Well, that’s what Camille Paglia, Professor of Liberal Arts at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, and author of the important text, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, did in a lecture entitled “Religion and the Arts”, delivered on 6 February 2007 as the 2007 Cornerstone Arts Lecture at Colorado College.
Professor Paglia began her lecture with a rhetorical question: ” Would anyone seriously argue that the fine arts or even popular culture is enjoying a period of high originality and creativity?”
She went on to advocate putting “the study of comparative religion at the center of the university curriculum” because “a totally secularized society with contempt for religion sinks into materialism and self-absorption and gradually goes slack, without leaving an artistic legacy.”
After a lengthy history of the relationship between religion and the arts in America, Professor Paglia observed that “as avant-garde modernism triumphed in the first half of the twentieth century, it was only the movies that addressed or expressed the religious convictions of the mass audience.”
She concludes by observing today’s art scene:
“Supporters of the arts who gleefully cheer when a religious symbol is maltreated act as if that response authenticates their avant-garde credentials. But hereâ€™s the bad news: the avant-garde is dead. It was killed over forty years ago by Pop Art and by one of my heroes, Andy Warhol, a decadent Catholic. The era of vigorous oppositional art inaugurated two hundred years ago by Romanticism is long gone.”
What to do?
“For the fine arts to revive, they must recover their spiritual center. Profaning the iconography of other peopleâ€™s faiths is boring and adolescent.”