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Denison Journal of Religion

Abstract

This article rests upon the premise that empire and religion are often intertwined and reliant upon each other. Fishburne points to the time of Constantine as a world-altering example of this. After his conversion, Christianity and the Roman Empire became synonymous, with far-reaching implications. This is easily apparent when one examines the role that empire and religion played in art. Historically, this melding of religion and empire spawned an artistic revival that pushed artists into new techniques and styles. However, this new burgeoning was balanced by the strict control the Church had over artists. Art was restricted to religious subject matter, and competition amongst nobles to give lavish pieces of art to local congregations is credited with the rise of indulgences, a system that essentially allowed people to buy their way into heaven. This religious empire both inspired art and crippled it. This tradition continues today. Empire and religion are still entwined, if more subtly. Certain religious views inspire the dominant culture, and these perspectives are subliminally imposed upon the general population. Empire spreads most frequently now through technology. Empire is blatantly apparent on the internet, and while people connect more quickly than ever, they also open themselves up to imperialism. This profoundly affects artists who attempt to use these new technologies. While they are able to reach a much wider audience than was previously available, they also leave themselves open to theft. Empire has a new tool, and this one also comes with the promise of growth and death for the art world. Religion and empire are closely intertwined, and while both have served to empower artists, they simultaneously limit that power.

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