chapter  6
Church and People
Pages 10

In a rash moment, one historian who should have known better wrote that all our early modern ancestors were 'literal Christian believers' (86, p. 74). Heaven only knows how he could tell! Historians can only make educated guesses as to the nature of Christian experience for most people during this period. We may know a little about the views of the 'elite', but the concept of 'popular religion' is beset with difficulties (48, 181). It can imply conflict between separate 'elite' and 'popular' cultures, be taken to mean some sort of watered-down version of the official form, or indeed, some legacy of a past set of beliefs which 'coexisted' wi th a new religion. The topic, in short, is bedevilled with theoretical problems: should we think of 'filter-down' models, 'conflict', 'alternative', or various shades of 'coexistence'? How can we make sense ofwhat most people may have believed at this time?