Let me clue you in, my fellow colonial heathen.
It's not really your fault. US education sucks when it comes to discussing British Renaissance and Reformation history. You might hear "divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded survived" in World History, but not "Willy, Willy, Harry, Steve.."
American history kicks off with vague talk about the puritans escaping religious persecution. And if you hadn't already forgotten there, American lit over in the English department makes you read the Crucible and the takeaway becomes "eh, Puritans were dicks anyway." And then you have maybe a paragraph on the French and Indian War before the Boston massacre.
The really short version would say, "Protestantism became a British royal fad and Europe shit itself for 200 years."
Before Henry VIII got involved, it was mostly rich college fucks who thought Martin Luther was a way to sound intellectual at the pub. Then Henry decides to build his own church, with annulments. So now an entire country gets a shitload of pressure to convert, fast. Peasants die in penny-ante rebellions. Nobles die drawing one line in the sand or another. Thomas More loses his head trying and failing to quietly stay out of it. (And you wonder why Centrists lean to the gun-toting and paranoid? We've seen what happens when people are forced to choose sides.)
Then Henry dies and Ned the lad punches his own ticket six years later, and Bloody Mary Tudor shows up with, "Surprise, bitches! Fuck what dad said, You're all Catholics again whether you like it or not." Woman burned 280 dissidents at the stake and sent 800 more into exile, and she was only in office for five years.
Elizabeth tried putting the place back together, going as middle-of-the-road as she could while being a Protestant (A Pope declaring her a heretic didn't help matters much). By her time, brands of Christianity were almost gang allegiances. And nobody knew when your Mayor, your Boss, or your relative might turn out to be from another faction and turn on you. Elizabeth walked a fine line between them, trying to keep either one from staging a revolt and trying to take it all.
This shit was still going on when James I became king of Scotland, Ireland, AND England by 1603. And soon after that, a pack of Catholic fanatics tried to blow up Parliament with him in it. ("Remember, remember, the fifth of November.")
The Mayflower sailed in 1620. Fifteen years after the gunpowder plot. 86 years after Henry VIII's Acts of Supremacy well and truly broke it off between England and Rome.
Those witch-hunting dickheads you read about in English Lit had spent three damn generations knowing their neighbors could turn on them and get them exiled or killed in the time it took a new monarch to ascend. Personally, I don't blame them for wanting to take off.
It kept on going in England and mainland Europe after that. "Charlie, Charlie, James again." Wars of the three Kingdoms, anyone? Cromwell? The Glorious Revolution?
It never got quite as nasty as that again, but it still cropped up. The last Jacobite rebellion happened when Ben Franklin was already in his forties, in 1745.
These were fights over who was righteous and who was evil and who had the right to run down, drive out, and kill who over it. Fought by people more than willing to back up what they said all the way to the wall.
If you honestly think they didn't know about the power of hate speech and regarded freedom as more important anyway, then High School history failed you and you haven't paid attention since.