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Protestant Reformation

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The Protestant Reformation began as a movement by one monk to correct the injustices of the Catholic Church. The Northern Christian Humanists of centuries before believed that the Christian faith had once been a simple religion, twisted and vague through time and hopeless papal authority. Although Martin Luther meant only to make corrections in the faulty faith, a split occurred in the Christian Church. From the rapid spread of Reformation ideas, it is obvious that others were concerned with the welfare of the Church as well. Reformers such as Zwingli and Calvin became popular and fought for the right to practice their religion openly. Unfortunately, the religious activities of the time were so entangled in the economic, social, and political forces of the time that what started as a statement ended as a revolution in the Christian Church.

The economy of the time was a hard mix of prosperity among the upper and middle classes, and extreme poverty throughout the majority of the land and peasants. Because the economic prosperity of the late 15th and 16th centuries did not directly affect the lower class, who were kept in submission by lords and extreme taxation, the peasants embraced new forms of religion. The Anabaptists were a group of laborers who were adversely affected by the economic change of the age. They felt that the church should be a voluntary association of believers who were all equal. Such radical ideas could be linked to the dissatisfaction among the lower class and peasants.

Parish priests, however, were also unhappy with the Church's unfairness. While they suffered with the commoners to pay their bills, the Pope and cardinals were enjoying a life of luxury at their expense. They were continually subjected to new taxes to benefit the Pope and Rome, and were threatened with excommunication and certain damnation if they resisted. Increasingly, one could buy titles of significance in the Church while it was nobles who were usually the officials selected to fill the highest positions such as cardinals. The hawking of indulgences for the Pope's building fund for a new basilica in Rome was what truly angered Martin Luther into action. The acquisition of these indulgences supposedly assured one's time in purgatory to be shortened. Martin Luther, however, contested that there was biblical reference neither to indulgences nor to purgatory. He maintained that these indulgences were being forced on people already burdened with huge economic burdens, simply to build up the Pope's treasury and to create funds to build St. Peters Basilica.

The social activities of the era were also catalysts for reform in the church. The Northern Christian humanists had studied early Christian writings and determined that the church's theology had been clouded over many ears with certain untrue dogma. In order to purify the Church, they felt that society would need to be educated and a return to true Christianity would be initiated. Followers of the Modern Devotion held the view that traditional beliefs should be emphasized in favor of a more direct and personal approach to religion. While this was not a huge movement, it laid the groundwork for the Protestant feelings of directness with God. Priests were not needed to talk to God; it could be done by anyone through prayer. Martin Luther believed the Pope's claim to be the only one who could interpret scripture. Appealing to people's individuality, Luther objected



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