Brad Stephan Gregory

The religious conflicts of the Reformation era were never simply and only about religion, because religion during this era as in the Middle Ages that preceded it, informed and was meant to inform every domain of life. Violence involving religion and touching other areas of life took many forms: from the Protestant destruction of Catholic religious art and objects in iconoclasm, to Catholic executions of Protestants who refused to renounce their views, to major destructive conflicts such as the French Wars of Religion and the Thirty Years’ War.

The processes of secularization that followed in the wake of the Reformation continue to work themselves out in complicated ways, not only in Europe but also in North America. To make a very long and complex story short, the success of the Reformation combined with the persistence and renewal of Roman Catholicism in the 16th and 17th centuries made Christianity into an enduring, disruptive problem in new ways, layered on top of problems that already affected late medieval Christianity.

The modern Western world is in many ways a sustained attempt to deal with the unintended and unwanted problems related to the disruptive fracturing of Christianity in the 16th and 17th centuries; We can’t understand ourselves or our world in 2017 – or its increasingly obvious and grave problems, and just how deeply rooted they are – unless we understand how much they owe to attempts to deal with the problems derived from what started 500 years ago, in 1517.