Calvin is one of the truly great figures who have impacted on Western civilization, as I'm sure you'll agree. Together with Hobbes they form one of the finest teams in comic strip literature.
It may surprise you to learn, however, that there's another Calvin. This fellow single-handedly wrenched the Reformation off course, blighted the history of Christianity across more than two continents, transformed the city of Geneva into a by-word for sullen, dour self-loathing, and turned a former colleague - Michael Servetus - into toast because he couldn't divide three into one.
Without this Calvin - a man whose approach to theology can be compared to a pedantic civil engineer on steroids - there'd have been no Puritans, Presbyterians, or any of the vile brood of Anglo sects that migrated like vultures across the Atlantic to roost in the Burned Over district. Hence no flow-on: no Mormons, Adventists, Plymouth Brethren... no pre-millennial Rapturists, no Left Behind novels, no Dallas Theological Seminary, Karl Barth, Southern Baptists and - not least for readers of this blog - no Worldwide Church of God.
There'd probably still be a Missouri Synod, but no alternate reality is perfect...
But there would be economic consequences too. The Industrial Revolution minus the Calvinist Guilt Ethic would have been the Industrial Adjustment. No "dark, Satanic mills," no class struggle, no Karl Marx, no Great Depression, no Hitler, no Cold War, Ronald Reagan would have kept his day job in the movies.
Of course, other things would have happened, but the endless chain of unfortunate events that Calvin unleashed was clearly a horrible mistake in the Divine Plan of the Ages: the archangels were obviously away on a team building weekend when the perfidious Frenchman popped up, and by the time they'd recovered from their hangovers on the following Wednesday it was too late to do much about it. Gabriel suggested creating Arminians, but Arminius was a confused post-Calvinist himself, and who can blame him?
Of course, the Calvinists would say it was all predestined, but being Calvinists they would have to, wouldn't they?
I mention this because this year is the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth. The fateful day was July 10, 1509. Mark it on your calendar and resolve to do something the old geezer would have hated: enjoy a glass of good wine, scoff down a decadent dessert, tell a humorous story, stay up till after eight o'clock (the hour the Calvinist thought-police demanded all good Genevans retire for the night), ask irritatingly sincere questions of your Presbyterian relatives about "total depravity," "double predestination" or the Westminster Confession, read an unedifying novel...
... or just settle back in a comfortable chair with a Calvin and Hobbes anthology.
PS. For a little light musical relief, click across to the Third Witness blog where there's a YouTube video called I think my wife's a Calvinist.