Sacred Schisms: How Religions Divide

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Schism (From the Greek "to split") refers to a group that breaks away from another, usually larger organization and forms a new organization. Though the term is typically confined to religious schisms, it can be extended to other kinds of breakaway groups. Because schisms emerge out of controversies, the term has negative connotations. Though they are an important component of many analyses, schisms in general have not been subjected to systematic analysis.

This volume provides the first book-length study of religious schisms as a general phenomenon. Some chapters examine specific case studies while others provide surveys of the history of schisms within larger religious traditions, such as Islam and Buddhism. Other chapters are more theoretically focused. Examples are drawn from a wide variety of different traditions and geographical areas, from early Mediterranean Christianity to modern Japanese new religions, and from the Jehovah's Witnesses to Neopagans.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'This is an interesting and worthwhile collection of fourteen essays, predominantly case studies, examining why and how schisms occurred in a variety of religious traditions and movements … offers an interesting introduction to an overlooked topic in the sociology of religion through a series of well-crafted case studies.' Scottish Journal of Theology
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521881470
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 5/25/2009
  • Pages: 338
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

James R. Lewis is lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. He is editor of a number of collected works including The Invention of Sacred Tradition (2007) with Olav Hammer and author of numerous books and articles including Legitimating New Religions (2003).

Sarah M. Lewis is Lecturer in Religious Studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Wales, Lampeter.

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Table of Contents

List of figures vii

Notes on contributors viii

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction James R. Lewis Sarah M. Lewis 1

Part I Theoretical Overview 9

1 Understanding schisms: theoretical explanations for their origins Roger Finke Christopher P. Scheitle 11

Part II Survey of Schisms in Selected Traditions 35

2 Charismatic authority in Islam: an analysis of the cause of schisms in the ummah Ron Geaves 37

3 Schisms in Buddhism Alan Cole 61

4 Schisms in Japanese new religious movements Robert Kisala 83

Part III Christian Traditions 107

5 Finishing the Mystery: the Watch Tower and "the 1917 schism" George D. Chryssides 109

6 Challenges to charismatic authority in the Unificationist Movement David G. Bromley Rachel S. Bobbitt 129

7 Persecution and schismogenesis: how a penitential crisis over mass apostasy facilitated the triumph of Catholic Christianity in the Roman Empire Joseph M. Bryant 147

Part IV Western Esoteric Traditions 169

8 Church Universal and Triumphant: shelter, succession and schism Susan J. Palmer Michael Abravanel 171

9 Schism and consolidation: the case of the theosophical movement Olav Hammer 196

10 Satanists and nuts: the role of schisms in modern Satanism Jesper Aagaard Petersen 218

11 Schism as midwife: how conflict aided the birth of a contemporary Pagan community Murphy Pizza 248

Part V Non-Western/Postcolonial Traditions 263

12 Succession, religious switching, and schism in the Hare Krishna movement E. Burke Rockford, Jr. 265

13 Schisms within Hindu guru groups: the Transcendental Meditation movement in North America Cynthia Ann Humes 287

14 Schism in Babylon: colonialism, Afro-Christianity andRastafari Christopher Partridge 306

Index 332

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