As before the Reformation, the taxing of northern Europe to sustain the subsidies and debts of mother church lasted awhile, but it could not last for ever. German taxpayers may bail out the Greeks, because half the Greeks' debts are to foreign banks. But these taxpayers will not also bail out the Portuguese, the Spaniards and the Italians. The attempted revival of the Holy Roman Empire is doomed. Luther's theses will soon be nailed to the doors not of Wittenberg but of the Berlaymont palace in Brussels.In England, it was naked greed rather than theology that truly drove the Reformation. The Church's stranglehold on wealth and land was too great a temptation for the rich and powerful; the result was plunder and waste on a princely scale. The poor became poorer as alms and dole disappeared, hospitals and medical care vanished and the infrastructure of Maisons Dieu across the country that provided sheltered accommodation for the halt, the lame and the crippled in mind and body threw their burdens onto the midden. Learning and scholarship, never popular with the titled class, fell into desuetude. Taxpayers enjoyed no benefit; in most cases they merely exchanged an ordained tax-collector for an unholy one. The dukes and earls and barons and every unwholesome dag who managed to thrust their sticky hands into the pot were the ones who gained. If the winners of a new European 'reformation' are similarly to be the banks, the powerful corporations and the Central State - our modern post-feudal aristocracy - then no thanks to Reformation.
It was the democratisation of the Renaissance that truly brought benefits to us all. The growth of a powerful middle class independent of Church or State, with law for all, the grammar schools, intellectual freedom, a flowering of science, philosophy and art and not just the Bard but Kit Marlowe, Spenser, Bacon, Milton, Sidney, Byrd, Tallis and Taverner. We had parlours and chimneys, and meat on the table, and shoes on our feet. The power of the aristocracy was curbed and regulated. It was the age not of the dukes and earls but of the knights from the Shires and staunch yeomen with stout houses and fertile holdings. A modern Renaissance that returns power and wealth from the centre, that undermines the malign power of the banks and international corporations, that emasculates the pernicious political class and repatriates our sovereignty is rather to be welcomed.
Reformation saw half a century of war and famine, with a third of Northern Europe's population killed by the sword, fire or starvation. The Renaissance gave us Bottom and Toby Belch.