Today’s guest post comes to us from Richard Gunderman for TheConversation.com.
This year marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s famous 95 theses, which helped spark the founding of the Reformation and the division of Christianity into Protestantism and Catholicism.
Less known is the crucial role Luther played in making the case for ordinary people to read often and well. Unlike the papacy and its defenders, who were producing their writings in Latin, Luther reached out to Germans in their mother tongue, substantially enhancing the accessibility of his written ideas.
At a time when most people worked in farming, reading was not necessary to maintain a livelihood. But Luther wanted to remove the language barrier so that everyone could read the Bible “without hindrance.” His rationale for wanting people both to learn to read and to read regularly was, from his point of view, among the most powerful imaginable – that reading it for themselves would bring them closer to God.
In promoting his point of view, Luther helped to provide one of the most effective arguments for universal literacy in the history of Western civilization.
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