This is a day that changed history, because it brought about a fraction within the Roman Catholic Church, which resulted in the formation of several other religions over the years. Though this schism would undoubtedly happen sooner or later, October 31, 1517 is the day history changed forever. Up until this time, Christianity was the Roman Catholic Church and while I won’t get into a debate over religion, let’s just say that the saying ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’ holds true here.
As the title suggests, Luther had 95 main gripes against the Roman Catholic Church. His biggest was the selling of indulgences, a relief from sin, if only you pay the church for that relief. While this did not forgive a person from sin, it allowed them relief from Purgatory – 100 days for each relic a person donated to the church. So, if you were rich enough, you could indulge in as much sin as you wished, then pay the church for relief from Purgatory. Luther’s stance was that Christian’s don’t have to pay for forgiveness, as it’s free in the form of God’s Grace through the death of Jesus Christ. All a Christian has to do is be repetitive and ask for forgiveness himself. He doesn’t need to go through the Church for that forgiveness, much less pay for it.
An interesting factor in all this has to be the Gutenberg Printing Press. Why, you say? Luther nailed his Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, which held one of Europe's largest collections of religious artifacts, or holy relics…the view of which, and donation for that view, bought indulgences. Castle Church was also well-known for being a bulletin board for the university, a place to announce events, etc. That’s where the 95 Theses may have stayed, but for the Gutenberg Press.
So, a little background. In 1424, Cambridge University’s library had a whopping 122 books, each worth a small fortune. But a rise in literacy among the middle-class brought about a demand for more, less expensive books. Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (yeah, say that 3 times fast), invented the moveable printing press in 1439. So, by the time Luther posted his theses on Castle Church’s door, the press had been around for half a century. Someone took the 95 Theses off the door (or copied it down), took it to a printing press and printed it out. It was then distributed throughout The Holy Roman Empire and the Reform Movement took hold.
Splits along certain doctrinal lines resulted in the emergence of rival Protestant churches. The most important denominations to emerge directly from the Reformation were the Lutherans and the Reformed/Calvinists/Presbyterians. In England, the Movement gave rise to the Anglican Church and it did accelerate the Catholic or Counter Reformation within the Roman Catholic Church.
So, October 31st just isn’t a day to honor the spirits, it is a day that may have very well resulted in the religion you call your own.