October 31 in freethought history…

(RNS3-FEB15) Martin Luther, founder of Germany's Protestant (Lutheran) Church, nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. Today, the church he founded is facing an uncertain future and dismal demographic trends that could eventually mean less state funding for church operations. For use with RNS-LUTHER-CHURCH, transmitted Feb. 15, 2007. Religion News Service file photo.

October 31, 1517 – According to tradition, German friar Martin Luther posted his Ninety Five Theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, questioning various clerical abuses within the Catholic Church, including nepotism and the sale of indulgences. Whether Luther posted the Theses on the church door on this date is disputed; what is not disputed is that Luther’s dissemination of the Theses launched the Protestant Reformation.

October 31, 1895 – Swedish freethought activist Viktor Lennstrand dies in Gävle, Sweden, aged 34.

October 31, 1992 – Pope John Paul II, following the recommendations of a 13-year investigation by a Vatican commission, formally “rehabilitates” Galileo Galilei, admitting that the scientist was right that the earth revolved around the Sun. The Pope said, “Galileo…proved himself more perspicacious on this issue than his theologian adversaries.” He went on to excuse Galileo’s inquisitors for their inability to separate scripture from its proper interpretation, concluding that “this led to them unduly transferring to the field of religious doctrine an issue which actually belongs to scientific research.” Galileo was famously hauled before the Inquisition in 1633, found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” forced to recant under threat of torture, and sentenced to house arrest for the last nine years of his life.

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