Duffy’s own work changed how we look at the Reformation by pointing out that though national governments and the elites turned Protestant fairly quickly, a deep study of archaeology, letters, and folk practices shows that the common people held onto Catholic religious practices for decades after they had supposedly become Protestant.
Carlos Eire points out that there was in fact no one “Reformation”, but several “Reformations”: the Lutheran Reformation, about four Calvinist Reformations, two English Reformations (the Anglican and the Puritan) and the Catholic “Counter-Reformation”. None were monolithic movements but were full of internal conflicts.
Jean Delumeau says we should see both the Protestant Reformation and the Counter-Reformation as a “Christianization”, during which Europe was purged of semi-pagan practices and finally, after a millennium, fully Christianized.
John Bossy argues the opposite, that the Reformation and Counter-Reformation represent a de-Christianization of Europe. In Medieval Europe there was no “Christianity”, as an ideology, but only the church, the community of believers. The ideal of the church – rarely attained – was to create peace: the religious orders created oasises of peace, the church imposed limits on warfare, the sacraments created kinship across tribal lines. The Renaissance and the Reformations created “Christianity”, which was not a community but a set of instructions, and which relied not on symbolic actions, but on rules, formal institutions, and written instructions. (I’ve argued something similar myself.)
It is widely agreed that the Reformation was the cause of the secularization of Europe: religion ceased to be the glue holding society together, and came to be seen as the cause of conflict rather than unity. Brad Gergory argues that the effects of the Reformations were on the whole negative because it turned the pursuit of wealth into the main goal of society. Eire for his part argues it created a strict separation of the material and spiritual realms, though this is hard to square with the intense mysticism of Catholicism in the 17th and 18th centuries, or Protestant Pietism and the Protestant fascination with witchcraft and Satanism around the same time.