The Protestant Reformation was voted the top religion story of the second Christian millennium by members of the Religion Newswriters Association, who also selected the Holocaust as the 20th century's leading news event.
In 1517, the rebellious German priest Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on a church door in Wittenberg, a list of grievances centered on Rome's practice of selling indulgences. This act sparked the Protestant Reformation, Christendom's second major schism following the East-West split in 1054, and led to a resurgence in the Catholic Church called the Counter-Reformation and the founding of the Church of England.
The millennium's second most important story was the dissemination of the Bible and other religious literature, according to the survey of writers and editors who cover religion regularly for the secular media in the United States and Canada.
Widespread distribution of the Bible began with the first English translation by John Wycliffe in 1380, followed by the 1455 publication of the Gutenberg Bible--the first book printed with movable type.
The influential King James Version, still considered the leading translation by many readers, was published in 1605.
The Great Schism of 1054 was voted the third most important story of the millennium. The schism began when the heads of the church in Rome and Constantinople excommunicated one another in the 11th century and culminated in 1204 when Crusaders from the West sacked Constantinople.
Today, the pope remains head of the Roman Catholic Church, while Eastern Orthodox Christianity has numerous divisions, each with its own patriarch.
Rounding out the top 10 stories of the millennium were:
* The Holocaust and the subsequent founding of Israel in 1948, events picked in separate balloting as the 20th century's top story.
* Pope Urban II's authorization of the Crusades in 1095 to reclaim the Holy Land from Muslim control. Crusader attacks against Jews and Eastern, or Orthodox, Christians also resulted.
* Islam's expansion into Africa, Europe and Asia, including its move into India (1190-1200), resulting in the destruction of most of the subcontinent's indigenous Buddhist culture.
* The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which ended with the Roman Catholic Church reforming its liturgy and its relations with other Christian and non-Christian movements and the world at large.
* Establishment by the Pilgrims of their colony in Plymouth, Mass., in 1620 and Roger Williams's 1636 establishment of Rhode Island. These were foundational events in the history of religious freedom and separation of church and state in the United States, which later enshrined those principles in the Bill of Rights.
* The publication of ideas some view as hostile to religion by Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud.
* The 1906 Azuza Street revival in Los Angeles, which gave birth to the modern Pentecostal movement, now Christianity's fastest-growing branch.
Turning to the 20th century, the religion writers voted the Second Vatican Council the second most important event after the Holocaust and Israel's founding.
In third place was the 1917 Russian Revolution and the advent of communism, which hobbled religious practice in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China and elsewhere for most of the century.
Rounding out the top 10 stories of the 20th century were:
* The Azuza Street revival.
* The ordination of women clergy by Protestant Christianity and Judaism.
* Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, perhaps the century's most outstanding archaeological find. The scrolls shed light on non-mainstream Judaism in the late Second Temple period (1st century). Some scholars also view the scrolls as important to the study of nascent Christianity.
* The rise of radical, or political, Islam, first noticed in the West with the coming to power of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.
* The 1978 election of John Paul II as the first non-Italian Roman Catholic pope in 450 years.
* Involvement by religious leaders in the American civil rights movement, with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. being the most prominent.
* The success of Mohandas K. Gandhi's nonviolent, Hindu-based resistance to British rule in India.