On this day in 1483, the religious reformer Martin Luther was born. I actually see him as a villain. Here I’m not just talking about his antisemitic views, which in fairness, were typical of the time. The whole protestant reform movement has done far more harm than good for the world. The Catholic Church of that time was hopelessly corrupt. But the fundamental idea of Luther that the religion was the Bible is an extremely dangerous thing. It naturally leads to fundamentalism. If there is no authority but the Bible, what are people to believe but that what it literally says (a fool’s errand regardless) is what it means. And what it leads to is things like the Jehovah’s Witnesses: a religion that started with a bunch of amateurs trying to figure out the Bible only to have their work ossify into a religion that is far less flexible than the Catholic Church. It also leads to a certain level of terror among Christians who feel they must be the ones to defend their faith—a task they are hopelessly unqualified for. Nonetheless, Martin Luther clearly had good intentions, but we all know where that paved road leads.
Mikhail Kalashnikov is 94 today. He is the inventor of the AK-47, probably the most important gun of the 20th century. It’s a dubious distinction given that almost unimaginable harm that has been done with the gun. On the other hand, if it hadn’t been the AK-47, it would have been some other gun. After all, guns don’t kill people; bullets kill people. In this case, the 7.62×39mm.
Other birthday: the novelist Winston Churchill (1871); actor Claude Rains (1889); actor Richard Burton (1925); songwriter Marilyn Bergman (84); actor Roy Scheider (1932); songwriter Tim Rice (69); film director Roland Emmerich (58); and comedian Tracy Morgan (45).
The day, however, belongs to the great composer Ennio Morricone who is 85 today. He is best known for his film scores of the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns. Of course, like most film composers, wrote the music for many films. Although it includes short films, the Internet Movie Database lists 517 films he has worked on. Here is the title sequence of A Fistfull of Dollars, which is just great:
Happy birthday Ennio Morricone!