The Protestant Reformation impacted religious thought, philosophy, politics and economics throughout the world. The effects of the Reformation can still be felt in modern times.
The Reformation’s most direct impact was upon religious and philosophical thought. It came about largely through dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church, which was a preeminent authority in Europe in the 1500s, when the Reformation began. As a result, the Church was fractured, giving rise to the multitude of Christian denominations that are seen in modern times.
Reformation leaders like Martin Luther declared authority should be derived from the Bible, not the Pope or the Church, giving rise to Protestant systems of belief. Religions like Lutheranism are a direct result of the Reformation.
The movement had economic impact as well. John Calvin, another Reformation leader, taught a doctrine of predestination and hard work. He taught that financial success was a sign one was destined to salvation in the afterlife, and that merchants who succeeded in business did so because God looked upon them favorably. This gave rise to what is known as the “Protestant work ethic,” which led to the economic system of capitalism.
The Reformation inspired a mood of anti-authoritarianism, which led to backlash against the feudal system and, by extension, to the democratic movement around the world. In the centuries following the Reformation, movements like women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery traced their roots back to Reformation-era principles.