"and that the arts are in some sense "obviously" a possibly interesting but nonessential secondary dimension of culture"
As it happens I was just reading Plato's "The Laws" in reference to another discussion on RPG-Create (Yahoo Group) where he talks about the topic of the importance of music. It is not only important, but, Plato argues that from art and music the Civilization either ascends to the heights of virtue, or the depths of depravity. So I thought that was interesting. It's a bit of a bear to read but if you're interested you can read about it here:
As for the question of "accuracy", I'm not so sure that "accuracy" is as important as "effectiveness". Some designers I think want to have accuracy in their games because they feel it will lend realism. To some degree they would be right if they could but do it. The problem is that reality is too difficult to model into a form that can be played by humans easily, and so in lue of that we fudge things, which creates simulations. The simulations we create are never really accurate, only roughly so. To attempt "accuracy" or claim it is not exactly what I think of as useful because it can not be truly achieved, and if it were achieved in some sort of game rules it would be in all likelihood unplayable because the calculations would be odious in the extreme. And that's for physical things. When you come to the question of art and religion the problem is compounded infinitely because these things can not really be measured, nor has history been sufficiently recorded (which would be impossible) to get "accuracy". Instead we get opinions and impressions and thoughts and feelings. But not accuracy. So to call what we fathom about religion in terms of historical views accurate is, well, inaccurate. At best we can say, This is my impression, or This is what I believe. That, in my opinion, however, is perfectly acceptable for game design, and in fact desirable. I would not wish to create an "accurate" game as it would take far too long and be a failure in the end at the goal. I prefer to create games that are Effective, which is different. By Effective I mean simply that it achieves the goal of my game, which is to cause the players to feel immersed in the World I am weaving for them, and for them to have fun in the process. That goal can be achieved, but not via an effort toward accuracy. It is achieved in the same way that Tolkien achieved it, or Homer, or any of the great film makers or story tellers. Not accuracy, but effectiveness. That's my take on it, for what its worth. Thanks for the question! Interesting.