In early modern England, one of the largest movements in respect to religion was the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation is believed to have officially begun after Martin Luther published his ninety-five theses in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther began by criticizing the sale of indulgences, saying the pope had no authority to take money in exchange for forgiving sins. Luther believed that faith in Jesus was the only way to be forgiven for sin, not buying your way out of it. The main goal of the Reformation was to alter the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. In England, the Protestant movement began in the 1530s when Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church over his divorce of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Famous reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin fought the Church’s authority and challenged the Catholic Church's ability to define Christianity. Their actions were praised by some, but also created many wars, persecutions, and a Catholic Counter-Reformation. The Reformation consisted of many contrasting religious doctrines, political pushes for power, and a series of wars that caused thousands of deaths.
Catholics' and Reformers' opposing views on the sacraments is just one of the many subjects that caused the divide to increase as neither side was willing to change their mind. In the Catholic Church, religious rituals marked the major events of life, and the calendar year was divided similar to what we have today, with religious celebrations such as Christmas and Easter. The Catholic Church practiced seven different sacraments: baptism, confirmation, confession, communion, marriage, priesthood, and last rites. Luther and other reformers decided that there should only be two sacraments however, which were baptism and communion. Catholics believed that, during the sacrament of Holy Communion, priests literally turned the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Reformers, however, questioned whether this act was an actual transformation or just symbolic.
In early modern England, Christians, even as they fought among themselves, were not very welcoming of other religious groups, such as Muslims and Jews. These groups were viewed as a threat to society, religious unity, and independence. Both groups were persecuted since they were viewed as enemies of the Christian faith. However, during the Middle Ages, Jewish people played an important economic role however, specializing in trade and finance. While few Muslims lived in early modern England, there was a fair amount of trade between the English and Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Further Reading: Marshall, Peter. Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation, Yale UP, 2018.