Why “Power and Religion”?

The rise of chiefdoms, city-states, and empires following the Neolithic Revolution was greatly assisted by marrying religion to power, or using religion to maintain power.  The relationship between religion and power thus has deep historical and structural roots.  There have been times, however, when the abuse of power has spawned new religions or dissenting sects.  Political dissent has often been accompanied by religious dissent.  Indeed, it is this latter dynamic which was responsible in large part for the rise of religions associated with the Axial Age.  It is almost invariably the case that these new or dissenting religions eventually become integrated back into the machinery of political power, or are co-opted and tamed by elites.  Constantine’s conversion and the adoption of Christianity by the Roman Empire is but one well known example.  This Category will examine these and similar events, and the sometimes uneasy relationship between religion and power.

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