A Reformation Fact: The Reformation paved the way for the Enlightenment

The pre-Reformation Roman Catholic church of the 15th century thought it had all the answers – there was, it concluded, nothing more to add on life’s major questions, and people had to accept what they were told: having faith was more important than having proof. Scientific challenges, like the discovery by Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) that the Earth was not the center of the universe (as the church taught), were met with cries of “heretic!” – and threats, or even imposition, of torture and death.

Protestantism, with its return to critical study of the Bible, caused other previously unquestioned assertions to be queried. This paved the way for the Enlightenment, an 18th-century movement across Europe that emphasized reason to solve problems, and urged people not to passively accept received opinion. It brought about increasing religious and political toleration and plurality. The realization that no one had all the answers served to create more open-minded societies, receptive to new ideas, even if it did not, as some of its proponents hoped, completely replace faith.

Note: Every month through October, the Epistle will highlight a fact about the Reformation. The information is taken from the article, 10 Things You (probably) Didn’t Know about the Reformation, published on www.historyextra.com, August 17, 2016.

Amy McKee