By the time of Martin Luther and John Calvin, the Holy Catholic Roman Church had been in power for a thousand years and occupied a third of Europe. Popes, cardinals and bishops come exclusively from the aristocratic elite of Europe. As a result, the clergy have wielded incredible wealth and influence. As leaders of the church, they are practically irresistible. If external forces caused problems, the Church could often muster strength from the various kingdoms of Europe through the influence of the pope and his family’s direct links to the governments concerned, or through threats to expel and condemn their kings. Facing the threat of family problems, perpetrators were branded heretics, witches, or other undesirables and dealt with quickly or slowly and painfully by the various branches of the Inquisition. Even though the church has broken its monopoly on knowledge at this point, they still have complete control over salvation.
The Church knows how to squeeze every drop of wealth out of this monopoly. Between church donations, papal heavy taxes, and indulgences, the church is draining its followers and everyone else. The church hierarchy is stagnant with corruption. The list of dissatisfied is long, but before the Reformation no one proved up to the task of opposing the Church, but now the situation is right.
Martin Luther was supposed to be a lawyer, but during a severe lightning storm he swore to become a monk if he was saved. He did become a monk and eventually became a theology teacher on the advice of a priest. During this time, he had a revelation and believed that salvation was based solely on faith, not on faith and an endless series of good works. He believed that perfect obedience to God’s commandments and laws was impossible and that countless rituals and deeds were not enough to achieve salvation. Only God of infinite glory and mercy can save the undeserving, that is, everyone. Many historians believe the Reformation began in 1517, when Martin Luther published his Ninety-Five Theses against indulgences, beginning his separation from Rome.
For centuries, the Church has rewarded followers with indulgences, which are seen as additional good deeds and works that can be redistributed to sinners. Indulgences were originally given to those who participated in the Crusades, but as the Church continued to degenerate, they are now used for monetary donations. Indulgence was used to reduce the time spent in Purgatory, a place where a person spends time paying for his sins before going to Heaven. You may spend thousands of years in a burning torture pit before being allowed to ascend. The church eventually descended to the point of selling indulgences, which would free dead relatives from purgatory.
There has been opposition from monks, priests, and others throughout the practice, but there are a few key differences that allowed Luther to succeed. His dissertation was written in Latin academic language, as it was written for his colleagues, but it was translated into local German, then printed and distributed to the public. So, unlike most of those before him, his words were heard and spread by many.
Normally Luther would have been dealt with quickly by the Church, and even his direct attacks on the Pope might have been minimal, but we can’t forget the disgruntled nobles, especially the Germans. Pope Leo X sent a bull to Luther, ordering him to renounce his religion, and Luther threw the bull into a bonfire, along with all the church laws, in front of the crowd. He is now regarded as a heretic by the Church, if he had not been regarded as such before. His secular ruler, Frederick the Wise of Saxony, was German and therefore harbored an underlying grudge against the Church, and decided not to burn Luther as a heretic because he did not have a fair hearing. Luther was then summoned to the city of Worms to be tried by the Council of Princes of the Holy Roman Empire. The head of this council was Emperor Charles V of the Empire itself, who was not German. Luther was officially branded a heretic, but not before he was swiftly taken by Frederick to the safety of Wartburg Castle.
Luther continued his work from Wartburg. Since Luther believed in salvation by faith alone, he condemned the entire church hierarchy as no more holy or moral than its fellow followers. The particular suffering of the German nobility was largely due to the lack of an agreement between the Pope and the Emperor to limit the power of the German Church. Therefore, the taxation of the Pope was too high. Unsurprisingly, Lutheranism first took root among the German nobility. Germany, at the heart of the Holy Roman Empire, now largely rejects the Catholic Church.
Kings and lords began to convert to Protestantism, whether for spiritual or other purposes, which had a profound effect on the churches in their lands. If there is no office of the pope or regional clergy to assign and control a region’s churches, a prince or ruling government will, thus retaining more power in their own lands. Monasteries, convents, and other ecclesiastical organizations were also dissolved by the state, and their wealth was usually confiscated at the time.
With Luther’s success, many others found it bolder to challenge the Church(,) and its practices. From this came variants of Protestantism, as Lutheranism and its offshoots were known, such as Zwingliism, founded by Ulrich Zwingli, who opposed the Church before Luther’s time, but until He did not express himself until after Luther’s reforms had begun. Another contemporary was the Anabaptist faith, an extreme form of Protestantism that believed in adult baptism and communal, communist government and ways of life. I will mention Calvinism shortly.
Zwinglianism is the most moderate Protestant denomination. Zwinglianism was embraced and adopted in Zurich and northern Switzerland, but only lasted about a decade when Ulrich Zwingli was killed in battle with Catholic forces and most of his followers were absorbed into Calvinism. A decisive factor in the short life of Zwingliism was the difference in belief between Zwingli and Luther, who believed that the body of Christ was real in the sacraments, and Zwingli who saw it only as a symbolic representation of Christ remind. This difference maintained the separation of Zwingli and Lutherans, allowing Zwingli to defend themselves against Catholics without help. Although this movement was fleeting, it still helped to break the Catholic monopoly and was a sinkhole for Calvinism.
Anabaptists are an extremist branch of Protestantism. They believe in adult baptism and believers need to understand what baptism means in order to be truly baptized. Similar to Lutheranism, Anabaptism disagrees with the Catholic church hierarchy. They see the “true” church as a small body of believers who are not only born members but must consciously join. In 1534, a group of Anabaptists took control of the German city of Münster. They tried to turn it into a new religious center, and its leader claimed to be David’s successor and king of the new temple. The city was captured after a year of controlling Catholic forces. Anabaptists in cities and elsewhere were tortured, prosecuted, and dispersed beyond cohesion.
The next aspect of the spread and social influence of Protestantism has a lot to do with Calvinism, so let’s introduce this denomination. Like Luther, John Calvin was supposed to be a lawyer but turned to religion instead. Calvin believed that God is omnipotent and that the fate of every sinful person (including all people) is either to be damned forever in hell, or to be saved by God. Naturally, Calvinists are the only ones destined to be saved, everyone else deserves to die anyway. The mark of salvation is to be a Calvinist, as mentioned above, to obey the laws of the Bible, and to be successful. The upper classes outside of Germany were content to stay within Catholicism, since they had the money to buy indulgences and didn’t have the bitterness of the German aristocracy.
Often the only way to make any real progress towards the redemption of the middle class under the Catholic faith was to join the Crusades, which was not as common at the time as it was when indulgences were created. Calvinism thus became the religion of the middle class. Catholicism imposes a 15% profit cap and prohibits lending, while Calvinism does not. This helped pave the way for increased commercial trade and banking. Calvinists believe in hard work and are against drinking, dancing, prostitution, and all temptations. (synonym: fun). Naturally a new drink emerged during this time, coffee. Ironically, it’s a middle-class drink. Calvinists are industrious and strive to be successful, because to be saved one must be successful.
The lower classes are in the same situation as they have been in a millennium or more. They are screwed. At the beginning of the rise of Lutheranism, the lower class regarded Luther as a hero and rebelled against the church. They also wanted to throw off the yoke of their lords, as Luther had done to the pope and the emperor himself. When they approached Luther, he turned them down, saying they must follow their master. Then they rebelled and over 100,000 died. If their owners were Protestant, so were they. If their owner is Catholic, so are they. The same is true for countries. If a king is catholic then it is a catholic state and the church present will reflect this. Thanks to the reformations of Luther, Calvin, and the Anglo-Catholic Reformation, religion became a partially secular practice.
The new religious practices that emerged in Europe had a huge impact on the daily lives of all people, regardless of class. These include mental and other changes.
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