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A Humanist perspective on Art and Creativity

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Giving life its meaning and shape
One of the amazing things that makes human beings different from other animals is our ability to create – not for shelter, or food, or defence, or for any other practical reason – but just for the joy and fulfilment of creating, and then to wonder at and enjoy what we have created. The creative arts, literature, film, music, painting, sculpture and the other visual arts, are not just the icing on the cake of existence, but part of what gives life its meaning and shape.

Creating community
Stories, whether in film or writing, help us to connect with and think about our lives and not just our own lives but human life generally. The visual arts can inspire real emotions, enriching our inner life. All art can tell us things about reality, natural and man-made, and reflects the world back to us in novel ways. Sharing an experience creates community.

Expressing oneself
It is not just the audience that is important for humanists in their understanding of art, so is the artist. The artist has the freedom to create and allow his or her individual inspiration to be made real and this is also important for humanists, the possibility of individual self-expression.

This freedom to express oneself is vital as a part of human freedom and many humanists have been strong supporters of freedom of expression. When the humanist and playwright Arthur Miller was made President of PEN, the international organisation protecting the freedom of writers, he did so for explicitly humanist reasons. He said, ‘PEN seemed to promise an awakening of humanist solidarity at a time when the opposing creed of untrammelled individualism and private success was beginning its most recent sweep of the American political landscape.’