be. It's objective is to make everyone think and act the same, and to erradicate any sense of individuality.

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As a Christian, I never really let my beliefs stifle my creativity. I did write things that would probably offend my Christian peers, but I just wouldn't share it with them. I tended to keep my 'artistic' self separate from my church. My main two things are music production and fictional writing, and I shared some of my music to the public, but I generally kept my fictional writing to myself, since I really like writing dark fiction.

 

I think the biggest fictional work of mine that's reflected on my changing beliefs over the years is a novelette I've been trying to write for about two years now named Faceless. The only reason it's taken so long is that I was never able to decide where the book was ultimately going. It's a very existential book about a man who appears to be the only living being in the world, and he tries to find ways to kill himself, but he seems incapable of doing that. When I started, when I was a Christian, it was an analogy of how lost we are without god and we just need god to make things better. Then, it faded into a story about how lost we can be while searching for god, and how god might not be real in the end and we can never really know. Now god isn't even a part of the story; the universe more or less is god. I've considered starting the whole thing over from scratch just because of how much my mindset has changed through the book's writing. Over the course of 2 years, I've actually constructed plans for three entirely different endings that all have completely different implications.

 

I think for me, the point is that I never really let my Christian mindset restrict what I wanted to write about or what I let myself think about. I was never afraid to look into things and research everything, so that's probably why I changed so much over the years. Really thinking, I'm glad this happened before I finished Faceless, since the original draft had some messed up ideas in it. (I reflected a lot of the morals from The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. That book was actually the influence to write something like Faceless to start with.)

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As a Christian, I never really let my beliefs stifle my creativity. I did write things that would probably offend my Christian peers, but I just wouldn't share it with them. I tended to keep my 'artistic' self separate from my church. My main two things are music production and fictional writing, and I shared some of my music to the public, but I generally kept my fictional writing to myself, since I really like writing dark fiction.

 

I think the biggest fictional work of mine that's reflected on my changing beliefs over the years is a novelette I've been trying to write for about two years now named Faceless. The only reason it's taken so long is that I was never able to decide where the book was ultimately going. It's a very existential book about a man who appears to be the only living being in the world, and he tries to find ways to kill himself, but he seems incapable of doing that. When I started, when I was a Christian, it was an analogy of how lost we are without god and we just need god to make things better. Then, it faded into a story about how lost we can be while searching for god, and how god might not be real in the end and we can never really know. Now god isn't even a part of the story; the universe more or less is god. I've considered starting the whole thing over from scratch just because of how much my mindset has changed through the book's writing. Over the course of 2 years, I've actually constructed plans for three entirely different endings that all have completely different implications.

 

I think for me, the point is that I never really let my Christian mindset restrict what I wanted to write about or what I let myself think about. I was never afraid to look into things and research everything, so that's probably why I changed so much over the years. Really thinking, I'm glad this happened before I finished Faceless, since the original draft had some messed up ideas in it. (I reflected a lot of the morals from The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. That book was actually the influence to write something like Faceless to start with.)

Seems we have similar interests. Sounds like you started a story, and your changing beliefs screwed up the plot. I wrote a few narrative poems in college while studying for the ministry and reading some C.S. Lewis. One of the poems is quite religious, but doesn't reflect my thinking now, so it's not something I share too often. Might I suggest you table the book you were working on and start another fresh one? In the end it will probably still require the same amount of time to work on a new project.

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I think Christianity has affected my creativity in some ways, especially when it comes to music. Since I pretty much grew up in church, almost all of my musical experiences and creative expression have taken place in that environment, with the exception of singing in men's chorus in college. Since I've deconverted, I've found much of my interest in performing and learning new music has waned. At this point I'm not sure if it's a temporary thing (It's been less than two years since I've left the church/Christianity behind for good) or permanent. For some reason, I've always have trouble creating my own original music. Part of me thinks this is due to always playing other people's music in services, and becoming so used to that that I never really accessed that part of my creativity. Or maybe it's just not one of my strengths, who knows lol?

 

However, my writing has taken off. I've completed a second draft of a novel, began the first draft of its sequel, and have written a few short stories and poems. I think this is because for me, writing was never connected to Christianity and church, and was always about me and my personal feelings, whereas all my musical creativity was supposed to be about praising and uplifting god.

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I'm grieved to think of the great creative works we may have missed out on due to people being trapped within the confines of religion. Reading the above posts makes me think of another factor involved with creativity; exploring other peoples works. When I was a hardcore fundamentalist I believed it was harmful to my spirit to listen to anything but christian music, although this was occasionally extended to U2 I was still careful as Bono (a professed christian) lived a worldly lifestyle. This meant that the input of new music I had to expand my creative ideas was within very limited parameters. As I began becoming less fundamentalist, but still a strong christian, I began listening to the music I had loved prior to being a christian, as well as the radio, and rarely listened to worship music as it had been all I played for eight years. Once I deconverted there were several occasions where I wept while listening to music I loved because I had been robbed of so many years without that joy, and without its creative influence on my life. 

 

Before I became a christian in 1997, I was heavily into alternative music of all different kinds. Some mainstream stuff I enjoyed, but mostly I loved more of the fringe music. This is probably just a product of my nature, my parents are music lovers and so there was always music on but they mostly liked mainstream stuff. Anyway, it is probably why being a fundie was so creatively restricting for me (as I am sure it was for others) is that christian music is not my taste in music, so I had little/no inspiration to write music that I enjoyed. At least I had until I was 21 to listen to a wide range of music and work out what I liked as I feel that I have been able to slot right back into a comfortable place to stretch out from. Although it is very important for creative people to stretch themselves and listen to/read/watch works that are outside their comfort zone (say christian music) I found being christian robbed me of the opportunity to explore music styles and thus continue to develop my own.

 

A few weeks ago a national alternative radio station held a vote for the best songs of the last twenty years. While going through many of the songs released I again wept as I specifically went through all the music I missed out on during those eight years as a fundie. Years of great music and influence I will never have back. May sound a little melodramatic, but music really means that much to me. My songwriting hasn't kicked off again, but I am practicing heaps and hope to start writing soon. Not planning on releasing it as a professional, I just want to do it for myself. 

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I think it might be fear. We get trained to believe that all things secular are wrong.

 

 

The Christian social environment doesn't encourage or appreciate creativity. That's because it discourages individuality.

 

 

The biggest barrier I hit up against was the subtle rule that you had to be positive and optimistic, within a christian framework or course.

 

 

All of this! When I first wrote, I felt I had to keep my characters within those religious parameters: going to church and praying, no sex until marriage (or you married the person you had sex with), women had to be selfless and giving, the best thing to be was a mom, all wonderful things come from God. This meant my first novel was a cringeworthy combination of teen marriage and ridiculous deus ex machina ending. Kind of like Twilight without the vampires come to think of it.  Of course, I was also thirteen at the time, so I'll cut myself a little slack for that. But my point is, there's no real room to explore a variety of characters and plots. With the God script, there are certain elements you have to have, and no matter if its consistent with a character or situation, no matter if it is completely out of place in the narrative. 

 

I would also like to add for the record: Christian music sucks ass. U2 is about as religious as I can stomach (and even that is with an eye rolling "bless his heart" at Bono). 

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I think Christianity has affected my creativity in some ways, especially when it comes to music. Since I pretty much grew up in church, almost all of my musical experiences and creative expression have taken place in that environment, with the exception of singing in men's chorus in college. Since I've deconverted, I've found much of my interest in performing and learning new music has waned. At this point I'm not sure if it's a temporary thing (It's been less than two years since I've left the church/Christianity behind for good) or permanent. For some reason, I've always have trouble creating my own original music. Part of me thinks this is due to always playing other people's music in services, and becoming so used to that that I never really accessed that part of my creativity. Or maybe it's just not one of my strengths, who knows lol?

 

However, my writing has taken off. I've completed a second draft of a novel, began the first draft of its sequel, and have written a few short stories and poems. I think this is because for me, writing was never connected to Christianity and church, and was always about me and my personal feelings, whereas all my musical creativity was supposed to be about praising and uplifting god.

Since your musical experiences mostly come from the church environment, I wonder if making music brings on some negative psycological reactions for you? I also think that writing original music is a different kind of skill. I've always thought that writing is the most original of all forms of expression. There's something about words that makes them very powerful and they have the ability to make a greater impact that music might.

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I'm grieved to think of the great creative works we may have missed out on due to people being trapped within the confines of religion.

Agreed. Not only what we may have missed out on, but what we all missed out on. The way the church has stifled human creativity and ingenuity over the past few thousands of years has really set humanity back.

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I think Christianity has affected my creativity in some ways, especially when it comes to music. Since I pretty much grew up in church, almost all of my musical experiences and creative expression have taken place in that environment, with the exception of singing in men's chorus in college. Since I've deconverted, I've found much of my interest in performing and learning new music has waned. At this point I'm not sure if it's a temporary thing (It's been less than two years since I've left the church/Christianity behind for good) or permanent. For some reason, I've always have trouble creating my own original music. Part of me thinks this is due to always playing other people's music in services, and becoming so used to that that I never really accessed that part of my creativity. Or maybe it's just not one of my strengths, who knows lol?

 

However, my writing has taken off. I've completed a second draft of a novel, began the first draft of its sequel, and have written a few short stories and poems. I think this is because for me, writing was never connected to Christianity and church, and was always about me and my personal feelings, whereas all my musical creativity was supposed to be about praising and uplifting god.

Since your musical experiences mostly come from the church environment, I wonder if making music brings on some negative psycological reactions for you? I also think that writing original music is a different kind of skill. I've always thought that writing is the most original of all forms of expression. There's something about words that makes them very powerful and they have the ability to make a greater impact that music might.

 

Maybe not so much making music, but performing and rehearsing music in a church environment caused a negative reaction in me. Since then I've had impromptu "jam sessions" with a friend who plays guitar without any of the nasty side effects. I agree that writing original music is a different kind of skill than learning and performing other people's music. Maybe that's not my strong suit, or maybe I just need a good partner in crime to work with. But I really do enjoy writing. For some reason its always been the place where I can focus all my obsessions and where people seem to "get me" and feel my emotions, something that didn't happen with music. A common thing I remember my music teachers saying is I had good technical mastery, but they couldn't feel strong emotion. I guess writing is that outlet for me.

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kclark- I remember finishing my first draft of a novel back in 1996. It's a great feeling, because writing is such a huge amount of work. How's the second rewrite coming along on your book? I cut about 200 pages in my second rewrite.

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kclark- I remember finishing my first draft of a novel back in 1996. It's a great feeling, because writing is such a huge amount of work. How's the second rewrite coming along on your book? I cut about 200 pages in my second rewrite.

Well actually I'm on my third rewrite. I submitted the second draft to a few beta readers and am waiting for them to finish up their thoughts/critiques. Once that's done, I'll go back to do a third edit. Overall it's been going well though.

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kclark- I remember finishing my first draft of a novel back in 1996. It's a great feeling, because writing is such a huge amount of work. How's the second rewrite coming along on your book? I cut about 200 pages in my second rewrite.

Well actually I'm on my third rewrite. I submitted the second draft to a few beta readers and am waiting for them to finish up their thoughts/critiques. Once that's done, I'll go back to do a third edit. Overall it's been going well though.

 

Cool. And I'm with you on the Zimmerman trail as you cited in your blog. People should take note. The Zimmerman trail is just one of hundreds that are on-going today. Overall, the outcomes of these trails are similar, and they are quite telling about the current state of the American Justice System.

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