Do you know what the most important invention in the history of the world was?
It wasn’t the computer. And it sure wasn’t the light bulb or the telephone. (Or even the electronic voting machine.)
It was the printing press.
In 1445, Johannes Gutenberg invented the world’s first movable type printing press. He didn’t know it, but he was unleashing a revolution that continues to this day. Even the mighty Internet in the 21st century is just an extension of Gutenberg’s original, revolutionary machine.
The first book he printed was the Bible. And that led to controversy, too, because Luther translated it into German, the people’s language, instead of Latin, the lingo of the religious elite.
Suddenly, ordinary folks could not only afford a copy, but they could read it for themselves instead of getting some guy’s self-serving interpretation. Soon the cat was out of the bag–there were copies scattered all over Europe.
When people started to read it, they were alarmed at what they saw, because between the covers of this book was an amazing story that had seemingly little to do with the politics and shell games they saw in some corners the church.
Luther wrote a list of 95 accusations against the church — priests taking bribes and granting ‘indulgences’, an institution setting itself up as a ‘middleman’ between man and God.
He argued that God didn’t need a middleman, or a distributor, or an agent, or a bureaucracy. People could go direct to the source.
This little ‘schism’ in Worms Germany unleashed a firestorm of protest and permanently changed the way people approached education. No longer was a big, faceless institution responsible for your spiritual progress — YOU were. Now that you had the knowledge in your hands, you were accountable before God to do something about it.
I’m not trying to attack the Catholic church, by the way. The problem is not institutions per se; it’s just that it’s always easier for us to mindlessly follow someone else than to listen to God and use the minds He gave us.
It’s no coincidence that the scientific enlightenment and industrial revolution began in earnest within 50 years of this. Not that it wasn’t already underway (it had already gathered considerable momentum) but now that ordinary folks had access to knowledge and the freedom to pursue it, the possiblities were limitless.
The printing press took the handcuffs off of knowledge and spirituality, and the world has never been the same. Equal access to knowledge empowered people everywhere, and it was only natural that the Renaissance, and in time, democracy too would follow.
What’s troubling now is that most people still don’t do anything with the knowledge that’s available to them. Why would you accept a ‘canned’ answer or empty platitude when you can open the book and read about it for yourself?
People have debates about Jesus, but most have never read the real story–they just believe what they’re told. How sad.
If you want a ‘Just the facts ma’am’ version of what really happened, grab a Bible (please — a modern English version that’s easy to read, not something from the 1600’s) and read the book of Luke. A truly fascinating story will unfold.
I dare you to read for one hour and then stop!
And you know what? Nobody will need to tell you what it means. You’ll be quite able to figure it out for yourself.
Print it out and take it with you. (I like this NLT translation a lot, btw.)
You might like to burn the MP3 onto a CD and listen to it in your car, or listen on your ipod.
Tomorrow I’m going to attack Lie #4:
‘Women are spiritually inferior and must submit to the authority of men.’
Talk to you tomorrow!
P.S.: Speaking of scientific revolutions, you may enjoy my
other 5-day email course, “Where Did The Universe Come From?”
I explore the Big Bang, the wonders of DNA, and the
relationship between science and spirituality: