I believe religion and art to be one and the same. They run parallel to one another. What is art? It is one of those questions that seems to have infinite answers. Art does not exist without human input. Art is not the sculpture on the plinth, nor is it the painting on the wall! It isn't the print or the carving or the drawing! Art is the feeling stirred within the viewer, it is the reaction of the public, it is the sensation caused and the emotions that ensue.
This opinion is shown very well in Mark Wallinger's video art piece 'Sleeper' which shows him wandering around an art gallery dressed in a bear costume. However it was not Wallingers performance which is the true art, it is the reaction of those who see him, the screams of those he sneaks up on and the laughter of those who find his charade entertaining. This is no more evident than when he suddenly finds himself without an audience and without a reaction. With nobody there to witness him is he still creating art? With nobody there to point and heckle and chide is he still making an impact or has he just been rendered only a man in a bear costume?
It is this very question posed by Wallinger's video which makes his piece so powerful and interesting and very worthy of the Turner Prize it won. In very much the same way religion exists not as a physical thing. Religion is not the Bible on the shelf! Religion is not the Priest, the Buddha, the Guru! It isn't the mosque, the church, the statues or the talismans. Religion is emotion, it is blind faith and understanding. It is not the prayer, but the feelings evoked by the words in a prayer. A Qu'ran would not exist in a wilderness without human input, a bible would not write itself, temples would not build themselves and no voices would praise God.
Religion is insanely powerful, the cause and the resolution of wars, the product of a million unanswerable questions, it is the manifestation of a world full of people who need something to believe in. Religion and art both exists as powerful entities within the hearts of people yet have no real place in nature and the world if we were not in it. I have great love and respect for both as they truly encapsulate what it is to be human.