People draw inspiration from an endless list of different sources - love, birth, sex, jealousy, war, god, death to name a very select few - and the outcome of this inspiration is often beautiful and terrible, touching and uplifting, infuriating and bold. I've already written that I reject the claim that art and the ability to fully appreciate art is a divine gift, but I have known religious people who could not stand 'atheist' art - music which professes happily or with sorrow that there is no god, paintings which show no reverence for typically sacred imagery or specific subjects and the like. I've even seen this kind of behavior exhibited by atheists in regard to religiously inspired art or art which has religious imagery involved. One specific reaction I have heard is this:
I spent 17 years of my life feeling ashamed and afraid about eternity. I don't want to waste any more of my life 'appreciating' anything religious.I understand this position, but I certainly don't personally share it. I feel that some people have had such a negative experience with religion that religiously inspired art seems to have the same affect on them as a person who was raped looking at Rape of the Sabine Woman by Giovanni Bologna - while I can look at the sculpture and feel sorrowful for the Sabine woman or uncomfortable with the rapist who has her held in his grip but still appreciate the form of the sculpture and the skill with which the piece was made, a person who has experienced the crime might only be able to see the ugly subject matter and may even be forced to re-live their own experiences.
As I said, personally I really like art and a good amount of music that is religiously inspired. I feel like the passion and intensity that is often put into these kinds of creations is evident and adds to the impact of the painting or sculpture or what have you. I don't believe that you have to be religious in order to appreciate the power that religious imagery has - from comics to coins to paintings, religious symbols and themes are often gripping subject matter whether the goal of the artist is to show reverence or disdain.