How has Martin Luther affected us today?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several ways in which Martin Luther affected religion and culture. Perhaps the most important is that Luther started the Protestant Reformation, a movement that ended the monolithic power of the Roman Catholic Church in the Latin West. All Protestant churches across the world owe a tremendous debt to Luther for their very existence.

There are some key theological points emphasized by Luther that have had significant cultural impact. The first is what is known as the "sola scriptura" doctrine, that Scripture alone is necessary for salvation. What this leads to is a reduction in power of the clergy. Although the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist remain important for Protestants, salvation in Luther's formula is through faith and by grace. Under this, the clergy become ministers, helping their flocks, rather than intermediaries between God and man. This reduces the power of the Church as an institution. Luther also rejected the notion of the Papacy as having unique authority throughout Christendom. 

The importance of Scripture for Luther meant making the Bible available to the laity in the vernacular. This was one significant factor in the rise of literacy rates in Protestant countries.