I emailed my friend who is studying Philosophy at university to email some of her atheist class mates for their view, this is one of the reactions.
“I think that the David LaChapelle collection is interesting as it shows Jesus in a modern context and rather than it being as offensive as it first appears to be, I think that actually it’s sentiment is quite moving. Jesus as a ‘homeboy’ is just another way to view him as a saviour; a homeboy has your back, is loyal, can be someone that you look up to and will ultimately try to protect you. Also, this is probably quite accurate, the people that would have been with Jesus could easily be seen as more violent. For example, Simon the Zealot was a member of the ‘Zealot’ group active in Judea at the time of Jesus, this group was a militant activist group and an extreme form of Judaism. The same is true of Paul who was a zealous Pharisee (another sect of Judaism) and was prepared to take the next step. Also the picture of Jesus standing between the two police offers and the young woman who is presented as a prostitute has similarities to Mary Magdelene who was branded a whore. Religion is a way to get through life and to deal with the problems that arise because of it, I personally like how Jesus is presented here, he takes on an almost Superheroic role, standing for what he sees as right.
Pierre et Gilles’ piece is very idealistic, it shows the martyrdom without any blood, any pain or anything that looks vaguely uncomfortable, which is what tells the viewer of the character’s religious significance. It’s showing that religion takes away pain and that your safe as long as you believe, even if this body is not. While the message is essentially the same between the two artists, I’m naturally more drawn to the former’s work, this one seems a bit more orthodox and underwhelming. There’s no wow factor, nothing that makes you stop and think about it. It’s a piece of work that wouldn’t hurt the eyes but wouldn’t draw them either, not really my cup of tea.” Georgie Horth