The Protestant Ethic

What is the Protestant ethic?

The Protestant ethic is a term describing a set of attitudes fostered by the leaders of the Reformation: Martin Luther (1483–1546), John Calvin (1509–1564), John Knox (1513–1572), Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531), Conrad Grebel (c. 1498–1526), and their Protestant successors such as Methodist church founders John Wesley (1703–1791) and Charles Wesley (1707–1788). These church leaders stressed the holiness of a person’s daily life, the importance of pastors to lead family lives (versus the celibacy of Catholic monks and nuns), education and study, and personal responsibility. According to these beliefs, the person who is hardworking, thrifty, and honest is a good person of value to their community and to God.

From 1904 to 1905, German sociologist Max Weber (1864–1920) wrote an essay called “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” asserting that Protestant principles contributed to the growth of industry and commerce during the 1700s and 1800s since the hard work, investment, and savings of individuals help build a capitalist economy.


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