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- "The three great elements of modern civilization: gun powder, printing, and the Protestant religion."
- –Thomas Carlyle
- "I don't like to commit myself about Heaven and Hell, you see, I have friends in both places."
- –Mark Twain
Historical Context Edit
It has been said that every nation needs a revolution now and then; so too every church a reformation. The Reformation was the 16th Century movement to reform the practices of the Catholic Church, sparked when Luther protested the fact that the rich could buy their way out of Hell. Along with the sale of indulgences, Luther condemned the papacy for a whole host of abuses. Soon the ranks of the protesters (unimaginably termed “Protestants”) grew as Lutheranism spread through the Germanies, Reformed churches formed in Switzerland and the Netherlands, Presbyterian congregations grew in Scotland, and Henry VII created the Anglican Church in England so he could satisfy his cravings for Anne Boleyn.
A weakening was already under way in Catholicism, as humanism and the Scientific Revolution challenged accepted “holy” writ. Moreover, free thinking was abroad in the thriving urban cities and among the emerging (and determined) middle class. As often happens, this Reformation came with a lot of blood; the Thirty Years' War devastated Germany and killed an estimated 25% to 40% of its population as the Holy Roman Empire sought to reassert Catholicism. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 AD finally ended the war by insuring that each sovereign had the right to determine the religion of his state, and that Christians living everywhere had the right to practice their faith in public (during specified hours, that is).
Reform in religion is not, certainly, limited to Christianity. Reform movements within Islam and Judaism have led to new branches of the parent faith rather than schism. In these, the reformers have attempted to adapt the traditional “church” to liberal, human-rights oriented values. These movements grew out of differences in interpretation of core values, emphasizing the evolving nature of their obligations and practices. Similar movements have evolved Buddhism and Hinduism, as these ancient religions seek relevance in modern civilization.