The Tragedy of Luther

History is entirely made of missed opportunities — for everything that happened, there are an infinite number of thigs that didn’t — but one of the most tragic was in 1517. An educated person realized “Wait a minute, these stories of an invisible friend are being used by a corrupt ruling class to extort fabulous wealth from the masses!“, and decided “I’m going to throw off their nonsensical shackles, so that I can worship the invisible friend properly.”

So close! You can hear history groan as someone misses the open goal. Martin Luther recognized everything wrong with the Catholic church, which was pretty easy because at that point they were straight-up selling VIP passes to heaven*, but he’d already been so effectively dominated by church control that he couldn’t imagine a world without one.

*The church is still doing that, but now they want you to give up your beliefs in gender equality, marriage equality, and your right to defend yourself from disease or unwanted pregnancies. Which makes the money thing seem like small change.

This resulted in the Protestant church, and the coexistence of Catholicism and Protestantism may be more depressing than the original missed goal. There are more important differences between series of Star Trek. The religions are functionally identical. There are a host of theological issues, including the nature of the Host itself, but unless you’re editing a theology wiki they don’t affect your everyday life. For the average believer they both boil down to “don’t be an arsehole”. A commandment they immediately violate by calling each other sinful liars.

It’s easy to defend your faith when the competition is Norse gods and multi-armed spiritual avatars, because then there’s a clear range of options, you’ve got one you’ve already picked, and that’s all the human brain needs to disengage its higher higher functions. “This one’s mine so it’s right” is the most effective labour-saving shortcut ever invented, because thinking is hard work.

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