What were the social and religious factors responsible for the transition to the Reformation?

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There were many social and religious factors that were responsible for this transition.  Among them were:

  • The Northern Renaissance.  This brought ideas like those of Erasmus which took hold and were precursors to Luther's ideas.
  • The invention of the Gutenberg printing press.  This allowed ideas such as those of Luther to be spread more widely and easily.
  • The fact that the Church was becoming even more caught up in temporal affairs.  The Great Schism and the Babylonian Captivity had occurred not long before the Reformation.  Popes and cardinals were people from powerful families who were using their positions to help their families get more power and wealth.  
  • The fact that Germany was split into many little states.  This gave Luther the political cover needed to allow him to survive going against the Catholic Church.  The presence of rulers who valued ways to resist the Church and the Holy Roman Emperor was key to Luther's success.

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