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date: 28 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This essay begins with the observation that there was a time when art was religious and yet today contemporary art is overwhelmingly atheistic. To understand how and why art and religion split, this essay looks to the Renaissance as a pivotal moment in art history when the arts turned from religious obligation to artistic exploration. Specifically, this essay focuses on the impact that economic changes, the progress of science, and the rise of humanism in fifteenth and sixteenth century Europe had on the divorce of art from religion. These factors—patronage, a scientific worldview, and a humanistic philosophy—constitute a threefold force that moved art away from religion, and importantly, continues to function as a wedge between the two.

Keywords: atheism, the arts, religion, the Renaissance, patronage, humanism, science

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