Software Nerd

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Protestant Reformation

"The Reformation" spread across Germany and Scandinavia around 1530. In the 1530's, Henry VIII had famously broken with the Catholic Church. Though he do so partly because he wanted a divorce, he probably could not have done so without the numerous English noblemen and clergy who agreed with the ideas of the Reformation, and wanted change for their own reasons. About 30 years later, Mary Queen of Scots abdicated her throne in the face of the Scottish Reformation.

Super-fast revolution: What amazes me is this: Martin Luther nailed his "95 Treatises" to a church door in 1517. Just 20 years, saw change across many countries. How did it spread so fast? Were people so angry about the existing corruption and the status-quo? Many noblemen saw the reformation as a way to increase their local political power: was role did this play compared to the intellectual argument? I need to get a good book about the history of the Reformation.

Marx and Russia: Karl Marx published the "Communist Manifesto" in 1848. The Russian revolution took place 70 years later, in 1917. Since Communism wanted to overthrow the church, the rulers, and the middle class, it is not surprising that it took longer than the Reformation, even though it occurred in a time when ideas travelled more quickly.

A picture: Here are time lines for Luther and Marx, with Rand thrown in as a bonus.

Notice how rapidly Luther's ideas took hold.

Also, when a young Objectivist is pessimistic, tell him that we've got till 2026 if we go at the pace of the Communist revolution!



  • It would be interesting to see how the relatively new phenomenon of the internet helps to speed up any rational revolution heading our way (I think it's already helped quite a bit!)

    However, to balance that, if Objectivism is to make progress in the culture it has to overturn an entire moral code that had been predominantly accepted for the entire history of Western civilization.

    I think is a much higher bar to jump than what the socialists had, since their politics were entailed in altruism.

    By Anonymous Nate T., at 6:51 PM  

  • This gave me a little stur in my belly. Thanks sNerd. :)

    By Blogger Tenure, at 3:28 AM  

  • Objectivist guy

    Thanks for Dr. Miller's lecture. I have read his works before.He is one of our top college educators today. He also realizes that Darwinism IS Intelligent Design..Natural Selection is the Finger of God! Isn't it ironic that Science validates Faith!

    By Blogger The Doubting Thomas, at 10:42 PM  

  • I almost did not include the Rand timeline in the picture. My main intent was to compare Luther and Marx.

    I think the average time for movements in general to reach fruition is not an important statistic. Some movements may never reach fruition; they might simply die out. What is important are the details "under the hood": what caused this one to be accepted so fast? what caused this other one to take so long?

    By Blogger softwareNerd, at 4:08 AM  

  • One quick thought that came to mind. I have to wonder if the time required for an idea to take off relates to how fundamentally different the idea is to other current ideas. For example while Luther had a different idea it was still just more religion. Changing an apple with spots, with one that has stripes is still just an apple. Communism was a new and different form of politics and economics, but it is still secured in altruism which underlies the last millenias of religion. So I would guess that the more fundamentally different an idea is, the longer it would take to be accepted.

    On the other hand perhaps it could be argued that altruism, religion, and communism are all false and impractical whereas Objectivism is not. This is purely me speculating of course. Thanks for the interesting post.

    By Blogger Richard, at 4:24 PM  

  • Richard, Thanks for the comment.

    You may be right in the "degree of separation" idea. There are other possibilities that I have speculated about including the idea that the Reformation was not as short as I think. (For instance, were there other pre-Luther priests or intellectuals who had already laid the ground in some way?)

    Some day, I need to read a book about the period.

    By Blogger softwareNerd, at 8:55 PM  

  • s'Nerd, some people who in one way or another foreshadowed Luther were John Wycliff, John Hus and Joan of Arc.

    By Blogger At, at 2:41 PM  

  • I knew nothing about those folks -- except Joan of Arc -- before your comment. Wycliffe sounds interesting. Thanks.

    I'd appreciate a book-recommendation of a single good book that covers the pre-Reformation and reformation, from people like Wycliffe down to (say) a generation or so after Luther.

    By Blogger softwareNerd, at 3:29 PM  

  • Another challenge when measuring revolutions is that we don't always see the connections. We don't always know who was influenced by whom and how those ideas spread. Just a quick example, related to "radicals for capitalism" most Objectivists probably do not have the FreeCapitalist Project on their radar, nevertheless Rand's ideas are responsible, to a large extent, for the movement.

    Just .02 - worth thinking about.

    By Anonymous Rick Koerber, at 9:32 PM  

  • The FreeCapitalist Project is another attempt at mixing religion with rationality. One cannot do that and still claim to think principles are important.

    By Blogger SN, at 3:33 AM  

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