In the 1500s the Catholic Church monopolized religion in Europe. Christianity is centered on the belief that a persons soul continues to live after their body is dead and gone. This ‘afterlife’ can be spent in heavenly rewards, know as salvation or the punishments of hell know as damnation. The Roman Catholic Church presented its officials as the arbiters of salvation. As the text points out “Most [people] believed that the Catholic Church held the keys to salvation, providing the rules and rituals needed to reach heaven” (p.442). The idea that financial support of the Church could earn salvation was instrumental in the growth of the Catholic Empire. Over the years, it gained incredible wealth, power and political authority over the population of Europe.
Political unrest and the abuse of authority were the two main causes of the Protestant Reformation. A monk named Martin Luther attempted to reform corruption and abuse of power by church officials. He was offended that popes and bishops had amassed great wealth and luxury. Many parish priests were poorly educated and often took advantage of their position of authority.
Luther was preoccupied with the afterlife and the prospect of spending eternity in damnation. Through study of the scripture, he concluded that salvation was not dependent on Church officials, that salvation is a gift from God. His writings prompted a huge rebellion that forever splintered Christianity into a number of sects.
John Calvin established the base for Protestant reform in Geneva Switzerland. Calvinists established themselves throughout Europe. Many of the Monarchs and rulers saw the rebellion as a way to increase their own power and wealth. Massive amounts of property were striped from Catholic ownership and reclaimed by…