Losing your religion may be an occupational risk for artists who like to weigh in on the Big Questions.

But when John Adams set out to write music representing the Crucifixion of Jesus, the composer underwent what he calls “a good old-fashioned crisis of faith.”

“It was a very, very profoundly disturbing experience for me,” said Adams, whose opera-oratorio “The Gospel According to the Other Mary” will have its world premiere Thursday at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

“I doubted whether my moral or spiritual powers were strong enough to try to take on this archetypal image, this event, which all the greatest artists in Western history, from Michelangelo to Johann Sebastian Bach to Bernini have dealt with. And then here’s John Adams, a sort of secular liberal living in Berkeley, Calif., dealing with this.”

In establishing himself as America’s best-known as well as one of its most respected contemporary composers, Adams, 65, repeatedly has put his convictions and those of his audiences to the test. His operas have probed the ethics of nuclear weaponry (“Doctor Atomic”), the theological roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (“The Death of Klinghoffer”) and the fissures in L.A.’s social fabric that were exposed by the 1994 Northridge earthquake (“I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky”).

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