Creativity and Fundamentalism

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Dear Artist,

My recent mention of “Can fundamentalists be creative?” had readers scurrying to the Psychology Today article. When neurologist Ken Heilman and technologist Russ Donda’s observations were first made public in 2007, there was, of course, a great howl from all kinds of religious folks. The howling goes on. In my case, I’m one of those guys who thinks creativity is an equal opportunity situation, and I try to evangelize all comers.

The authors of the study defined creativity as the ability to question and conceive things beyond the status quo and diverge from the familiar. They defined fundamentalism as any doctrinal belief system not generally open to scrutiny and likely to be intolerant of other similar systems. In most cases, personal interpretations tend to be marginalized. Heilman and Donda found fundamentalists to be “poorer in possibilities,” and less able to see the value of play.

Among their sources, Heilman and Donda referred to an Israeli study where students in secular schools had significantly higher scores in divergent reasoning than students in religious schools.

It seems fundamentalists avoid the psychological pain brought about by examining the outside world and tend not to allow themselves bouts of divergent reasoning.

It’s almost like there are two main kinds of people — those who are curious, challenging, inventive and creative, and those who rely on some sort of dogma to make sense of their world. Studies show that creative thinking takes place at the front of the cortex, while further back the brain seems to be more submissive and gullible. To its credit, this back area also features more stable and defensive thinking, and may represent a hangover from primitive times when fear was more in your face.

One of the more controversial findings of these studies is that religious fundamentalism may permanently damage the growth of a child’s brain. The thinking goes like this: People with physical damage to their frontal cortex from an accident or medical issues tend to perform poorly in creative thinking. The underutilization of this area, particularly in early life, seems also to impede its proper development and stunt the growth of creativity. In short, fundamentalists may have trouble thinking outside the box.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “Based on what we know about brain growth, it is possible that a child taught only to follow, and not to personally wonder about or question doctrine, will suffer from an abnormal development of the frontal lobes.” (Ken Heilman)

Esoterica: One of the tests typically used to determine creativity in young people is to ask them to give alternate uses for common kitchen utensils. The fork, for example, is obviously an instrument for impaling food and bringing it to the mouth. Creative children are likely to suggest its use as a catapult to flick peas, a lever for lifting objects, a small plucked instrument, a tool for scribing parallel grooves in clay or Plasticine, or many other applications. According to these studies, children brought up in rigid religious environments are less likely to use forks to flick peas.

More primitive form of intelligence
by Russell Donda

I am grateful for this post referencing the article I co-authored with Kenneth Heilman. The gist revolves around the ability to reason divergently: the ability to break free from one’s current beliefs and behaviors. This ability to break free is the start of the creative process. People who have adherence disorders often have frontal lobe insufficiency, whether through accident or disease.

Our hypothesis is that people who unconditionally adhere to doctrine (religious or otherwise), may not be employing as much of their frontal lobes as someone engaged in a creative act. When thinking of “unconditional” consider the example of evolution: despite the overwhelming scientific evidence, there remains a rigid adherence to literal scripture in some people. Additionally, we know that the frontal lobes are the most phylogenetically evolved part of the brain, thus we believe the ability to break from old behaviors and to act in a new way is the most evolved form of intelligence — conversely, unconditional adherence to beliefs, including some religious fundamentalist dogma, may represent a more primitive form of intelligence.



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From: Mary Graves — Apr 06, 2010

I shared this letter with my husband. I always enjoy your newsletters very much and often share it with friends and spouse. This one elicited a response from my husband who wanted me to share his thoughts on your article. His note is below. Thanks for all your thought provoking notes Robert. Sincerely Mary

You might respond to him from you Husband who states: “Every child needs , at a minimum, 3 points of view of any subject: Parent, Sibling, and Teacher, in order to expand upon the truth behind… ” You are what you think; all you are is made up of those thoughts; with those thoughts, you make your world”.

The divinity of creativity
by Ray Miller, Oceanside, CA, USA

Perhaps the creative function of the brain should be considered divine rather than the “soul.” In most religions the deity was the creator. To be godlike, we should be creative. Creativity can be the way we live our lives, raise our families, and the way we play. Fundamentalism in religion is based on premises that are considered immutable, like the laws of science. But science is capable of change. Children indoctrinated with a frozen, static view of life are probably not as creative and inventive as those who are free to reassess the world around them every day.



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From: Anonymous — Apr 06, 2010

Thanks for all your letters, you have thought me a lot, even though we never meet. My comment to the two paintings of your’s are, 1980 one I only think there is something wrong with the sky, should be lighten up, and the 2010 one I love the sky, but to me all the rest is too blueish for me. Thanks for letting me be a critique. love of your paintings otherwise and all the little stories and the quotes from other people, thanks so much. from a admirer and fellow painter. Jytte Frost

From: Jean Nelson — Apr 08, 2010

The ‘retread’ of the 1980 picture: I feel the sky color was an important change – but alone would have caused the rest of the painting to feel a little washed out, so the blue balances it out nicely.

Lessons from the generations
by Deborah Tidwell Holtzscheiter, Aiken, SC, USA

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“Joshua and Ferb”
original painting
by Deborah Tidwell Holtzscheiter

Now I know where my creative issues come from — I wasn’t allowed to flick peas as a child! LOL — I can see where a rigid environment could affect one’s ability to think outside of the box. I think about this with my own child in allowing him to explore and express himself in ways that I was not allowed. It means that we have more mess with his scraps of paper and markers, etc. lying about. But boundaries do give a sense of security (and better behaved children)! I think there has to be a balance…  room to be curious but then we need to clean up that room when we are finished!



There are 2 comments for Lessons from the generations by Deborah Tidwell Holtzscheiter

From: Mary Bullock — Apr 06, 2010

love your comment about needing boundaries! Boundaries does not necessarily negate creativity.

From: julie nilsson — Apr 06, 2010

Wonderful light, color AND composition in your portrait! You captured the delicacy of childhood with a very strong piece. Boundaries didn’t seem to hurt your creativity one bit. Bravo.

The limitations of ‘limited’
by Tiit Raid, Fall Creek, Wisconsin, USA

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“Highway 12 Bridge”
acrylic painting by Tiit Raid

Whenever I hear the word ‘fundamentalism’ I associate it with the word ‘limited.’ This is a generalization, of course, but my experience shows that whenever I think I have ‘the answer’ I tend not to investigate or question or seek. Thinking that you know (or for the artist, thinking that you see well enough) is kind of like falling asleep. And if one starts on this non-investigative process at an early age, the mind (the eye) tends to harden, and it begins to work (see) within a narrower range of possibilities.

The box on which we stand
by Rev. Jeremy McLeod, Manassas, VA, USA

Among other things I’m a church musician (choral composer/arranger) and social justice activist. Both aspects of my career were set in motion while I was being raised up in a very conservative branch of Christianity. While I’ve moved far to the left on most theological/spiritual scales (now a pastor in a very liberal denomination), the creativity nurtured in those earlier years remains a daily part of my life.

My sense of this is that we all have some part of our lives that goes unquestioned and serves as a foundation upon which to be creative. While “fundamentalism” can result in people who resemble windup toys, I’ve also seen conservative religion spark remarkable creativity. When things like scripture and doctrine are settled matters, the creation of arts for worship or programs for ministries of service are often amazingly creative.

Sometimes (not always, granted), it’s the very box that contains us that in turn becomes the step-stool upon which to stand to see differently and thus create.



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From: Jaleen Grove — Apr 06, 2010

While I side more with Genn, this is a very elegant and wise response to a point of view I feared would be hugely inflammatory.

The transgressions of both religion and creativity
by Faith Puleston, Herdecke, Germany

“Yes indeed! A can of worms, given that of all restrictive practices, religion in its various guises is and has been responsible for more than its fair share of all the wickedness on this planet — but caused by reduction in brain capacity? Well, that could be an explanation. Another word for it could be indoctrination, functionally the blocking out of anything that doesn’t fit into the respective scheme of things. Thinking (where still possible) inside or outside of a (religious) box can be dangerous, as events through the ages have shown.

The problem is that there have always been the strong and the weak in every society, and the strong have traditionally subjugated the weak by whatever means available to them. “God” or gods would seem to be ideally suited since historically one can’t argue with them (or their self-appointed representatives?). Creativity, on the other hand, can make mischief, disorder a well-ordered household and destroy the illusions and delusions of power.



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From: Mary Bullock — Apr 06, 2010

Religion is always an easy scapegoat for the wickedness on this planet. Non-religion is just as culpable (Nazism, Communism, etc.)

Balance between doctrine and creativity always works best for all involved.

From: Anonymous — Apr 06, 2010

Actually, Nazism, Communism and Patriotism are all just other forms of religeon, aren’t they?

From: mshumanist — Apr 10, 2010

Dear Mary, As a secular Humanist, your lumping of the non-religious into the same category as Nazism and Communism was greatly offensive to me and showed a total lack of understanding of what makes an Atheist or Secular Humanist, like myself, tick. I could try to explain it to you but have a feeling it would be lost on your misinformed mind. Google it.

From: Faith — Apr 15, 2010

Mary, you’re on a sticky wicket!

Doctrine is a dangerous word and indocrination per se even more dangerous. The indoctrinated are mostly unconscious of their own encapsulated mental status since they have cut out what does not fit into their “chosen” doctrine and are blind to its shortcomings, whether political or religious or pedagogic or – you name it, it’s out there somewhere!

It is a good idea to remember that ALL doctrines are man-made, for better or worse!

From: anonimous — Apr 16, 2010

Yep Mary, your are right, and I should know as I lived through a few different fundamentalist environments. But be very careful, those who are blind will passionately burn you at a stake or melt you in a concentration camp – and I am not talking history here. It happens even today. Be safe and don’t use your name – we are the endangered spieces – sad and scarry but true.

Do fundamentalists deny the gift?
by Terry Janovick, Ladysmith, BC, Canada

I believe that lack of creative stimulation and freedom of expression in your early years of life, does desensitize a person from being aware of the awesomeness of life IN and around them. Though a soul that longs for and knows that there is more will find it… especially in creative expression or because of their fears, will lose contact with the very essence of life, a sensitivity to life. As you mentioned “creativity is an equal opportunity…” I believe creativity is as varied as people are and everyone can learn but it is a ‘talent’ to be able to capture a powerful image or/and feeling, 2D, 3D, music, books or drama. I believe real art in whatever shape or form ‘rings true’ and effectively communicates to the receiver what the creator was trying to say. An artistic fundamentalist could also capture how they see life but may not recognize the value of art and therefore deny the ‘gift.’ So I guess I’m saying yes a ‘fundamentalist’ can be creative… but will they…?



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From: Mary Bullock — Apr 06, 2010

Yes, fundamentalists can and will be creative. One does not negate the other

From: Loretta — Apr 06, 2010

Well put. In the past I have led students on interactive art tours. Mostly from public schools but some from home schools and conservative religous schools. What I noticed was that the public school kids were far more interactive and outgoing, (and yet more likely to misbehave); while the private students were less likely to interact and were more reserved. Their answers to questions at times tended to relate to their beliefs, seeing a church instead of a state building, for example. This I believe was more to do with conditioning which may in the end determine brain development. However, when they did a creative exercise which was more individual their ability was just the same as the public school children. My experience with private teaching of home school kids shows that they can be just a whimsical and creative as those schooled in public.

Can passion explore in a closed system?
by Bobbo Goldberg, Orlando, FL, USA

The often abused term “begging the question” applies here. It means circular reasoning. You present as proof that very thing you’re trying to prove. There’s a bumper sticker out there: “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Ask for proof that God said it, and you’ll be referred to the same scripture that the sticker-bearer practices. Indeed, for the fundamentalist, that settles it. There was a time when the argument might have proven fatal.

Scientific, or empirical thinking, is a different animal. It posits a possible fact, then tries responsibly to either prove or disprove it. Either result is considered progress, since it either supports a hypothesis or destroys a worthless one. Only when sufficient proof has been gathered is something declared a fact. To this day, we refer to evolution as a “theory,” although that word means something different in scientific usage than in popular.

There is a difference between fact and opinion. Surely we know that either can be a stimulus for great art. So I’m not sure I can get behind the postulate that fundamentalist thinking somehow interferes with creativity. Grunewald, Giotto, and the painters of the Renaissance argue for the contrary, and show that passion can explode, even within a closed intellectual system. This holds true for Navajo sand painting, Kwakiutl totems and Indian raga as well. Formalism can find expression when the heart is unleashed, although it may take more of a classical than a romantic form. However, it may well be that the *thought* process of a freer mind is more conducive to the growth of new styles and expressions of art. Whether one’s conclusions come before the fact or after the fact, it remains true that creativity is part of the human experience, so keep on evangelizing, Robert.



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From: Andrew Sookrah, Toronto ON — Apr 06, 2010

Great logical thinking. I suspect however, that an abundance of logic, no matter how sound, can also be lead weights on the wings of creativity.

From: Mary Bullock — Apr 06, 2010

Robert – love your thinking process!

The fear of freedom
by James Bright, Ottawa, ON, Canada

It should even, and probably does, apply to that narrow range of art expression of popular area of art activity of the “return to classical style of painting and painting like the masters.” Unfortunately… what is not always known is that many of them painted within strict constraints of acceptability and current dogma of the art societies. Maybe that is what the people want… but given the totally limitless potential of a paint brush, some colour and a surface of some kind… the artist has truly only one place to go… and that is how they see the world. Why so many feel constrained to stay within the lines and never paint on the walls is beyond me.

It took me a long time to get out of that head space and thinking that is where to go. Mind you the current art schools have their work cut out for them… with resistance of a student’s mind and lack of confidence… well it is a big job to open them up to this very fact that once you have the materials… where you go is up to you… and that HUGE amount of freedom is terribly frightening for many… as it was for me.



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From: Nina Allen Freeman — Apr 06, 2010

I couldn’t agree with you more. As a watercolorist, there are some who remain “purists” who only paint in a prescribed way with transparent watercolors. why they would box themselves in when the whole world of water media is out there to be explored – I don’t know.

Reaping the rewards of fundamentalism
by Jeanne Larson, Lake Elmo, MN, USA

Having had the good fortune to grow up in a ‘fundamentalist’ home, I constantly reap the rewards of what some may call that insular lifestyle. For example, the hours that many young people spend staring into the abyss of television, we spent spread out on the living room floor with scissors, paste, the Montgomery Ward Catalogue and a large box of crayons creating the worlds that inhabited our imaginations. We attended church 3 times a week, but our family was a family of dreamers and spent many hours exploring the adventures of the mind and experiencing all the possibilities that a creative life holds. I don’t see our family as unique within the fundamentalist world we inhabit. Believe me when I tell you that a good number of the people I’ve met set the “pea flicking” standard pretty high.

In addition, the emphasis placed on personal responsibility and discipline has only been a benefit in the pursuit of my own personal artistic ambitions. This is not to say that an unquestioning approach to life was ever a possibility. I always understood that inherent in the foundation of our belief system was an open door for exploration, questioning and an adventurous imagination. It’s my belief that a child born with an artistic curiosity and ability to question will question in whatever climate they land.



There are 4 comments for Reaping the rewards of fundamentalism by Jeanne Larson

From: Mary Bullock — Apr 06, 2010

Amen! Well said.

From: Hugo — Apr 06, 2010

Or maybe not. In my experience in a more technical field I have observed that the more fundamentalist people have a heck of a time finding their own mistakes, solving problems that in some ways were caused by their own assumptions.

From: Christine H. — Apr 06, 2010

Even if you are not encouraged to question…you can become a very creative person. It has a lot to do with our inner drives as well. I was raised by a very conservative father with a huge capacity for love, and a very creative but conservative mother who in part used her creativity to keep peace…but I was always pushing the limits, testing, questioning…even when I knew that being quite and “good” would make life easier. My whole family is amazingly creative and inventive despite and because of our possibilities and limits, and our inborn natures.

From: Angelia Sparrow — Apr 09, 2010

On the other hand, my fundamentalist family saw imagination as something to be squelched. “It never appears in the Bible without the word ‘wicked’ in front of it!” they were quick to remind me the moment I started day dreaming.

Every thought had to be guarded zealously, lest we be tempted ot worse, possessed. Possession could occur from anything, even somethign we didn’t know about, being in the same room with a Tarot deck or Ouija board that was hidden in a closet, for example.

It didn’t take. I walked away over other beliefs that said I could never be saved anyway, so why was I wasting my time?

Fundamentally a spiritual journey
by Mike Jorden, Osoyoos, BC, Canada

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“Navajo Land”
original painting by Mike Jorden

Your letter coincided with my rereading of M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled. His assertion that the ultimate and most prevalent sin is that of laziness — particularly the laziness to confront our prejudices and preconceptions — parallels the findings of the study you cite. Underneath rigidly held beliefs is the fear of the effort and pain required to examine them and possibly change them and hence our view of reality. The effort required to do this is an aspect of love — possibly the most important aspect. I believe the art journey is fundamentally a spiritual journey and overcoming our reluctance to dig deeper into our subject to uncover what attracted us to it in the first place, to overcome our rote ways of doing things, even to get back into the studio after a prolonged absence — all these efforts mirror the effort required to grow and deepen spiritually. I agree with your contributors who say that when the spirit is unwilling, it is even more essential to show up regularly at the studio if only to go through the motions of the endeavor. No one said the full and examined life was an easy life, only that it is worth the effort.

The theologian Karen Armstrong in The Spiral Staircase asserts that absolute and unwavering certainty is evidence of profound evil — if only because if you differ in your beliefs you are automatically wrong. Intolerance in others — and ourselves — would be only mildly annoying were it not for the fact that such people occasionally get into positions that allow them to pass legislation, alter curricula, ban books, invade countries or otherwise impose their beliefs on others. Sometimes they ban art! I believe a healthy skepticism and an enquiring, creative intellect are essential tools for encountering life and spirituality as well as art. I also believe there is ultimate truth and absolute reality somewhere and it is worth seeking but for the most part our knowledge of it will be relative and proximate, as is our science, as is our art. So let us go forward and live our creativity in any way we can. And beware of gurus!

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World of Art Featured artist Cory Trepanier, ON, Canada  

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By The Bay

oil painting by
Cory Trepanier, ON, Canada

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Dale Kirschenman of AB, Canada, who wrote, “Time Magazine recently featured a special article titled ‘The God Gene’ which examined recent studies regarding human genetic predisposition to believe or not believe in God or religious dogma. There appears to be significant data that shows humans are in fact ‘hardwired’ to either be potential ‘believers’ or potential ‘non-believers.’ ”

And also Sala Chapman of Myrtle Beach, SC, USA, who wrote, “This information forms the basis of how our children are taught in schools. (I am a teacher.) Children in schools are taught to conform. They are taught fake US History that tells them America is the best and makes no mistakes and the ‘Government’ is not to be doubted. It limits divergent and creative thinking. It is why our country has gotten into the sad situation it is in now. For many generations people have been trained to be sheep and not question.”

And also Nev Sagiba of Katoomba, Australia, who wrote, “I’m all for flicking peas. Early lessons in physics instead of superstition.”

And also Donna Clark of North Hampton, OH, USA, who wrote, “I am a Fundamentalist Christian, but I DO flick peas!!!”

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Creativity and Fundamentalism

 

 

From: Been there.. — Apr 01, 2010

These ‘developmentally restricted’ individuals can and have been used in a myriad of ways throughout time. Just the expectations alone are a heavy load to carry. To break free is a daunting task. I suppose there are guesses as to the % who might be born with restricted thinking, and those who are molded. Either way, not all can remain there against their natural instincts. Those who break free will still struggle with memories of limitation. It takes focus and effort not to pass the shadows of this to others.

From: Richard Smith — Apr 01, 2010

Oh this one oughta open a few cans of worms. I was going to post a comment but you know, I think I’ll just put this one down slowly and back away with my hands in the air.

From: lorraine Stiefenhofer — Apr 01, 2010

Richard Smith, I know how you feel! This is a hot topic. But worms or not, vital issues not openly brought up, just keep coming up, in some way or another, and not always in productive or gentle ways. The human mind is elegant in its potential that to stunt it in any way seems wrong. Stunning creativity is a gift with wings.

From: Madeline — Apr 02, 2010

I agree with Richard… this question is a can of worms, but a very wriggly, fascinating one. As a person who was not raised as a fundamentalist, but then who became one for about 25 years, and who, as a more mature person, realized that life in the proverbial religious “box” (or should we say “can”) was not working for me any more, climbed out. May I share with you my ideas?

I guess that a fundamentalist believes that there exists a “right path” to a well-defined end, and there is a personally involved deity who is watching and judging every move. A person must please that deity, and honor that deity for his very existence, which is not deserved, because we are all basically flawed. At the end of life, one hopes to arrive at a certain destination, a certain perfection, made possible through Grace.

In broad terms, a non-fundamentalist is more interested in process and self-discovery and affirming her own message as a human being with deep creativity and unique vision. Because one is not imbued with the idea of a judge looking over the shoulder (we hope,) it is easier to play and explore. Also, he is less “end-result” oriented. This kind of artist might often be surprised and pleased by the results of divergence from usual practices whereas someone who has fundamentalist habits and the desire to always do things correctly, might not stray from the usual quite so often, and miss those serendipitous discoveries.

Someone who is not guided by “right” or “wrong” parameters, in general, might have looser artistic habits which cause them to ask, as they paint, “why not try this?” and then do it.

Granted, fundamentalism, if it carries over into the development of oneself as an artist, might result in more discipline, more acquisition of the skills an artist needs. However, the question we are examining does not really involve technique or basic knowledge, but rather, what kind of mindset allows artists to experiment and be unusually creative.

Of course, my fellow artists whose lives are enriched and secure because of their fundamentalist religious beliefs will probably have some observations which refute mine. I would be curious to hear how your life path has encouraged your creativity. I’m sure I can learn something new.

And, Richard, I hear that if you let worms crawl over a palette, and then on to the canvass, you can get a pretty interesting painting!

From: Steven — Apr 02, 2010

Most interesting. And a subject that had me reflecting on my life as a fundamentalist. In my youth I was very creative but had no outlet or direction for it; I was alone in a sense because none of my friends had the same desire that I had to create; frustrating! Because of that, I went searching for a sense of community and found it in Fundamentalism. I spent some twenty years in this rigid faith community before I left it. It was not an unpleasant departure and I still have friends that are fundamentalists; I’m sure they pray for me. Now that I’m ‘out’ I find that I’m still as unfocused as ever in my creativity, wandering from one medium to another as directed by that part of my brain (the front of the cortex) that controls or allows the joy of creation. I work in stained glass and watercolors and everything in between. I’m not all that good at any of it but I’m happy and I think God likes that.

From: Jason Tako — Apr 02, 2010

I think one thing that artists need to consider is that the development of abstract art and much of what we call modern art (like passing dental floss through your intestinal tract and hanging it on the wall) was in correlation to the theory that people were not created in the image of God but evolved from slime. The great masters held a belief of the dignity of the human person as having come from the fact that they were created in God’s image and that God became a human being. Once this was tossed out we saw the art world do something that I heard Richard Schmid speak against, and that was throwing out all that the masters knew and passed on. While I see a lot of shortcomings and even dangers in Fundamentalism, I am a devout and I’m sure you could say dogmatic Catholic and I have not found that holding to certain dogmas has impeded my art in any way. In fact I think it has enhanced it. I’m sure that Dan Gerhartz and Morgan Weistling, both Christians, would agree. Here is an interesting quote from GK Chesterton to ponder “Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.” When we threw out all religious dogmas we also threw out all artistic dogmas and the result was intestinal dental floss in our galleries.

From: Bruce Meyer — Apr 02, 2010

I suspect — strongly suspect — that the percentage of highly creative people inside the religious communities is roughly IDENTICAL to that of any random collection of individuals. I’m a Christian and an artist, and most of the flack I’ve gotten about being creative came from non-religious people; until I surrounded myself with religious people, and then most of the flack came from the new people.

No, it’s not fundamentalism that causes narrowness of vision. It’s merely that narrowness of vision is a common human condition, and it’s generally scattered across the population.

The advantage of having religious boundaries (even if called “fundamentalism”) is that, while everyone has to have boundaries in order to be productive, religious people don’t have to do the work of inventing the boundaries themselves.

From: Gregg H — Apr 02, 2010

I am not surprised that the pointy headed college professors who came up with this study arrived at their findings. I have been a creative all my life. I have also believed all my life.

How can you look at all the natural wonders and not believe it was created? I am in total agreement with Jason, who must have an art education outside the ( great schools ) so as to know that some of the greatest masters in art were very devout.

Michelangelo, Leonardo, even Van Gogh to name a few were believers. I guess their frontal lobes were not developed enough due to the fact that what they believed in a creator. Who knows what they would have produced if they were taught that we all came from primordial slime.

From: Wendie Thompson — Apr 02, 2010

Wow…just in time for Easter! OK…I belong to Jesus…I hold certain truths to be absolute and I find freedom in that. For the record…I have been described as wildly creative. A simple analogy: There was a school playground years ago not far from my home with no fence around it. I noted that the children played close to the building for the most part. One day a fence went up and after that the children found freedom to use every inch of that playground. Fundamentalists, don’t forget, believe in the Creator, the created and creating. In fact, I believe we have a responsibility to be creative in Honor of Him. I have noticed recently that it is “not OK” to say these things as it once was and I am endangered of loosing artists friends in stating my faith. I am greatly saddened by this as I value all my friends in every life path.

From: M. K. Singh — Apr 02, 2010

When we think of fundamentalists these days, we generally think of Islamic fundamentalists. Here, the young people are subjected to Madrassas — religious schools where rigid tenets are taught, and questioning of the Koran is suspect if not a sin. Apart from the remarkable shortage of creative art and creative thinking in Muslim countries, this childhood brainwashing has the result of preparing people for the righteousness of Jihad. The sum total is the non-creative simplicity of blowing perceived infidels up. The evidence is there that rigid belief has little or no respect for wider humanity or alternate views.

From: Tammy Moore — Apr 02, 2010

If the research findings were accurate then we would have found that people of faith throughout history would have been the least likely to challenge the status quo or think creatively. I definitely do not see that. Jesus was not a status quo type of guy nor is there any doubt about His creativity. Christians in the Roman era definitely challenged the status quo and suffered for it. Their art in the catacombs show that even in the limited environment of hiding they had a passion to create. During the Renaissance and Reformation you find that many of the highly revered artists of that time were deeply religious people.

Men of science as well showed divergent, status quo thinking, yet were men of faith: Newton, Einstein, come to mind.

In politics, America herself has men of deep faith to thank. The American experiment was not a status quo, follow the leader type of event. The founding of the American Republic was done largely by men who were creating something that had never existed before, requiring very divergent but reality-based decision making.

I think the research is a bunch of bunk created by people who have a philosophical axe to grind. The bunk is not harmless though. In the modern political climate, the research ‘facts’ can be handled as ‘reasoning’ to politically or socially infringe upon the freedoms and value of religious citizens. That bit about a child’s brain development being harmed by being raised in a religious home is a definite red flag for just such a misuse of power using this research as a basis for justifying it.

On the flip side, worshiping creativity for creativity sake is a strange phenomenon of this era in history for artists. Innovation has always been a part of art’s history. Materials, techniques, and subject matter have expanded through the explorations of artists in doing what they love. But, in this current generation, I really don’t see much real innovation. Yes, we have the likes of floss drawn through the bowels of a dead animal and being displayed as art being applauded because it is creative, but not much real, genuine innovations of the likes of Rembrandt (a deeply religious man), Durer, and the likes. If the modern definition of creativity is merely to do something wildly unlike the status quo, unquestioning of the long term-value and meaning to art, culture, and posterity, then what good is it to be creative?

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Apr 02, 2010
From: Heidi Harner — Apr 02, 2010

I think the word “fundamentalist” is just a label, and it’s not a good idea to put any label on any person or group of persons. I love Jesus. Now you might (or might not) come up with all kinds of true or untrue thoughts about me because of that simple statement, ‘I love Jesus’. You might call me a fundamentalist and think I am not creative. Or you might agree with my belief in Christ and rejoice with me. I find freedom in knowing and following Christ. Sometimes it is hard to follow His path because He asks me to trust him, and I need to be stretched; to be taken out of my comfort zone, and it is always for my good and His glory. He asks me to love Him and love others. I try, and I fail sometimes, and He forgives, and I try again. We are all strugglers together in this fallen world. He knows me better than I know myself, and I trust him with my life because He first loved me. And He loves you. My creativity may not be the most brilliant out there, but I enjoy painting and feel it is my life’s work. God has led me this far in my art career. I’m just going to keep praying and painting and working and earning money and enjoy it as long as I have life and breath. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for the creativity He has given to us all. To Him be the Glory.

From: Hermann Lutz — Apr 02, 2010

Much is made by Christians of the creativity of any number of historical composers and artists who appeared to work fervently within the faith. One needs to think about the possibility that their creativity was in spite of the church’s belief systems and was a welcome relief from it. The fact is that most of them were paid. “The red priest” Vivaldi is often mentioned. Where did his heavenly music come from? Pretty obviously the church was the default employer in those days and artists either used it or starved. Patrons needing to look good were there to help. Vivaldi cultivated Emperor Charles VI, Pope Benedict XIII who definitely needed to look good, and others, when he wasn’t on the road doing gigs with his soprano/girlfriend Anna Giro.

From: Angela Fehr — Apr 02, 2010
From: David Millard — Apr 02, 2010

I’m puzzled because fundamentalism is a religious term and creative people have more of an affinity with religion than science. When I read this to my wife, who was not raised as a fundamentalist, she wanted to tell Robert that her fundamentally raised husband doesn’t even know what a box is, let alone live outside one. If these statements were made about a race of people it would sound like Nazi research, but instead it’s leveled broadly at religious people so I guess it’s just hate science. Seriously, this smacks more of culture war than critical thought. Wikipedia describes fundamentalism as a strict set of narrow, unchallengeable beliefs. Sounds like scientists to me. Robert, you started out with a pretty thinly veiled disclaimer. I love your newsletter but you need to go to your room and paint. Keep up the good work!

From: Jody Ray — Apr 02, 2010

Glory! How do you(Robert) keep coming up with such wonderful thoughts to ponder as we paint. This one is one of the lovely ones, as Eastertide is upon us. It gives me great joy to see believers of God. My painting is more limited as I mostly paint birds, butterflies and flowers and have done so for many years. I also throw in a few other subjects now and then.

I do pray before painting. I love life, painting, and my God.

Happy Easter to all.

From: Jackie Knott — Apr 02, 2010

To subscribe to any “belief” there is always a perspective. Tacking the label of a fundamentalist on an artist, a political activist, or one who holds religious convictions is counterproductive …. whether you are inside or outside the appropriate box.

In politics and religion, the problem is in dogma rather than the label itself. Particularly in religion, there are few absolutes beyond core belief but enough opinion to undermine the question of faith itself. In art, I can’t think of one movement that was not born in creativity. Caraveggio to Picasso, before and after, all have equal legitimacy.

Convictions are a grand thing, and I do hold some. But there is one thing I am absolutely sure of, is that I can’t be sure of anything. Regardless, no one should be afraid of truth. To stifle the quest for it stunts intellectual and spiritual growth.

From: Teresa — Apr 02, 2010

The thought that “religious fundamentalists” aren’t or can’t be creative is one of the most narrow thoughts I’ve come across. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Like it or not, we are all fundamentalists in one way or another. The religion varies. The doctrine can be money, nature, status, politics, sexual identity, art, ourselves, or a myriad of other things. But, to think that we are all not “fundamentalist” in our own way is a deception. We all serve or worship something, someone, or some ideal.

I find great security and freedom in my belief in God, the ultimate creator. I believe that I was made in His image, therefore I have more creative ability within me than I will ever be able use. That belief frees me to think, create and explore. It doesn’t bind me, it frees me and challenges me to be all that I was created to be and fulfill my purpose for being here.

From: Rick A. Pilling — Apr 02, 2010

It seems the first couple of posts recognized the impending ‘can of worms’, then most of the later ones verified it. Our common usage of the term “Fundamentalism” tends to refer to the strictness with which a person follows the ‘letter of the (religion’s) law’. Fundamentalism has tended to find it’s way into the public imagination (namely in the news) whenever the adherence to the ‘letter of the law’ is being enforced on others whether they want it or not. It seems to me that most of the writers above who discredit the study and/or reject it’s findings wholesale may be considering the definition of Fundamentalism as “having very very strong beliefs in God.” I think there’s a massive difference between those two definitions.

I also find it interesting that this study about Fundamentalism/Creativity has, in many cases, sparked references to a creation/evolution debate. The study has nothing to do with the beliefs themselves, but rather the method by which they are adhered to.

Although in principle I agree with the most “out of the box” people regarding what art can be, in practice I think we sure let that get out of hand. Just because we can do something (involving dental floss for example), doesn’t mean we should – or that we should necessarily have any interest in the result.

p.s. I’m certain that if David Milliard (3 posts up) considers “a strict sense of narrow beliefs” to be an accurate description of scientists, he undoubtedly doesn’t know any scientists. Strict adherence to the Scientific Method sure, but from there it is unlimited.

Speaking about the ‘paradox’ of Quantum Mechanics, Richard Feynman states: “…the “paradox” is only a conflict between reality and your feeling of what reality ‘ought to be’.” We might say that a true Fundamentalist cannot, or will not, make a distinction.

From: Arnold Scott — Apr 02, 2010

Boy, looking at some of these letters I can see that those neuro-scientists are on to something. Early training in religion really does have a tendency to prevent people from thinking outside the box.

From: David Millard — Apr 02, 2010

Rick A. Pilling – Let me correct myself and say “these scientists”.

From: Chris Cantu — Apr 02, 2010

I always suspected that all forms of religious fundamentalism are fear-based, and it often goes way back to the more restrictive types of upbringings. Such people are akin to trees that have been pruned back so hard in the formative growth years that they will never be more than gnarled stumps without the ability to flower!

From: Virginia H. Templeton, MD — Apr 02, 2010

Ken Heilman is a brilliant neurologist- I’ve heard him speak several times and always end up cornering him to talk. He is to the emeritus stage of his life but wrote a pivotal book that I refer to frequently in my clinic (academic and boring in that way but very helpful). When he gives talks, he does not use Power Point but speaks very cleanly, concisely, and as you might suspect, creatively. Not to mention in a way that beautifully illustrates the concepts he is trying to teach. For me, he’s an Oliver Sacks or a Naomi Remen- one of those I aspire to be even closely like or whose work just makes me unbelievably inspired. More the inspired side- I have no illusions of that level of brilliance. Not at all to put myself down- but yes, to hold them UP. My gurus if you will.

From: Skip Van Lenten — Apr 02, 2010

Oh, boy. You’ve just opened the floodgates for an avalanche of e-mail from either side of this issue. Personally, I think the subject would have been better suited to your letter on baloney. Instead of “two main kinds of people,” there must be a third group that spends its time endlessly examining and re-examining the other two, to the point of micro-analyzing every bit of statistical information they can find, and coming up with grandiose conclusions on “the nature of mankind.” Had this study been done a few centuries ago, when “art” was synonymous with some of the greatest religious paintings of all time, they might have arrived at a completely different conclusion.

From: Nelson Gray — Apr 02, 2010

What a way to spend Easter!!!

From: Alicia Chimento — Apr 02, 2010

Thanks for letting me know that because I strictly adhere to the “dogma” of my faith, my creativity suffers. Not surprised to read that Russ Donda and his “progressivism” can categorize progressives as “forward looking, innovative, optomistic, pragmatic, fair, respectful, and patriotic, and by default attribute such negative qualities as short-sightedness, afraid of new ideas, naive, closed minded, selfish arrogant and xenophobic, to the “non-progressives.” A little short-sighted, naive, arrogant, selfish and closed minded view, I’d say. Thank God I’m not a progressive.

From: June Tucarella — Apr 02, 2010

What was that all about? Too much thinking and putting people in categories, each person is their own complex and unique composite of personalities, based on genes and their environment ( which is a major component). I am tending more towards realism, but have made great strides to be more of a loose woman. I have great fun going from w/c to oil. It’s all a wonderful challenge, but that is what life is all about. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR LETTERS. THEY ARE A RAY OF SUNSHINE, YOU ARE SO WILLING TO SHARE, GOD BLESS.

From: JoAnn Clayton Townsend — Apr 02, 2010

I found this a particularly interesting letter. I grew up in the Bible belt and figured out at an early age that I was a misfit in my own community. The environment generally was not only dogmatic, but bigoted. There is no need for me to be bitter about the frustrations of growing up in Tulsa, but suffice it to say I couldn’t wait to leave. And I’ve enjoyed a rich, creative life since leaving.

From: Anonymous — Apr 02, 2010

When one defines a fundamentalist as someone who can’t think outside the box, then — of course — one will find that fundamentalists can’t think outside the box.

From: Lynda Lehmann — Apr 02, 2010

It seems ironic that people who are taught to follow, are in danger of losing themselves. Imagination, core values, empathy, creative thought and fantasy, all recede from function and then atrophy with disuse, doing a tragic disservice to the victim and to those around him (or her). The non-thinking persona attaches himself to whatever meanings offer a modicum of comfort to an insecure (read, “indoctrinated”) mind. Rigidity and defensiveness become self-reinforcing. This kind of person prefers his vision of the status quo at all costs — in personal matters as well as politics. And that same rigidity closes tighter around all who are in that person’s sphere, strangling communication, growth, and eventually, good will. How can people develop judgment and the capacity for critical thinking if they are taught to learn by rote, and to follow?

From: Megan Mclean — Apr 02, 2010

Your letter rang a bell with me today. Namely the old school bell at a parochial (Catholic) grade school, circa 1950-60’s, where I spent much of my formative years. While not technically fundamentalist, it was a very conservative environment, with daily religion classes and frequent masses. Plus all the praying and penance and strict guidelines for what was and wasn’t acceptable behavior. Sigh.

While at that school, I was called in from recess one day, to find a group of nuns standing around one of my drawings, which was tacked up on the back wall of the second grade classroom. My first thought was that I’d drawn one of the Bible characters incorrectly. Wrong shade of blue for Mary? St. Joseph’s halo at too jaunty an angle? As I waited nervously — fearing the worst — several nuns filed past without so much as a sidelong glance in my direction. The last nun in line, who was quite a bit older than the others and seemed to be in charge, nearly walked past me, too, but she turned back in the doorway and proclaimed, “You’re going to be an artist when you grow up.” Then she scowled and shook her finger at me, and said, “But you should only paint pictures of saints!

When I got home I had to ask my mom what the word artist meant. After explaining, she wanted to know why I’d asked. I told her about the old nun’s prediction and admonition. My mom seemed kind of shocked and said, “Oh! You wouldn’t want to be an artist when you grow up!!” I was relieved to hear that and replied, “That’s good, ’cause I think there’s enough pictures of saints in the world already!”

True to the Mother Superior’s prediction, I did keep on making art as an adult, but “The Divine Lady of Perpetual Sacrifice” is one of only a few saints who have made their way (tongue-in-cheek) into my art.

mmcleandesign@sbcglobal.net

From: David Simon — Apr 02, 2010

The next time you are at an airport and are going through the screening process, remember you are doing it because of fundamentalism. And if anyone ever thought you might fight fundamentalism with brute force or another person’s idea of fundamentalism, think again. In my opinion, only unfettered education can beat fundamentalism, and we are a long way from that in many parts of our world.

UK

From: Jon Edmondo — Apr 02, 2010

I’m not sure I completely agree with you or the psychologists. There was also a recent article in Psychology Today about the creative differences of conservatives and liberals. I have a lot of conservative artist friends that are highly creative. My daughter also has many strong fundamentalist christian friends that happen to be highly creative. There might be some fundamentalists that fit your criteria, but your argument is similar to the “one bad apple in a class spoils it for the rest of them”.

I’m not a religious person, but I have many friends that are. These people are very creative in many areas of their life!

From: Mary Salus — Apr 02, 2010

I must respond to this one. My spouse has always been one to tempt small children to do the kind of thinking you describe in your article. I must say I was very proud when I heard the following from my daughter: One day at work, her boss congratulated her on “thinking outside the box.” She turned to him and said, “What box?”

From: Gail Mardfin — Apr 02, 2010

GREAT ARTICLE! I totally agree. You need to be open-minded to think creatively!

From: Janice Robinson-Delaney — Apr 02, 2010

A very interesting term ‘divergent reasoning’, sounds like something from the educators hall of fame; very thought provoking and likely fear provoking for some parents, hmmmm?

From: Nancy Christy-Moore — Apr 02, 2010

Well this is so much hogwash! I’ve created art and taught art to all sorts of people and can’t believe you’re even passing this on as any type of wisdom. It’s pure speculation. All people are creative no matter their religious beliefs. How creative they can become is a matter of their own discerning personal character. Hogwash!

From: Ernst Lurker — Apr 02, 2010
From: Cleojean Olson — Apr 02, 2010

My how disappointed I am in this letter. If you were just quoting, it would be one thing, but you do lend credibility to their position. You claim to support anyone’s effort to achieve the lofty position of the creative and then you support Psychology Today’s article. Did you not feel the selectivity of Nazism. Let us decide who will be able to create by how they believe. Frankly, it is the middle of the night and I just got up to take care of something bothering me on the computer and I ran into your letter, which I often enjoy. I am a good example of one who has never thought inside of the box, even though I have spent most of my life only wishing I could be an artist. I am now happily on that road. I know there is a God and I say that, even though now-a-days, it is very “out of the box” to do so. I might add that I even believed in him when “okay”.

From: Theresa Bayer — Apr 02, 2010

I greatly enjoy your letters Robert, but this one, sorry, I’m not buying it. I feel that creativity is a matter of inspiration, and anyone, religious or not, can be inspired. As for pea-flicking children, depends on how strict the parents are, and I’ll grant you that religious parents may be a little more strict. Maybe.

Austin Texas USA

From: Tilly Hurlburt — Apr 02, 2010

I may have to paint that fork flicking peas. What a wonderful image! Brings to mind stories of my husband’s grandfather, who was quite a happy man by nature. In spite of being severely affected by rheumatoid arthritis, he amused his children (not his wife) by occasionally flinging chocolate pudding onto the ceiling. Of course this resulted in fits of laughter from the kids, and retribution I’m sure from the wife. He died very young, in his 40’s, but left behind in his children, an appreciation of the simple, and funny things, that he obviously saw in the world around him. In a time of very proper social rules, he definitely had well developed frontal lobes.

tillyhurlburt@hotmail.com

From: Larry Moore — Apr 02, 2010
From: Anna — Apr 02, 2010

Yet again some people misread, get on their high horse and start the “misdirected rant”. Robert referred to a section within RELIGION “THE FUNDAMENTALISTS” (the extremists, with rigid beliefs and systems). HE DID NOT SAY ALL RELIGIOUS PEOPLE ARE RIGID AND ARE NOT CREATIVE. Read the damn letter properly before you start spouting nonsense!

From: David Evanson — Apr 02, 2010

A couple of things come to mind. One is how brave you are to delve in to this. The other thing is that the study sounds interesting and on an gut level it is easy for me to agree. The definitions for creativity and fundamentalism seemed fair and realistic. In fairness…if i wanted to pursue this further i would look closer at the studies.

From: Anonymous — Apr 03, 2010

I was an only child in a Jehovah’s Witness family. I left the church (and home) when I was 26 because I wanted to study and read other things. My parents were devastated and humiliated. They have disowned me. None of the people of the church will have anything to do with me. I now have a good job and have joined an art club. None of the people in the club or at work know of my background. The club (50 members) has been wonderful for me. There is no pressure and it is a loving, educational experience where religion is seldom mentioned and is of no importance to membership. Going by some of the other members I may be stunted in my creativity, but I am working my way through that. I am thinking of online dating so I can now find a nice man, but I am unattractive. There are no young men in the club and hardly any at work. I would like to say if you are running an art club you need to be as kind to your members as my club is as you never know where people are coming from.

From: Arnie Koriath — Apr 03, 2010

While I try to stay out of these religious type conversations anymore, I find the topic totally tantalizing, and irresistible! Therefore, I cannot resist a brief comment to your provocative notes:

First of all, let me say I love my children who are each on their path searching in their own way quite effectively. I find it most useful to share my shortcomings with them rather than point out theirs. That is why I have stopped commenting on the flaws of religious fundamentalists. It just isn’t useful to me, or to them. (After all, let’s be honest, they don’t even know who I am, much less care what I think of them!)

God knows I have done my best from time to time to be a decent fundamentalist of one sort or another, but to no avail. It just didn’t stick in my case. Whether RC, Born Now and Again, Eastern monk’n around, or New Agean, it just wasn’t for me. But, I learned a lot in the process. (I still attend a progressive Protestant congregation.)

As an artist, I have met those few who have successfully embraced the utter ambiguity of life, and somehow, I admire how they do it. I know I can’t be like them, but like being with them. That’s enough. So, currently, I enjoy what someone has called “spiritual imperfection”: the process of continual becoming without having to get it right, or if you wish, creativity. This dynamic does not need to deny the past, nor control the future, but can participate in the creative present with all the tools of intellect, emotion, and spirit available. One need not push the river, but play and splash and build small streams of colorful currents with others who enjoy the rush of the water’s ways.

Keep writing; you inspire me.

From: Bruce Heming — Apr 03, 2010

I have been a devoted reader of your twice a week news letters and enjoy them very much. I rarely comment on your letters (this may be my second) I too have felt for some considerable time that there is too much dogma that a great many people follow without thinking for themselves. It is easier to follow custom or simply what others have laid out for you than thinking for themselves. A current example seems to be what is happening with the Catholic church lately with the sex scandal that is being pushed at us from the media and the church. Perhaps people are beginning to think for themselves in this situation. Too many times people just follow what the press sets out on the news without thinking about what is being said and whether it is accurate or not. This research seems to point out that young children should have more early artistic training to give them more creative ideas later in life. How do we get governments to consider this research and spend more money on this kind of education?

From: Carol Nordman — Apr 03, 2010

This was an interesting article. Don’t you think that being unwilling to question is a broader issue? Having lived in the former Soviet Union, I know that Communist atheists can be unwilling to question their beliefs. Everything should be open to question if there is to be freedom of thought and growth. I think fundamentalism can be found in any philosophy and is not limited to religion. Religious people who are open to questions about their beliefs and whose beliefs are based on personal study and experience are often branded as fundamentalists. These people do not fit the definition of fundamentalists as described in the Psychology Today article. As a graduate of UCLA, I have observed unwillingness to question beliefs even in my professors as has my husband who graduated from UC Berkley.

In two days over a billion people will celebrate the resurrection of Christ on Easter. Certainly many accept this belief without question, but not all. My husband and I are among the many who were not raised in a Christian home but came to faith later in life. We believe not because we are unwilling to question but because we have questioned. What can be said of those who are not willing to consider the possibility that Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead?

A Russian friend of ours once shared with us that she used to be an atheist but she had doubts. She was not a fundamentalist atheist. I agree that creativity is stifled by an unwillingness to question, but not necessarily by religious faith.

From: Jeremy Gold — Apr 03, 2010

Hey, I’m an Atheist and I’m totally interested in all world religions — the mainline and the oddball. For curious people it’s one of the more fascinating aspects of human nature — and if it leads to Atheism that’s okay, isn’t it? It could lead the other way too.

From: Veronica — Apr 03, 2010

I have interviewed a number of artists from fundamentalist religious groups over time in my capacity as an arts reviewer, critic and writer and have been jolted by many of their prejudices and timidity in an intellectual sense – perhaps the ‘reluctance to experiment and play’ is more to the point. As an artist who has traveled world wide and lived in the the orient and the east I have also been struck by the ‘appropriations’ practised by so many contemporary Western artists who seem to rely on metaphor to excuse poor technique and skill… but this issue is not really associated with my relief at discovering that in fact my observations have not been delusional.

veripom79@webmail.co.za

From: Paige Charles — Apr 03, 2010

I’m a “Lapsed Catholic.” Should I say “survivor”? As in the anonymous letter above, I’d like to put in a good word for art clubs. Mine is called a “Guild.” If you need fellowship, education, mild competition and a feeling of common purpose, I’m sure there’s one near you. My Guild has done wonders for me.

From: Angela Fehr — Apr 03, 2010
From: Leonard Tapp — Apr 03, 2010

More than 100 studies across many countries and cultures have shown that Atheists score higher on IQ tests and have exposure to more formal education than people in organized religions. I’m not sure that artists have to be smarter, but I notice among our art club “congregation” we have some pretty smart folks. Intelligence was hard to measure in the religion in which I was formerly a member because there was no repartee or rebuttal with our minister, particularly during services. Art clubs do, however, suffer from some of the same problems as churches — graying populations. Perhaps the new normal is online forums such as this where people, no matter how informed, can put their ideas forward. It’s too bad, because there is really something to be said for getting together.

From: Loretta Puckrin — Apr 03, 2010

Don’t we use some form of fundamentalism in our creative scope? You hear all the pundits say that you need to limit your painting to a genre, topic or style and produce consistent work if you are to ‘make it’. That sounds very similar to many religions who restrict the creative experience by creating a ‘box’ in which you are expected to function. Sometimes these restrictions help to create visions which would not have been possible if we were to think in terms of the entire range of possibilities. Sometimes, as well, restrictions are what create rebellion which can lead to very beautiful creative works. Take a look at the history of art – it has been the fundamentalist approach (often of the Catholic church) which created some very interesting periods in art. Without those restrictions an entirely different collection of works would have been created. Is that good or bad?

In every life experience you can see both aspects. We should all embrace the best of those worlds and choose which we wish to emulate and which we choose to rebel against. In today’s open world of the internet and myriad targeted publications, very few cultures are left which can enforce a fundamentalist viewpoint throughout a person’s life.

Lake Cowichan, BC,

From: Robert R. Newport M.D. — Apr 03, 2010

I am glad that you couched your statements in words like “it is possible that…” because while a few studies have pointed towards a neurological/neuroanatomical basis for differing modes of thinking, feeling and perceiving, we do not have any where near the data to draw conclusions and to do so is to project our own biases onto a lot of people. Please don’t.

From: Heather Burton — Apr 03, 2010

Lest you think that “religious types” speak with one voice, I want to support what you said about creativity and fundamentalism. A fundamentalist mindset, whether its ideology be religious, economic, or social, does not encourage questioning or out-of-the-box thinking, but demands uncritical acceptance of established dogma/doctrine/ideologies. There is, therefore, no room for creativity.

BTW, I’m an ordained minister.

From: Claudio Ghirardo — Apr 03, 2010

As someone who deals with a lot of fundamentalists, and many church people, all I can say is “No surprise here.”

From: Sharon Williams — Apr 03, 2010

Regarding “To its credit, this back area also features more stable and defensive thinking, and may represent a hangover from primitive times when fear was more in your face.” The world operates on the Bell Curve. You cannot do anything with the bottom 15-20%. The top 20% can’t be stopped from creative action in any endeavor they pursue. It is possible to shift those in the remaining 60-70% with education and exposure to opportunities to think.

From: Darr Sandberg — Apr 03, 2010

It is disappointing to see that, although the definitions used for both creative and fundamentalist apply to many human endeavors, the focus of the conclusions is religion. Yet, fundamentalists have exerted their influence in art, science, music, literature, philosophy, politics and economics, to name a few other “belief systems”.

It would hardly be a good representation of art history to dismiss such products of religion as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel as the work of someone who was not “curious, challenging, inventive and creative”. And it has been my experience with fundamentalist atheists online that they exhibit traits indicating that they have trouble thinking outside of the box of their particular experience set and (oft limited) understanding of science and religion.

In fact, “In most cases, personal interpretations tend to be marginalized. ” is a statement that applies equally well to both fundamentalist religionists, like the Religious Right in the U.S., and to fundamentalist atheists, like Richard Dawkins. Actually, atheism is nothing more than the marginalization and dismissal of the personal interpretations of most of humanity of their own experiences. So it may be reasonably argued that atheism is intrinsically and entirely a fundamentalist belief system.

And of course, a good case could be easily made that Impressionism, as one example, was a response to a fundamentalist, dogmatic understanding of art in France. Phillip Glass’s compositions could be cast as a response to a fundamentalist standard in music, to the irritation or amusement of fans of Mozart and Beethoven.

From: D. Kamachi — Apr 04, 2010

I don’t know about the “brain damage” thing because it didn’t seem to affect me in 20 years of fairly strict religion, but I do know that since I left the church and took a more scientific outlook, the world is a much more interesting place. Nature itself is more wonderful than I formerly thought possible, and I now have time to study it. The scientific method has more room for surprises, some of them positively spiritual. Creation is now in my own hands, and whether I am a better artist for the changeover, well, we’ll wait and see.

From: Tammy Moore — Apr 04, 2010

Artists themselves have dogmas and I can tell you from personal experience that even the creatives have a hard time thinking outside their own boxes and dogmas.

I found a personal interest in exploring digital tool to express myself with and it was other artists that took me to task for daring to use ‘that’ medium. These were not a group of religious fundamentalists, but they were art fundamentalists. Yet their work was creative and expressive, just restricted to the ‘right and proper’ mediums. When I was with our local art group, oil was the ‘only legitimate medium’. I was in to water color and danced to my own music. When we moved, I was in to painting portraits of children. The art group that I visited was swung to the abstract art side of things and ‘my art’ was inferior because I was intrigued by realism at the time. They made it more than clear that my art didn’t fit in because it was ‘old school’. It was new school to me and I was having a blast with challenging my technical skills to the max.

There is no corner on the market of dogma that artists are somehow immune from, so what does the finger-pointing at those of faith serve in your newsletter? Art dogma exists, so should the experts of the study leave their Isreali school and study artists of all faiths next? If artists are asked to express their opinion of other art forms, wouldn’t they fail the ‘think outside of the box’ test too? Gee, maybe we shouldn’t let those dogmatic artists raise their own children either? Good grief! Dogma is everywhere, art is not excluded from human nature. We are all a bunch of prudes about something. I dare say I know a lot of prudes about creativity. If you are not out there on the edge, then you are not creative. That is dogma too.

From: Brad Michael Moore — Apr 04, 2010

Here the final letters have yet to come out (on this Click-back) and this is already the 64th live post!!! I think Robert did us a favor with the subject. We are all expressing ideas from our core – that same place where the convictions of our art are born. Just reading the words of so many and looking at their works of art – I am not surprised at what I see. So our ideas and beliefs really do correlate to the art we make. Art is the greatest expresser of humanity’s diversity!

From: Rick A. Pilling, Saskatchewan, Canada — Apr 04, 2010

I think Tammy Moore and Darr Snadberg tapped into an important aspect of this issue: the study suggests that fundamentalism restricts creativity, but also qualifies fundamentalism as being religious. Both posts speak to the idea that fundamentalism can be found outside of religion as well, and I think that point is absolutely valid.

In defense of the study though – the only other area that I can think of that we can see an organized and ratified fundamentalist perspective might be politics, but that often leads back to religion as its root. It wouldn’t do a scientific study any good to include: “my buddy Frank is a fundamentalist Humanist, and his creativity appears to suffer as a consequence.” Religion is really the only form of fundamentalism that could have been used because it’s the only one (that I know of anyway) in which groups of it’s advocates actually self-identify as fundamentalists.

I disagree with Darr though in considering Richard Dawkins as a fundamentalist athiest. He’s hardcore to be sure, but his position is based entirely on the idea that beliefs should be founded on whatever facts are available. His attack on religion is because it all goes back to a single source, the bible. He doesn’t consider it’s self-proclamation as truth to be a valid reason to take it as fact, particularly if it is at odds with all other available information.

As for art: throughout my master’s program I experienced the exact opposite situation as the one described by Tammy Moore above. The status quo for a ‘cutting edge’ art institution was to ‘push the boundaries of art’ by questioning whether the old and tired mediums/themes are too restrictive. It was to the point that, as a painter – and a realist to boot – I felt that I had to constantly defend my choice to NOT be working with some other new medium. I have to say that I was not a big fan of the insinuation that the only reason one would paint is because he or she is too closed-minded to work with something else.

I start to wonder whether we creating a far too judgmental binary here that is most often just used to discredit what someone else is doing. in-the-box = bad. out-of-the-box = good. If I can find a way to argue that you’re restricting yourself, it means you’re lacking. I’m not so sure about that. Imagine we’re trying to play a board game, but we consider all rules to be simply a narrow-minded restriction of what ‘could be.’ I think a game where each player can make up his or her own rules at a whim wouldn’t be very fun at all. I like the ‘rules’ of painting: they give me a foundation to work with even when I’m trying to break them and get away with it. A study suggesting that fundamentalism restricts creativity becomes an insult because we assume that restricting ourselves is a bad thing. I’ll suggest that restrictions might be a negative influence only if one is not aware that they exist or why they’re there at all…?

From: Jeanne Rhea — Apr 04, 2010

I was raised in a fundamentalist religion and was continually trying to avoid anything related to religion or church from an early age. I went to work at the age of 11 and begged for Sunday and Wednesday evening work and any night of the week that had special church services. I became creative trying to avoid being in church. If I had to go to church, my mind was on everything else while I was having to be quiet.

I watched ants crawl across the back of the pew and would lick my finger and rub it in their path and then watch them go in circles trying to find their path again. I counted the number of times that my grandmother shouted “Hallelujah” during the preaching — a record 301 times and more than any other person that I ever observed. I wrote new words to the hymns that no one would ever sing in church. I studied foreign languages to determine if someone was “speaking in tongues” or if they may have just been faking it with a foreign language. I discovered that one aunt was speaking Spanish. She was repeating over and over, “How are you? What is your name?” in Spanish. I sneaked small books in to church and hid them in hymnals so I could read during the service. Most of all, I learned that I had the ability to entertain myself and distract no one else when I was forced to be in a particular situation. To this day, if I am in a similar predicament, my mind is extremely active trying to figure out what I can do and planning what I will do when I can escape again. So in some ways being raised in a fundamental religion, enhanced my creativity. But I often wonder if I would be even more creative if I had had all of those hours to be who I really am.

From: Tony Thyssen — Apr 04, 2010

My complaint against fundamentalism is that when I was in it we were told we were “special” and that had me glaze over. While we had obligations, we were still the chosen ones. Even as a young kid I knew this idea was poison to humanity at large, and quite antisocial. Like Jeanne Rhea, above, I reacted in the opposite direction and took it as a grand opportunity to daydream. Maybe it did me good.

From: Arndt Nordstrom — Apr 04, 2010

Is there anyone who can sit there and think Islamic Fundamentalism is a good thing? Then what about Jewish Fundamentalism, and Christian Fundamentalism? These extreme and misguided positions can and do knock the creativity, inventiveness and decency out of many otherwise fine cultures.

From: “D W Moss” — Apr 04, 2010

News item: “The self-styled Christian “warriors” – members of the Hutaree Militia in Michigan – had been plotting to unleash a campaign of terror, starting with the slaughter of scores of police officers.” It can happen here.

From: Suzie Baker — Apr 04, 2010

I just got back from Spain and the first Painter’s Keys letter I read was “Creativity and Fundamentalism”. Good thing Barcelona’s own Antoni Gaudi didn’t read Heilman and Donda’s thought provoking study. Poor guys gullible back brain might have reasoned his frontal cortex right out of his magnum opus Sagrada Familia. This visionary apparently wasn’t informed that he couldn’t be both deeply religious and innovate architecture so thoroughly that it’s quite difficult to classify.

From: Bill Hibberd — Apr 04, 2010

Having been raised in an atmosphere of “religious certainty” it’s interesting to consider the effect that upbringing may have had on my creative impulses and work. I think there is a freeing consequence resulting from building a life on some absolute beliefs providing you have confidence to hold those up to some light when necessary. I have friends who are living without any fundamental or absolute beliefs and some of them are very creative and others are decidedly not. I think Jesus said it best “do everything in love, anything done without love is crap” (my translation.) So whether we trust in some fundamental convictions or none at all is meaningless if we live selfishly. I find my fundamental beliefs stimulate me on to many creative adventures and cultivate a discipline to make art to the best of my limited ability. I have raised my brood with a few fundamental absolutes and given them the freedom to choose their own pathways. Two are very productive and successful creative artist/designers in the video game and cartooning world and the third is on track to serve in the NGO aid/assistance world. I could be wrong but like to think the absolutes that they’re building their lives on has enhanced their creativity and not hindered it. On the other hand it could be liberating to think that my shortcomings as a creative person are not my fault. ha ha

From: Kittie Beletic — Apr 04, 2010

I live in Texas where it is fundamentally fundamental in parts and yet, I find creative thinking outside of religion to be rampant. Why is this so? Generations of resourcefulness, perhaps? A sincere desire to make the factory a success? Having to deal with sometimes dramatic weather issues brings forward creative ways of funneling water to the crops. Solar and wind energy is employed in big ways here. The fundamentally religious farmers and businessmen seek creative ways to solve their challenges. And the artists? There is a plethora of art and music festivals throughout Texas, all celebrating the creative spirit! Hundreds of thousands of people attend and participate, singing, buying and selling art! I speak at schools and churches and civic organizations about self-expression and creativity. My audiences are active participants in sharing creative ideas, using critical thinking to find solutions and often the solutions are linked to planning events that foster the arts – theater, music, painting. When working with children who are being raised in homes where fundamentalism is practiced, I find that some of them are hesitant to try, to have ideas of their own. But there are children who are members of churches whose teachings are more like a philosophy, who also have this tendency. In working with all of these children, it seems to have more to do with perfectionism and negative criticism in the home and at school.

From: Nancy Bea Miller — Apr 04, 2010

Interesting and provocative letter! This line you wrote sums it up:

It’s almost like there are two main kinds of people — those who are curious, challenging, inventive and creative, and those who rely on some sort of dogma to make sense of their world.

Gilbert & Sullivan also noted this dichotomy in human nature over a hundred years ago in the refrain of Private Willis’s song:

I often think it’s comical – Fal, lal, la!

How Nature always does contrive – Fal, lal, la!

That every boy and every gal

That’s born into the world alive

Is either a little Liberal

Or else a little Conservative!

Fal, lal, la!

from Iolanthe, by W.S.Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan (first performed in 1882) I’ll be singing this all day now (and it’s not easy to get those baritone fa la las down when you’re a soprano!)

From: Jonah Preston — Apr 05, 2010

Ah yes, but little liberals can become big conservatives, and vice versa.

From: Larry Spellman — Apr 05, 2010

An artist’s creed: “I may be wrong, but it seems to me there are no chosen people, no special dispensations for any of us, but we have all been granted the joy of our crafts, the freedom to paint what we want, and to simply try to contribute further beauty and good to the creation we have been so generously given, but I could be wrong.”

From: Judith Reidy — Apr 06, 2010
From: Debbie — Apr 06, 2010

verna marie…..AWESOME work………

From: anonymous — Apr 06, 2010

In response to Claudio Ghirardo’s comment –

And I, someone who runs into alot of Athiests – who in their insecurities make sure I know they are so open minded – that they have allowed their brains to fall out of their heads.

Amen.

From: kim d. — Apr 06, 2010

No one is advocating for a world without any boundaries……but boundaries that come from religious dogma we could do without. There is NO good evidence to prove your fundamentalist premises. If the world is random, then it is. If it is not, then it is not. NO ONE knows the answer. Just because the truth may be unsettling to us does not mean we should grab hold of any story that gives us comfort and embrace it as truth.

From: T. E. Matthews — Apr 06, 2010

For anyone who has read this far and thought some of it to be the devil’s doing, and might consider unsubscribing from Painter’s Keys, please consider the following quote from Robert’s letter: “It seems fundamentalists avoid the psychological pain brought about by examining the outside world and tend not to allow themselves bouts of divergent reasoning.” Thanks again for your challenging letters Robert. This one has been an education.

From: Suzanne Barrett — Apr 06, 2010

This letter seems to advocate that “thinking outside the box” leads to greater originality and creativity. To come from the fundamentalist camp will restrict the creative abilities of the artist, Mr Genn appears to be implying. As a Christian, I do object to having the label of fundamentalist lobbed at me; when allowing God into your life, balance is all important; to tread the path between strict unloving fundamentalism and chaotic, “anything goes” liberalism is very difficult but worth doing. You definitely don’t throw out questioning reason and a good, Biblically based church will encourage this. In the past, one of the purposes of painting was to glorify God. Now I don’t know what it is. Personally, the vibe and the inspiration I get from seeing plants, animals, sky, sunlight, people, all lovingly made by a creator God I find incredible. How anyone can assume this all evolved by accident is beyond me. I just have to think about how a flower is constructed, its function and amazing beauty I cannot believe some master design and intelligence is not behind this. For me, belonging to God through Jesus Christ is the inspiration; to be connected to the source of such wondrous creativity. If I am out of the box then I am alone and wandering aimlessly in the wilderness of self absorbtion and desolation. Why reinvent the wheel and get lost in the chaos inside your head? God loves artists, after all, the first person he put His Holy Spirit into was an artist – see Exodus Ch 35 vv 30 – 33.

From: Rick A. Pilling, Saskatchewan, Canada — Apr 06, 2010

Bill Hibberd’s response above was a perfect example of a Christian who has _not_ let his beliefs restrict his creative thought. The evidence for this (admittedly unauthorized) judgment of mine is that he: a) opened with a statement that suggests he has actually considered the possibility that the results of the study could be true; and b) closed with a statement which finds the ‘bright side’ to that possibility. I would not be worth my salt as an atheist if I were to leap on Mr. Hibberd’s musing as some kind of proof from a Christian’s own mouth that the debate has been settled. We’re just talking here.

As far as I’m concerned, the definition of “closed-mindedness” is when we already know the answer before the question has even been asked. When this is the case, the only value to asking the question at all is so that we can use it to find a way to confirm whatever we already believed. A common example of this we have seen regarding religion is the tendency to discredit/ignore the mountains of evidence for evolution because the answer was Creation before the question was asked. Those who have concluded that a 6-day Creation is untenable have often down-shifted to the more tenable Intelligent Design. This allows for the evidence for evolution to not necessarily contradict the ultimate answer that a Christian must believe to be true before the question is asked – that God made it all happen. And yes, many atheists and/or adherents to science as the ultimate answer also make the mistake prejudging that a religious perspective cannot have anything to offer.

This argument is not at all meant to be an attack on Christian beliefs – I make no claim as to what the right conclusion is, I’m merely looking at the processes we use to arrive at that conclusion. I suppose I’m also taking the opportunity to state a few of the reasons related to this discussion of why I’ve chosen to be an atheist, and do so in response to many of the postings above which concentrate on the reasons why the authors have embraced religion.

I think the mere fact that we have all made it this far in this discussion suggests that, regardless of our belief systems, we are not the ‘fundamentalists’ indicated in the study. I might say that anyone who has decided to stop reading Robert’s posts due to this issue has demonstrated that they are precisely the closed-minded people the study is talking about.

From: R. N. Ciccozzi — Apr 06, 2010

The idea that early, energetic religious education can do damage to a child’s brain is indeed possible. It is fairly obvious, even by looking at some of the letters here, that thinking at any stage in life can be rendered woolly by such a background. What is more worrying is the possibility that intense religious education may possibly influence people to be less moral and cause them to hinder opportunities for justice. Cases of immorality extend right to the top of the indoctrinated and are too numerous to mention. What did citizen Ratzinger know, when did he know it, and what did he do about it? The possibility that tens of thousands of abused and molested children might join together in an open court environment and ask these questions would be valuable. The “Impeach the Pope” movement has nothing to do with hate, everything to do with justice and understanding, and might clear considerable air in our beautiful world.

From: Pat Armbruster — Apr 06, 2010

Robert, I take issue with your broad generalities concerning the creativity of those who subscribe to a world view that acknowledges God as Creator. Faith lifts the spirit to play, to draw attention to beauty in creation and to study the world through drawing and painting. I am not afraid to study the outside world because, in God’s infinite wisdom, there is always a way to approach the most difficult circumstances and/or people. As a matter of fact, I’m surprised that this subject would even have a place in your letter. It is not scientifically substantiated nor is creativity an objective subject. Can you quantify something so subjective? I don’t think so.

From: Richard Hardy Nelson — Apr 06, 2010

Pat Armbruster, give us an idea of something in your religion that is scientifically substantiated.

From: Steve Koch — Apr 06, 2010

wow…..Robert….great stuf……wonderful….!!

i consider myself to be a fundamentalist…perhaps not the using the same definition of the two men you site tho….

…i consider myself a part of the Body of believers that adhere to the basic tenants of the Christian faith…the most basic being that Jesus was the Son of God..born of a virgin…came to die for sinners….as the apostle Paul says….”i preach Christ and Him crucified”….

…tho there are many denominations….i worship with a local body of Foursquare believers….and (this is where the mention of art comes in….) there is a HUGE move a foot….globally….towards worshipping the Risen Savior and Lord in the visual arts….and in dancing….theatre….the arts in general….it is a beautiful and wonderful thing…that is setting many free from the confines of that ‘fundamentalism’ you have spoken of…it is taking time…but the young people ….seem to be taking to it like a duck to water….(and as you state children) are drawn to it naturally….

and in fact i think…..more of the world is waking up to the creative spark i think the Lord has put in all of us…!!

it is wonderful to see….and there are many more who could use the gentle touch of art….and are not sure how art and the Spiritual life connect…(in what we would call the ‘fundamentalist’ sector)…..BUT it is coming…and articles such as yours help to bring the issue to the fore…where more will be awakened….

thank you

From: R. R. Coles — Apr 06, 2010

After ten years of thinking Jesus died for my sins, I realized I needed to deal with my own problems responsibly and not pass them on to an imagined and promoted deity of questionable history. In short, I dumped guilt. As others have mentioned above, I joined an art club (several), a non-denominational service club and a Toastmasters, and the names of Mary, Jesus, Moses, Adam, Eve, John the Baptist, the saints, etc. etc., are never mentioned and I am happier, believe me, and perhaps even a bit wiser for the experience. One day I would like to be good painter.

From: E.Egan — Apr 06, 2010

I love Verna Marie’s painting of Auiquiu. I’m not sure why. But I do like the brushwork, the composition, and her use of colour.

And,

Robert, I like the 2010 – it has much more life in it. A real spread. Not itsy-bitsy.

From: Darlene Derksen — Apr 07, 2010

Interesting that there have never been as few “art” postings as on the fundamentalist topic. I miss seeing all those wonderful paintings people submit. Maybe just the word “fundamentalism” squashes the spirit of creativity and openness of sharing.

From: Gavin Logan — Apr 07, 2010

I would be willing to permit polygamy, but it would have to be made available to all.

From: Jackie Ivey-Weaver — Apr 07, 2010

Re: Reworking 10 year old oil painting.

I’ve been itching to rework an old figure painting.(needs more darks in background)

Is it safe to go back into it, without disturbing the previously painted surface? Help !!

From: John Mix — Apr 07, 2010

Creativity is universal in the human being. Its only a question of a healthy, constructive direction or an unhealthy, destructive direction. The Trident submarine is not an example of the former, in my opinion. An addict on crack with no money to get more will find a way to get it. A healthy single parent raising kids will find a way to nourish them with the limited means available.

From: Kirk Wassell — Apr 07, 2010

I wanted to initially acknowledge Mike Jordens piece entitled “Fundamentally a spiritual journey”. It shows such clarity, revealing the process that is so lacking in this so called evolved age.

Our intolerance and lack of compassion, certainly narrows our view of life, and constructs barriers that inhibit/deny our growth. I find the greatest of experiences come when we challenging our self to break the mold, change our habits, step out of our routines and look back and see where we have been, because without this new perspective, we are literally blind to our own stagnation.

Thank you again and again Robert Genn, for providing this wonderful platform which gives us the opportunity to share our ideas and learn from others who grace these pages, bravo to us all.

From: anon — Apr 07, 2010

Wonderful, Robert didn’t label anyone a fundamentalist. They recognized themselves. There is a saying – the snow doesn’t fall to cover the hill, but for every beast to show its tracks.

From: Darrell Wagar — Apr 08, 2010

I could ramble on about the benefit of good solid structure in my life due to the people I look up to for guidance, and my personal faith, I’m married to the same women and do not have aids etc. from double dipping, still have the same lungs and liver I was born with due to avoiding smokes and booz because some one said that was a good path to follow and I have no desire to try druge just to be creative, fundamental truths give me freedom to enjoy creation, really, wouldn’t you rather sit down for a meal with well mannered people who know how to use cutlery rather than a table surrounded by goons flicking food at you with forks? DUH!!

From: Jack Richardson — Apr 08, 2010

Yes, but if you really want eternal life (and who doesn’t?) you have to become a member of the Mormon Church. All the other denominations have unfortunately got it wrong.

From: Pat — Apr 08, 2010

Ethernal life in company of fundamentalists? No thanks – that sounds like hell to me.

From: Judith — Apr 08, 2010

As I mentioned in a previous comment my concern about the necessity of boundaries in spite of my life engagement with creative endeavors. The main point of the article seemed to one to pit the values of liberals against those of fundamentalists (conservatives) I discovered a video on TED by Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives. I am not endorsing the entertaining and thoughtful video but rather presenting it as a good explanation of variate weighted boundaries/values between liberals and conservatives. From that perhaps we can understand our predilections a little bit better.

From: Susan — Apr 08, 2010

The fundamentalists seem to have read the article, got their back up and wanted to defend their fundamentalism. They just didn’t get it.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Apr 08, 2010

This appeared today on a yahoogroup I belong to: Spiritually Speaking. I believe it is as far away from a fundamentalist mindset as you can get. I had to go through an evolutionary healing experience more than 20 years ago- and this written piece from today clearly explains my reality for the last 20 years. IF you can even read it- I hope you enjoy it.

Twelve Principles for the New Reality

by Owen Waters

The New Reality brings with it a new vista of awareness. In order to operate successfully in the new environment, you need to apply the new principles which come with this expanded view of reality. Such knowledge empowers you to awaken to your newly expanded potential and manifest it with ease.

Here are some basic principles of the universe, as seen from the expanded vista of New Reality consciousness. In this, the ultimate reality is recognized as universal consciousness, which is the formative essence behind all that exists within the universe. This essence can be called Infinite Being because it is the awareness behind everything within the universe.

Here are twelve principles which describe the New Reality awareness.

1. Infinite Being is All That Is.

Nothing exists outside of it. The universe exists within the consciousness of Infinite Being. The physical world exists within the consciousness of Infinite Being. We exist within the consciousness of Infinite Being.

2. We are Infinite Being

Creation is holographic in nature, meaning that the one can be found within the all. For example, the oak tree produces acorns and yet the life-form of a complete oak tree is contained within each acorn. If a picture hologram is divided into two, both parts will still retain the complete original picture. While you are a part of the consciousness of Infinite Being, you are also Infinite Being itself. At the deepest level of reality, all that Infinite Being is, you are. Therefore we are, each one of us, Infinite Being.

3. Purpose in life

Your overall purpose in life is to experience it from one individual, unique point of view. Just as each snowflake is unique, so is each person. From a cosmic point of view, you are one expression of Infinite Being as it experiences itself from all possible viewpoints. In this way, through you and all life, Infinite Being gains infinite experience. At a personal level, you, as a soul, pre-planned the major themes of your life. You chose the time, the place and your parents in order to set a life plan in motion which would explore those themes. Such pre-planning gave rise to the occurrence of related, meaningful events in your life which may have already given you the impression that destiny exists. Destiny does exist, to the extent that the major themes of your life are pre-planned, by you, ahead of time. As you pass through life, certain names, places, people and activities resonate with a certain specialness in your consciousness. It’s almost as if you knew them once before, but you can’t quite remember when or where. That is destiny, as it unfolds important, pre-planned and pre-viewed events into your life. In the phenomenon called déjà vu, scenes that you recognize as they unfold in your life are scenes which you had previously viewed in another state of consciousness. This previewing occurred either during your pre-life planning or, more often, in a recent, out-of-body, dream-state where, in order to help yourself remain on-purpose, you reviewed the important, upcoming events in your life.

4. Free will enables you to explore your true potential

Free will fills in all the details. It can be used to any degree that you choose. The most productive use of free will is to explore your true potential within the themes of your life, thus gaining the greatest possible experience from your life plan.

5. Reincarnation

Reincarnation exists to provide a variety of experiences, so that life skills may be gained, and so that, while in a physical body, you can rediscover your spiritual connection within.

6. Life after ‘death’

From the point of view of your true, inner personality, passing away from the physical realm is like stepping out of a suit that you have worn for a while. The suit is not the real you. In your spirit body, you move into the spirit realm, which is a place of joy and healing. After meeting with friends and relatives who have passed on before, you start work on resolving the issues which caused inner conflict during your physical life. Then, as you move into the higher realms, remembering more about who you really are, you experience reunion with the rest of your immediate and extended soul families.

7. Life reflects what you project

Reflectance is a property of the universe. Also known as karma, this principle states that life reflects your beliefs, emotions and actions. The stronger these are, the more apparent it becomes that life is a mirror of what you project. Every time you change the way you view life, the universe, just like a mirror, reflects your new view of reality. This may not occur instantaneously as, often, circumstances do not allow the new reflection to immediately manifest. In this case, the new reality is held, like a pressure within the aura of your body’s subtle magnetic field. You then walk around in life, surrounded by this magnetic potential, as it influences your circumstances to adapt into a form where the new reality will be able to manifest and operate.

Reflectance, sooner or later, produces manifestation. Therefore, if you dont like something in your life, the most powerful way to change its effect permanently is to discover how you are generating that reflection, and then change your point of view so that you change the reflection that you are causing from the universe. That’s how reflectance works. It’s just like law in physics. It’s how the universe was designed. The mirror of life will shine happiness upon you, but not until you first decide, within yourself, to become a happy person. Then it will reflect your new reality.

8. Abundance is natural

Natural abundance comes from ‘getting into the flow,’ by doing work that brings a sense of inner excitement. The phrase ‘Follow your inner joy’ is actually the key to abundance. Once you follow your innermost joy and adapt your situation to doing work that you love, then synchronicity begins to flow. Synchronicity is the universe’s way of telling you that you’re on the right track. It is a flow of events where everything starts clicking into place in order to support your efforts. Synchronicity brings you opportunities, people, events and circumstances exactly when and where they need to be. When life flows naturally, the universe’s natural state of abundance follows automatically.

9. Love is the only reality

Unconditional, holistic love is the answer to all of life’s challenges. We are here on Earth to learn how to love ourselves and others, and to accept ourselves and others completely, without judgment. At this point, some people ask, ‘What, are you supposed to love someone who is bent on being anti-social, even destructive’ ? The secret here is that there is a difference between an acceptance of the outer beliefs of a person and an acceptance of their inner essence. Regardless of that person’s outward belief system, and whether you agree with it or not, it is the inner essence of the person that you learn to recognize, love and accept. The secret is that unconditional love will heal the world, and there is no shortage of its supply. The universe is permeated by, and held together by, the love aspect of the One Creator. You have only to allow it to flow through you in order to experience its wonder.

10. Self-responsibility

You create your own reality and take personal responsibility for it. Your life is a reflection of your point of view in this, the set of experiences that you, as a soul, planned for this life.

11. Truth is everywhere

The ultimate truth is to be found within, yet the study of a variety of sources of information helps you to reawaken and remember your inner truth. Your intuitive sense is your guide as to what material is most appropriate for you at any particular time during your personal development.

12. Inner connection and insight

Inner connection with your spiritual source promotes spiritual transformation and the achievement of your true potential. Developing intuition, both in men and women, provides an essential insight into life’s experiences. The way this is achieved is through regular, daily meditation. The regular practice of meditation promotes intuitive insight, unconditional love and personal spiritual experiences. Any meditation technique that you prefer will function perfectly well, but the Infinite Being meditation technique is particularly powerful. With practice, you actually need no technique at all, because you will find that you can go into those deeper levels of awareness, whenever you wish, as an acquired habit. In the meantime, check out the ultimate door-opener to the higher realms of human consciousness, the Infinite Being meditation technique.

From: Lucia Small — Apr 09, 2010

I would like to announce that the world will end on Thursday. But not for everybody. Artists and others who write live comments of less than 100 words will be spared.

From: Tulip Panikovsky — Apr 11, 2010

I was raised in a religiously fundamentalist household, but realized that I didn’t belong in that system. Now I take religion as it presents — that is, not what it says about itself, but what I see (using “presents” much as a diagnostician might). My recollections do not included a milieu of creativity, but rather a pursuit of the established and reiteration of the old forms. I don’t have much good to say about it. In the historical record is a great example: the early Islamic world — nevery a bastion of crazed liberalism — was extremely creative in many ways, including mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. However, when Islam’s most fundamental elements began to assert control over Islamic society in general, such creativity waned. Today, it is almost completely dead. Islam is not the only religion that suffers from this problem. Neither are religions the only knowledge systems that present it. The history of repressive “salon” control over art is also indicative.

From: Tammy Moore — Apr 12, 2010
From: Not a Lemming. — Apr 13, 2010

A fundamentalist is described in the dictionary as “someone who believes that every detail of the bible is literally true”. My word!!! Most christians that have preached to me just recite the parts of the bible they like that suit their own agendas, imagine having to defend the entire book and all it’s contradictions.

From: David W Fraser — Apr 14, 2010

Jonathan Haidt’s article posted above by Tammy Moore is one of the most balanced and illuminating essays on human nature in America today. All who drop into Robert’s stimulating site should click through and read it.

From: Libby Garner — May 03, 2010

This theory about fundamentalism hampering creativity is really curious. I found in teaching art students, the most repressed — via fundamentalism — were by far the most interesting. Visualize clasped hands holding down the top of a brain. Ideas find pathways between fingers in any way they can. They may be ribbon-like, from the pressure, or shoot sky high. You can never know what a repressed idea might do. There is also the student who was held down for so long that when the ideas let loose, they set fire! This is a true story.

From: Brian, Upstate NY — Aug 10, 2010

The whole concept is pretty interesting, what I find even more interesting is that so many people have a opinions on religious fundamentalism and art.

For myself, I tend to run into fundamentalist people who are not very creative or open about creativity and when they are, they can not take credit for their own work they give that credit to their god(s) and that to me has always been the most curious of all ideas.

 

 

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