A schism is a process or event by which a group leaves—or is expelled by—a religion or a religious organization, and forms a new entity which claims to be better or more pure than the previous version. This entry first addresses the causes of schisms. It continues with a description of the characteristics of schismatic groups and the creative role such groups play in the field of religion as a whole. A final section considers whether and in what contexts the concept of schism is still relevant today.

Causes of Schisms

Schismatic groups do not arise equally everywhere. They are more likely to occur in environments which are diverse in some way—by ethnicity, class, occupation, etc.—than in homogeneous settings. If the dominant religion excludes a category of ...

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