Myths and facts about new religious movements
Sectarianism – a historical perspective
No major religion – Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam – started out as a major religion. Every new religious movement initially goes through a phase of persecution and controversy, where myths and facts get mixed.
All religions started as smaller sects. There was always one person who had some ideas, found followers, and developed a small movement, often called a sect, based on those ideas.
In the Bible, Christianity is called a sect and Paul a sect leader,
“We have, in fact, found this man a pestilent fellow, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” (Acts 24;5 – New Revised Standard Version)
Paul said in his defense speech before Felix, governor of Judea AD 53-60,
“But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the law or written in the prophets.” (Acts 24;14 – New Revised Standard Version)
Those who believe in such myths, often lack an understanding of religious history and how the vast majority of religions have developed.
2,000 years ago, Jesus himself was so controversial that the religious leaders of the time banded together to get him out of the way. The early Christians were cruelly persecuted in the Roman Empire for almost 400 years.
The Baptists, the Quakers, the Mormons, the Seventh-Day Adventists, the Methodists, the Salvation Army and Jehovah’s Witnesses were all subjected to terrible persecution in their time. Such movements were all surrounded by misunderstandings and were met with great intolerance, violence and occasionally a hysterical mob. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, was killed by such a mob. George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, was imprisoned for years for his beliefs. Members of the Salvation Army were many times attacked by an angry mob, beaten, kicked and even killed. Father Moon was imprisoned six times without committing any crime.
Men reject their prophets and slay them, but they love their martyrs and honor those they have slain.
– From “The Brothers Karamazov” by Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881).
“Myths and facts” – text: Knut Holdhus