Belief Systems of Land-Based Empires

Unit 3: c. 1450-1750

Main Ideas:

  • Religious rivalries intensified political rivalries

  • Many syncretic religions formed due to interaction among multiple religions

Religious Rivalries

Interaction among Different Religions lead to Religious Rivalries 

Key Ideas:

  • The Protestant Reformation in Europe created a huge political & religious rivalry between Protestants & Catholics

    • Martin Luther, a theology professor, believed the Catholic Church was corrupt → Created the Protestant branch of Christianity

      • He believed that the true source of religious authority is in god and the Bible, not in the Church's clergy

    • As Protestants & Catholics fought each other, they created different branches of Christianity, contributing to the growth of Christianity

    • The Catholic Counter-reformation, known as the Council of Trent (1545-63) was when the clergy reformed the Catholic church to respond to the Protestants' concerns and win back some converts

      • Also contributed to the growth of Christianity, especially through its Jesuit branch (which emphasized strict religious piety & education)​​​​​

  • There were many other religious rivalries caused by political rivalries between land-based empires

    • Ottomans were Sunni Islam, while Safavids were Shi'a Islam → Both empires fought over territory → Ottomans defeated Safavids at Battle of Chaldiran (1514)

    • Protestants fought Catholics on many occasions

      • Thirty Years' War (1618-48) → Peace of Westphalia (1648), allowing each region in Holy Roman Empire to choose its own religion​

      • Spanish Armada (1588): Spanish Catholics vs English Protestants → English won

      • Dutch Revolt (80 Years' War) (1568-1648): Spanish Catholics vs Dutch Protestants → Dutch gained independence (Netherlands)

Syncretic Religions

Interactions Between Different Religions Led to the Creation of Syncretic Religions 

Key Ideas:

  • Interactions between different religions → Creation of syncretic religions

    • Interactions among Hindus & Muslims in India → Creation of Sikhism

    • Interactions among Portuguese Catholic missionaries & Native West Africans → Various syncretic religions to harmonize Christianity with African traditions

    • Interactions between different African slaves & Europeans in Americas → Syncretic slave culture (i.e. voodoo)

Guru Nanak, Sikhism's founder (syncretic religion of Hinduism & Islam)


A group of dolls of the Voodoo religion. Voodoo was a slave religion that harmonized Christianity with African traditions