The Reformation

 
   Although we often stereotype it as an oppressive monolith, the Roman Church of the Middle Ages was actually a "big tent" church, which tolerated many diverse ideas and practices within the overall scheme of orthodoxy. In that way it remained secure as the universal church of western Europe for a thousand years. In the early 1500's, however, it foundered on a rock of controversy and broke apart into many mutually hostile entities, each of which claimed the monopoly of Truth."Toleration" was unthinkable. Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, Loyola, the rest of the combatants on all sides hurled invective and denunciation on their rivals. Neighbor turned against neighbor, and nation against nation. Hundreds of people were burned at the stake for their beliefs; thousands died in massacres; hundreds of thousands perished in religious wars that raged across Europe between 1520 and 1650. It was a dark and complex chapter in Europe's history; but without it, the world we know could never have been born.  
 

 
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