Friday, September 20, 2019
Elevating Man to the Level of God: Just Do It! :: Philosophy essays
Elevating Man to the Level of God: Just Do It! Deciding what to believe in was easy for Westerners before the Protestant Reformation. There was really only one option in the religion market-- Roman Catholicism. The Eastern Orthodox churches were also in existence for part of the pre-Reformation period, but they had a different geographical sphere of influence, so people in a given area had little choice of faith. The Church was a powerful force in more than people's spiritual lives; it was often involved in politics, science, art, and other secular affairs. Excommunication (exclusion from the Church) was one of the most severe punishments at that time. Before the Reformation, society was like a child. Children accept any beliefs that their parents hand them because they have no experience of their own to make judgements with. Children have no real sense of right and wrong. When they behave well, it is not out of virtuous impulses or a desire to "do the right thing," but out of fear of reprisal from their parents or an immature desire to please the people who have such a large amount of power over their lives. Finally, children need parents to tell them what to do so they don't burn their hands on the stove, drink Liquid Plumber or fall off a cliff and die. Pre-Reformation society was childlike in many ways, and Roman Catholic clergy were the parents to the pre-adolescent society. Religiously, people relied on the clergy to tell them how to act and what to believe, because they had never had to think about whether they agreed with the teachings of the Pope-- the thought of not agreeing never really entered their minds. When Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg in 1517, he began more than he intended or even knew: intending to reform the Catholic church, he thrust wide open the door to freedom of thought and belief, which had been ajar since the Renaissance. With other religions in the market, people had to scrutinize what they had always been told and decide what they really believed. Some people retained their Roman Catholic beliefs, while others became Lutherans, Unitarians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Methodists, Baptists, Mormons, or joined with any of several hundred other Christian denominations. The division of the western Christian church, begun in 1517, is still continuing today.