Neo-Pagan Elites

No longer able to believe in the Church religion, which had betrayed its own lie, and unable to adopt the true Christian teaching, which denied their entire life, these wealthy and powerful people, being left without any religious understanding of life, returned willy-nilly to that pagan world view which locates the meaning of life in personal pleasure. Thus there occurred among the upper classes what is known as ‘the Renaissance of science and art’, which essentially was not merely the denial of any religion, but also the recognition of its needlessness…. Thus the majority of upper-class people at that time, even the popes and clerics, essentially did not believe in anything. They did not believe in the Church teaching, because they saw its unsoundness; nor could they recognize the moral, social teaching of Christ, as it had been recognized by Francis of Assisi, Kelchitsky and most of the sectarians, because this teaching would destroy their social position. So these people remained without any religious world view. And, having no religious world view, they could not have any other standard for evaluating good and bad art than personal pleasure. Having recognized pleasure – that is, beauty – as the standard of what is good, people of the upper classes of European society returned in their understanding of art to the crude understanding of the primitive Greeks, already condemned by Plato. And, in correspondence with this understanding, a theory of art took shape among them. 

–Leo Tolstoy, What Is Art?

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