More from the WSJ
Now that the boutique atheism of such aggressive secularists as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens has become chic, you might well ask yourself why any unbelieving artist would bother to turn his hand to the making of religious art.
Terry Teachout explores how non-believers produce sometimes extraordinary, transcendent art. It’s not just that the unbeliever creates transcendent art (and they do) but also what the significance of that transcendence is. Is this merely a trick of narration,a ventriloquism aping the language of the faithful? Or does the art itself point to something beyond itself, a Truth that makes this true. As Teachout notes this latter seems to be Ralph Vaughn Williams’ view,
“Now to assert that these things are exactly as I have described would not be reasonable. But that these things, or something like them, are true concerning the souls of men and their habitations after death, especially since the soul is shown to be immortal, this seems to me fitting and worth risking to believe. For the risk is honourable, and a man should sing such things in the manner of an incantation to himself.”