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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Salman Rushdie was accused of being an apostate after the publication of his book The Satanic Verses.

Apostasy (pronounced /əˈpɒstəsi/) is the formal religious disaffiliation or abandonment or renunciation of one's religion, especially if the motive is deemed unworthy. In a technical sense, as used sometimes by sociologists without the pejorative connotations of the word, the term refers to renunciation and criticism of, or opposition to, one's former religion. One who commits apostasy is an apostate, or one who apostatizes. The word derives from Greek αποστασία (apostasia), meaning a defection or revolt, from απο, apo, "away, apart", στάσις, stasis, "stand", "standing". The term is sometimes also used to refer to renunciation of a belief or cause by (generally facetious) extension of the religious connotation, such as in reference to a political party or a sports team.

Apostasy is generally not a self-definition: very few former believers call themselves apostates and they generally consider this term to be a pejorative. Many religious movements consider it a vice (sin), a corruption of the virtue of piety in the sense that when piety fails, apostasy is the result. Unlike apostasy, heresy is the rejection or corruption of certain doctrines, not the complete abandonment of one's religion. Heretics claim to still be following a religion (or even to be the "true believers"), whereas apostates reject it entirely.

Many religious groups and some states punish apostates. Apostates may be shunned by the members of their former religious group[1] or worse. This may be the official policy of the religious group or may happen spontaneously. A church may in certain circumstances respond to apostasy by excommunicating the apostate, while some Abrahamic scriptures (Judaism: Deuteronomy 13:6-10) and Islam: al-Bukhari, Diyat, bab 6) demand the death penalty for apostates, although capital punishment for any offense is no longer permitted under Judaism.

Hinduism, on the other hand does not recognize the existence of apostasy. The Vedas which form the basic pillars of Hinduism say "Truth is One, but sages call it by many names.",[2] which, in principle, rejects the existence of difference between religions.


Sociological definitions

The American sociologist Lewis A. Coser (following the German philosopher and sociologist Max Scheler[citation needed]) holds an apostate to be not just a person who experienced a dramatic change in conviction but “a man who, even in his new state of belief, is spiritually living not primarily in the content of that faith, in the pursuit of goals appropriate to it, but only in the struggle against the old faith and for the sake of its negation."[3][4]

The American sociologist David G. Bromley defined the apostate role as follows and distinguished it from the defector and whistleblower roles.[4]

  • Apostate role: defined as one that occurs in a highly polarized situation in which an organization member undertakes a total change of loyalties by allying with one or more elements of an oppositional coalition without the consent or control of the organization. The narrative is one which documents the quintessentially evil essence of the apostate's former organization chronicled through the apostate's personal experience of capture and ultimate escape/rescue.
  • Defector role: an organizational participant negotiates exit primarily with organizational authorities, who grant permission for role relinquishment, control the exit process, and facilitate role transmission. The jointly constructed narrative assigns primary moral responsibility for role performance problems to the departing member and interprets organizational permission as commitment to extraordinary moral standards and preservation of public trust.
  • Whistleblower role: defined here as one in which an organization member forms an alliance with an external regulatory unit through offering personal testimony concerning specific, contested organizational practices that is then used to sanction the organization. The narrative constructed jointly by the whistleblower and regulatory agency is one which depicts the whistleblower as motivated by personal conscience and the organization by defense of public interest.

Stuart A. Wright, an American sociologist and author, asserts that apostasy is a unique phenomenon and a distinct type of religious defection, in which the apostate is a defector "who is aligned with an oppositional coalition in an effort to broaden the dispute, and embraces public claimsmaking activities to attack his or her former group."[5]

Apostasy in law

International law

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, considers the recanting of a person's religion a human right legally protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: "The Committee observes that the freedom to 'have or to adopt' a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views [...] Article 18.2 bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to their religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert."[6]

Law by country

Apostasy by religion


In addition to the Jewish tradition inherited through the Old Testament, Christian governments, sometimes with the approval of the Church, have punished both apostates and heretics individually and in campaigns such as the Inquisition and the Albigensian Crusade. The Byzantine Emperor Justinian I instituted the punishment of death for apostasy in the very first law of the Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of Civil Law), his code that formed a basis for several European countries' laws for many centuries.


In Islam, apostasy is called "ridda" ("turning back") and is considered to be a profound insult to God. A person born of Muslim parents that rejects Islam is called a "murtad fitri" (natural apostate), and a person that converted to Islam and later rejects the religion is called a "murtad milli" (apostate from the community).[7]

According to most scholars, if a Muslim consciously and without coercion declares their rejection of Islam and does not change their mind after the time given to him/her by a judge for research, then the penalty for male apostates is death, and for women, life imprisonment. However, this view has been rejected by a small minority[citation needed] of modern Muslim scholars (e.g. Hasan al-Turabi), who argues that the hadith in question should be taken to apply only to political betrayal of the Muslim community, rather than to apostasy in general.[8] These scholars regard apostasy as a serious crime, but argue for the freedom to convert to and from Islam without legal penalty, and consider the aforementioned Hadith quote as insufficient justification for capital punishment. Today apostasy is illegal in most Muslim countries, though it may not be subject to the death penalty. Executions for apostasy are rare, but allowed in many Muslim countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. Apostasy is legal in secular Muslim countries such as Turkey.[9]

The hadith has been used both by supporters of the death penalty as well as critics of Islam. Some Islamic scholars point out it is important to understand the hadith in proper historical context. The order was at a time when the nascent Muslim community in Medina was fighting for its very life, and there were many schemes, by which the enemies of Islam would try to entice rebellion and discord within the community.[10] Clearly any defection would have serious consequences for the Muslims, and the hadith may well be about treason, rather than just apostasy. It must also be pointed out that under the terms of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, any Muslim who returned to Mecca was not to be returned, terms which the Prophet accepted. Despite this historical point, Islamic law as currently practiced does not allow the freedom to choose one's religion.

The Qur'an says:

Let there be no compulsion in the religion: Clearly the Right Path (i.e. Islam) is distinct from the crooked path.
A section of the 'People of the Book' (Jews and Christians) says: "Believe in the morning what is revealed to the believers (Muslims), but reject it at the end of the day; perchance they may (themselves) turn back (from Islam).
But those who reject faith after they accepted it, and then go on adding to their defiance of faith, never will their repentance be accepted; for they are those who have (of set purpose) gone astray.
Those who blasphemed and back away from the ways of Allah and die as blasphemers, Allah shall not forgive them.
Those who believe, then reject faith, then believe (again) and (again) reject faith, and go on increasing in unbelief,- Allah will not forgive them nor guide them on the way.
O ye who believe! If any from among you turn back from his faith, soon will Allah produce a people whom He (Allah) will love as they will love Him lowly with the believers, Mighty against the rejecters, fighting in the way of Allah, and never afraid of the reproachers of such as find fault. That is the Grace of Allah which He will bestow on whom He (Allah) pleases. And Allah encompasses all, and He knows all things.

The Hadith (a collection of sayings attributed to Muhammad and his companions) includes statements taken as supporting the death penalty for apostasy, such as:

  • Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to 'Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn 'Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Apostle forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.. Sahih al-Bukhari 9:84:57
  • The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims. Sahih al-Bukhari 9:83:17

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a Pakistani Islamic scholar, writes that punishment for apostasy was part of Divine punishment for only those who denied the truth even after clarification in its ultimate form by Muhammad (he uses term Itmam al-hujjah), hence, he considers this command for a particular time and no longer punishable.[11]

In 2006, Abdul Rahman, the Afghan convert from Islam to Christianity has attracted worldwide attention about where Islam stood on religious freedom. Prosecutors asked for the death penalty for him. However, under heavy pressure from foreign governments, the Afghan government claimed he was mentally unfit to stand trial and released him.

Islam Online, a website,[citation needed] contains a fatwa dated 21 March 2004 and ascribed to 'IOL Shariah Researchers' says:

  • "If a sane person who has reached puberty voluntarily apostatizes from Islam, he deserves to be punished.‏ In such a case, it is obligatory for the caliph (or his representative) to ask him to repent and return to Islam. If he does, it is accepted from him, but if he refuses, he is immediately killed."[12] No one besides the caliph or his representative may kill the apostate. If someone else kills him, the killer is disciplined (for arrogating the caliph's prerogative and encroaching upon his rights, as this is one of his duties).


The term apostasy is also derived from Greek ἀποστάτης, meaning "political rebel," as applied to rebellion against God, its law and the faith of Israel (in Hebrew מרד) in the Hebrew Bible.

Other expressions for apostate as used by rabbinical scholars are "mumar" (מומר, literally "the one that is changed") and "poshea yisrael" (פושע ישראל, literally, "transgressor of Israel"), or simply "kofer" (כופר, literally "denier" and heretic).

The Torah states:

Deuteronomy 13:6-10:

If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which [is] as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; [Namely], of the gods of the people which [are] round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the [one] end of the earth even unto the [other] end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.[13]

The prophetic writings of Isaiah and Jeremiah provide many examples of defections of faith found among the Israelites (e.g., Isaiah 1:2-4 or Jeremiah 2:19), as do the writings of the prophet Ezekiel (e.g., Ezekiel 16 or 18). Israelite kings were often guilty of apostasy, examples including Ahab (I Kings 16:30-33), Ahaziah (I Kings 22:51-53), Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:6,10), Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:1-4), or Amon (2 Chronicles 33:21-23) among others. (Amon's father Manasseh was also apostate for many years of his long reign, although towards the end of his life he renounced his apostasy. Cf. 2 Chronicles 33:1-19)

In the Talmud, Elisha Ben Abuyah (known as Aḥer) is singled out as an apostate and epicurean by the Pharisees.

During the Spanish inquisition, a systematic conversion of Jews to Christianity took place, some of which under threats and force. These cases of apostasy provoked the indignation of the Jewish communities in Spain.

Several notorious Inquisitors, such as Tomás de Torquemada, and Don Francisco the archbishop of Coria, were descendants of apostate Jews. Other apostates who made their mark in history by attempting the conversion of other Jews in the 1300s include Juan de Valladolid and Astruc Remoch.

Abraham Isaac Kook,[14][15] first Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community in then Palestine, held that atheists were not actually denying God: rather, they were denying one of man's many images of God. Since any man-made image of God can be considered an idol, Kook held that, in practice, one could consider atheists as helping true religion burn away false images of god, thus in the end serving the purpose of true monotheism.

New religious movements and alleged cults

Controversies over new religious movements (NRMs) have often involved apostates, some of whom join organizations or web sites opposed to their former religions. A number of scholars have debated the reliability of apostate and their stories, often called "apostate narratives".

One camp that broadly speaking questions apostate narratives includes David G. Bromley,[16][17] Daniel Carson Johnson,[18] Dr. Lonnie D. Kliever (1932–2004),[19] Gordon Melton,[20] and Bryan R. Wilson.[21] An opposing camp less critical of apostate narratives as a group includes Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi,[22] Dr. Phillip Charles Lucas[23],[24][25] Jean Duhaime,[26] Mark Dunlop,[27][28] Michael Langone,[29] and Benjamin Zablocki.[30]

Some scholars have attempted to classify apostates of NRMs. James T. Richardson proposes a theory related to a logical relationship between apostates and whistleblowers, using Bromley's definitions,[31] in which the former predates the latter. A person becomes an apostate and then seeks the role of whistleblower, which is then rewarded for playing that role by groups that are in conflict with the original group of membership such as anti-cult organizations. These organizations further cultivate the apostate, seeking to turn him or her into a whistleblower. He also describes how in this context, apostates' accusations of "brainwashing" are designed to attract perceptions of threats against the well being of young adults on the part of their families to further establish their new found role as whistleblowers.[32] Armand L. Mauss, define true apostates as those exiters that have access to oppositional organizations which sponsor their careers as such, and which validate the retrospective accounts of their past and their outrageous experiences in new religions, making a distinction between these and whistleblowers or defectors in this context.[33] Donald Richter writes that this can explain the writings of Carolyn Jessop and Flora Jessop, former members of the FLDS church who consistently sided with authorities when children of the YFZ ranch were removed over charges of child abuse.[34]

Massimo Introvigne in his Defectors, Ordinary Leavetakers and Apostates[35] defines three types of narratives constructed by apostates of new religious movements:

  • Type I narratives characterize the exit process as defection, in which the organization and the former member negotiate an exiting process aimed at minimizing the damage for both parties.
  • Type II narratives involve a minimal degree of negotiation between the exiting member, the organization they intend to leave, and the environment or society at large, implying that the ordinary apostate holds no strong feelings concerning his past experience in the group.
  • Type III narratives are characterized by the ex-member dramatically reversing their loyalties and becoming a professional enemy of the organization they have left. These apostates often join an oppositional coalition fighting the organization, often claiming victimization.

Introvigne argues that apostates professing Type II narratives prevail among exiting members of controversial groups or organizations, while apostates that profess Type III narratives are a vociferous minority.

Other uses of the term

In popular usage, religious terminology like "apostasy" is often appropriated for use within other public spheres characterized by strongly-held beliefs, like politics. Such usage typically carries a much less negative connotation than the religious usage does, and sometimes people will even describe themselves as apostates. Authors Kevin Phillips (a former Republican strategist turned harsh critic of the Bush administration) and Christopher Hitchens (a former left-wing commentator turned enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq War) are examples of people who are often described as political apostates.[citation needed]

The term "apostasy" is also used by several death and black metal bands to assert the fact that they are removed from, and against, religion.

Notable apostates

This is a list of some notable persons that have been reportedly labeled as an apostate in reliable published sources.



See also


  1. ^ Muslim apostates cast out and at risk from faith and family, The Times, February 05, 2005
  2. ^ Rig Veda, Mandala 1, Sukta 164, Mantra 46
  3. ^ Lewis A. Coser The Age of the Informer Dissent:1249-54, 1954
  4. ^ a b Bromley, David G. (Ed.) The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movements CT, Praeger Publishers, 1998. ISBN 0-275-95508-7
  5. ^ Wright, Stuart, A., Exploring Factors that Shape the Apostate Role, in Bromley, David G., The Politics of Religious Apostasy, pp. 109, Praeger Publishers, 1998. ISBN 0-275-95508-7
  6. ^ CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4, General Comment No. 22., 1993
  7. ^ [1] from "Leaving Islam : Apostates speak out" by Ibn Warraq
  8. ^ Islam & Pluralism: A Contemporary Approach from
  9. ^ Zaki Badawi, M.A. (2003). "Islam". in Cookson, Catharine. Encyclopedia of religious freedom. New York: Routledge. pp. 204–8. ISBN 0-415-94181-4. 
  10. ^ Is Killing An Apostate in the Islamic Law? from
  11. ^ Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, The Punishment for Apostasy, Renaissance - Monthly Islamic Journal, Al-Mawrid, 6(11), November, 1996
  12. ^ Islam Online
  13. ^ Deuteronomy 13:6-10
  14. ^ template.htm Introduction to the Thought of Rav Kookby, Lecture #16: "Kefira" in our Day from (the Virtual Beit Midrash)
  15. ^ template.htm Introduction to the Thought of Rav Kookby, Lecture #17: Heresy V from (the Virtual Beit Midrash)
  16. ^ Bromley David G. et al., The Role of Anecdotal Atrocities in the Social Construction of Evil,
  17. ^ in Bromley, David G et al. (ed.), Brainwashing Deprogramming Controversy: Sociological, Psychological, Legal, and Historical Perspectives (Studies in religion and society) p. 156, 1984, ISBN 0-88946-868-0
  18. ^ Bromley, David G. (ed.); Richardson, James T. (1998). "Apostates Who Never Were: The Social Construction of Absque Facto Apostate Narratives". in The politics of religious apostasy: the role of apostates in the transformation of religious movements. New York: Praeger. pp. 134–5. ISBN 0-275-95508-7. 
  19. ^ Kliever 1995 Kliever. Lonnie D, Ph.D. The Reliability of Apostate Testimony About New Religious Movements, 1995.
  20. ^ "Melton 1999"Melton, Gordon J., Brainwashing and the Cults: The Rise and Fall of a Theory, 1999.
  21. ^ Wilson, Bryan R. (Ed.) The Social Dimensions of Sectarianism, Rose of Sharon Press, 1981.
  22. ^ Beit-Hallahmi 1997 Beith-Hallahmi, Benjamin Dear Colleagues: Integrity and Suspicion in NRM Research, 1997.
  23. ^ < Lucas, Phillip Charles Ph.D. - Profile
  24. ^ "Holy Order of MANS". Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  25. ^ Lucas 1995 Lucas, Phillip Charles, From Holy Order of MANS to Christ the Savior Brotherhood: The Radical Transformation of an Esoteric Christian Order in Timothy Miller (ed.), America's Alternative Religions State University of New York Press, 1995
  26. ^ Duhaime, Jean (Université de Montréal) Les Témoignages de convertis et d'ex-adeptes (English: The testimonies of converts and former followers, in Mikael Rothstein et al. (ed.), New Religions in a Postmodern World, 2003, ISBN 87-7288-748-6
  27. ^
  28. ^ Dunlop 2001 The Culture of Cults
  29. ^ The Two "Camps" of Cultic Studies: Time for a Dialogue Langone, Michael, Cults and Society, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2001
  30. ^ Zablocki 1996 Zablocki, Benjamin, Reliability and validity of apostate accounts in the study of religious communities. Paper presented at the Association for the Sociology of Religion in New York City, Saturday, August 17, 1996.
  31. ^ Bromley, David G. (ed.); Richardson, James T. (1998). "Apostates, Whistleblowers, Law, and Social Control". in The politics of religious apostasy: the role of apostates in the transformation of religious movements. New York: Praeger. pp. 171. ISBN 0-275-95508-7. "Some of those who leave, whatever the method, become "apostates" and even develop into "whistleblowers", as those terms are defined in the first chapter of this volume." 
  32. ^ Bromley, David G. (ed.); Richardson, James T. (1998). "Apostates, Whistleblowers, Law, and Social Control". in The politics of religious apostasy: the role of apostates in the transformation of religious movements. New York: Praeger. pp. 185–186. ISBN 0-275-95508-7. 
  33. ^ Bromley, David G. (ed.); Richardson, James T. (1998). "Apostasy and the Management of Spoiled Identity". in The politics of religious apostasy: the role of apostates in the transformation of religious movements. New York: Praeger. pp. 185–186. ISBN 0-275-95508-7. 
  34. ^ The Unreliability of Apostate Narratives
  35. ^ Introvigne 1997
  36. ^ Open letter by Ayaan Hirsi Ali published on the website of the Nederlandse Omroep Stichting dated 3 November 2004
    English translation: "Theo's naivety was not that it could not happen here, but that it could not happen to him. He said, "I am the local fool; they won't harm me. But you should be careful. You are the apostate.""
    Dutch original "Theo's naïviteit was niet dat het hier niet kon gebeuren, maar dat het hem niet kon gebeuren. Hij zei: "Ik ben de dorpsgek, die doen ze niets. Wees jij voorzichtig, jij bent de afvallige vrouw." "
  37. ^ Taslima's Pilgrimage By Meredith Tax, from The Nation

Further reading

  • Bromley, David G. 1988. Falling From the Faith: The Causes and Consequences of Religious Apostasy. Beverly Hills: Sage.
  • Dunlop, Mark, The culture of Cults, 2001 [2]
  • Introvigne, Massimo Defectors, Ordinary Leavetakers and Apostates: A Quantitative Study of Former Members of New Acropolis in France - paper delivered at the 1997 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, San Francisco, November 23, 1997 [3]
  • The Jewish Encyclopedia (1906). The Kopelman Foundation. [4]
  • Lucas, Phillip Charles, The Odyssey of a New Religion: The Holy Order of MANS from New Age to Orthodoxy Indiana University press;
  • Lucas, Phillip Charles, Shifting Millennial Visions in New Religious Movements: The case of the Holy Order of MANS in The year 2000: Essays on the End edited by Charles B. Strozier, New York University Press 1997;
  • Lucas, Phillip Charles, The Eleventh Commandment Fellowship: A New Religious Movement Confronts the Ecological Crisis, Journal of Contemporary Religion 10:3, 1995:229-41;
  • Lucas, Phillip Charles, Social factors in the Failure of New Religious Movements: A Case Study Using Stark's Success Model SYZYGY: Journal of Alternative Religion and Culture 1:1, Winter 1992:39-53
  • Wright, Stuart A. 1988. "Leaving New Religious Movements: Issues, Theory and Research," pp. 143–165 in David G. Bromley (ed.), Falling From the Faith. Beverly Hills: Sage.
  • Wright, Stuart A. 1991. "Reconceptualizing Cult Coercion and Withdrawal: A Comparative Analysis of Divorce and Apostasy." Social Forces 70 (1):125-145.
  • Wright, Stuart A. and Helen R. Ebaugh. 1993. "Leaving New Religions," pp. 117–138 in David G. Bromley and Jeffrey K. Hadden (eds.), Handbook of Cults and Sects in America. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
  • Zablocki, Benjamin et al., Research on NRMs in the Post-9/11 World, in Lucas, Phillip Charles et al. (ed.), NRMs in the 21st Century: legal, political, and social challenges in global perspective, 2004, ISBN 0-415-96577-2
Testimonies, memoirs, and autobiographies
  • Babinski, Edward (editor), Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists. Prometheus Books, 2003. ISBN 1591022177; ISBN 978-1591022176
  • Dubreuil, J. P. 1994 L'Église de Scientology. Facile d'y entrer, difficile d'en sortir. Sherbrooke: private edition (ex-Church of Scientology)
  • Huguenin, T. 1995 Le 54e Paris Fixot (ex-Ordre du Temple Solaire who would be the 54th victim)
  • Kaufmann, Inside Scientology/Dianetics: How I Joined Dianetics/Scientology and Became Superhuman, 1995 [5]
  • Lavallée, G. 1994 L'alliance de la brebis. Rescapée de la secte de Moïse, Montréal: Club Québec Loisirs (ex-Roch Thériault)
  • Pignotti, Monica, My nine lives in Scientology, 1989, [6]
  • Wakefield, Margery, Testimony, 1996 [7]
  • Lawrence Woodcraft, Astra Woodcraft, Zoe Woodcraft, The Woodcraft Family, Video Interviews [8]
Writings by others
  • Carter, Lewis, F. Lewis, Carriers of Tales: On Assessing Credibility of Apostate and Other Outsider Accounts of Religious Practices published in the book The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movements edited by David G. Bromley Westport, CT, Praeger Publishers, 1998. ISBN 0-275-95508-7
  • Elwell, Walter A. (Ed.) Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 1 A-I, Baker Book House, 1988, pages 130-131, "Apostasy". ISBN 0801034477
  • Malinoski, Peter, Thoughts on Conducting Research with Former Cult Members , Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2001 [9]
  • Palmer, Susan J. Apostates and their Role in the Construction of Grievance Claims against the Northeast Kingdom/Messianic Communities [10]
  • Wilson, S.G., Leaving the Fold: Apostates and Defectors in Antiquity. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0800636759; ISBN 978-0800636753
  • Wright, Stuart. "Post-Involvement Attitudes of Voluntary Defectors from Controversial New Religious Movements". ''Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 23 (1984):172-182.


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

It has been suggested that Apostasy in Islam be merged into this article or section. (Discuss)

See also main article in Wikipedia: Apostasy



Apostasy in Christianity

  • The kiss of the apostate was the most bitter earthly ingredient in the agonies which Christ endured.
    • Elias Lyman Magoon, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 14.
  • Still in the garden shadows art Thou pleading,
    Staining the night dews with Thine agony;
    But one is there Thy woe and prayer unheeding,
    And to their guileless prey
    Thy murderers leading, Lord, is it I?
    • George Huntingdon, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 14.

Apostasy in New Religious Movements

  • "The apostate is generally in need of self-justification. He seeks to reconstruct his own past, to excuse his former affiliations, and to blame those who were formerly his closest associates. Not uncommonly the apostate learns to rehearse an 'atrocity story' to explain how, by manipulation, trickery, coercion, or deceit, he was induced to join or to remain within an organization that he now forswears and condemns."
    • Bryan Wilson, The Social Dimensions of Sectarianism
  • "Others may ask, if the group is as transparently evil as he now contends, why did he espouse its cause in the first place? In the process of trying to explain his own seduction and to confirm the worst fears about the group, the apostate is likely to paint a caricature of the group that is shaped more by his current role as apostate than by his actual experience in the group."
    • David Bromley, Anson Shupe, and J.C. Ventimiglia, The Role of Anecdotal Atrocities in the Social Construction of Evil," in Bromley and Richardson, Brainwashing Deprogramming Controversy, p. 156
  • "Most former members do not become apostates. They remain — in sociological terms suggested by David Bromley and others — "defectors" (members who somewhat regret having left an organization they still perceive in largely positive terms), or "ordinary leave takers" with mixed feeling about their former affiliation. However ordinary leave takers (and, to some extent, defectors) remain socially invisible, insofar as they do not like or care to discuss their genuine representatives of the former members. In fact, quantitative research shows that even in extremely controversial groups, apostates normally represent less than 15% of former members."
    • Massimo Introvigne, Religious Liberty in Europe: Apostate
  • "The Lewis and Bromley study became a landmark study in shifting the onus of pathology experienced by former members of new religions from the religions to the coercive activity of the anti-cult movement. In the wake of this study (and other works that confirmed its findings), treating former members as people in need of psychological help has largely ceased. The lack of any widespread expressed need for psychological help by the tens of thousands of former members of new religions in the succeeding decade has itself become the strongest evidence refuting the early sweeping condemnation of new religions as causes of psychological trauma."
    • Gordon Melton, Brainwashing and the Cults: The Rise and Fall of a Theory
  • "Neither the objective sociological researcher nor the court of law can readily regard the apostate as a creditable or reliable source of evidence. He must always be seen as one whose personal history predisposes him to bias with respect to both his previous religious commitment and affiliations, the suspicion must arise that he acts from a personal motivation to vindicate himself and to regain his self-esteem, by showing himself to have been first a victim but subsequently to have become a redeemed crusader. As various instances have indicated, he is likely to be suggestible and ready to enlarge or embellish his grievances to satisfy that species of journalist whose interest is more in sensational copy than in a objective statement of the truth."
    • Bryan R. Wilson, Apostates and New Religious Movements
  • "The dramatic import of each apostate's story is reinforced in its significance, to the detriment of objective and ethically neutral enquiry into religious phenomena of the kind undertaken by academic sociologists. Contemporary religious bodies, operating in a context of rapid social change and changing perceptions of religious and spiritual belief, are likely to be particularly susceptible to the disparagement and misrepresentation which occurs through the circulation and repetition of the accounts of apostates."
    • Bryan Wilson, Apostates and New Religious Movements
  • "Our understanding of leavers has probably been the category most obscured by the polarized cult wars of the twentieth century. Many monographic accounts of specific NRMs notoriously make not attempt to investigate leavers. [..] Investigators are further hampered by the negative attitudes taken by NRM leaders toward any attempt to interview ex-members. Bromley and Johnson among many others have labeled all those who left their NRMs under less than friendly terms "apostates", and this label has been used to cast on the veracity of data collected from them. It has thus been a widespread practice until recently to ignore data gathered from leavers. "
    • Benjamin Zablocki and J. Anna Looney in Research on New Religious Movements in the Post-9/11 World, article that appeared in the book New Religious Movements in the 21st Century edited Phillip Charles Lucas & Thomas Robbins (2004) ISBN 0-415-96576-4

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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

by Charlotte Brontë
From Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846)

This last denial of my faith,
Thou, solemn Priest, hast heard;
And, though upon my bed of death,
I call not back a word.
Point not to thy Madonna, Priest,--
Thy sightless saint of stone;
She cannot, from this burning breast,
Wring one repentant moan.

Thou say'st, that when a sinless child,
I duly bent the knee,
And prayed to what in marble smiled
Cold, lifeless, mute, on me.
I did. But listen! Children spring
Full soon to riper youth;
And, for Love's vow and Wedlock's ring,
I sold my early truth.

'Twas not a grey, bare head, like thine,
Bent o'er me, when I said,
"That land and God and Faith are mine,
For which thy fathers bled."
I see thee not, my eyes are dim;
But well I hear thee say,
"O daughter cease to think of him
Who led thy soul astray.

"Between you lies both space and time;
Let leagues and years prevail
To turn thee from the path of crime,
Back to the Church's pale."
And, did I need that, thou shouldst tell
What mighty barriers rise
To part me from that dungeon-cell,
Where my loved Walter lies?

And, did I need that thou shouldst taunt
My dying hour at last,
By bidding this worn spirit pant
No more for what is past?
Priest--MUST I cease to think of him?
How hollow rings that word!
Can time, can tears, can distance dim
The memory of my lord?

I said before, I saw not thee,
Because, an hour agone,
Over my eyeballs, heavily,
The lids fell down like stone.
But still my spirit's inward sight
Beholds his image beam
As fixed, as clear, as burning bright,
As some red planet's gleam.

Talk not of thy Last Sacrament,
Tell not thy beads for me;
Both rite and prayer are vainly spent,
As dews upon the sea.
Speak not one word of Heaven above,
Rave not of Hell's alarms;
Give me but back my Walter's love,
Restore me to his arms!

Then will the bliss of Heaven be won;
Then will Hell shrink away,
As I have seen night's terrors shun
The conquering steps of day.
'Tis my religion thus to love,
My creed thus fixed to be;
Not Death shall shake, nor Priestcraft break
My rock-like constancy!

Now go; for at the door there waits
Another stranger guest;
He calls--I come--my pulse scarce beats,
My heart fails in my breast.
Again that voice--how far away,
How dreary sounds that tone!
And I, methinks, am gone astray
In trackless wastes and lone.
I fain would rest a little while:
Where can I find a stay,
Till dawn upon the hills shall smile,
And show some trodden way?
"I come! I come!" in haste she said,
"'Twas Walter's voice I heard!"
Then up she sprang--but fell back, dead,
His name her latest word.

PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

'APOSTASY' OaTaves, in classical Greek a defection or revolt from a military commander), a term generally employed to describe a complete renunciation of the Christian faith, or even an exchange of one form of it for another, especially if the motive be unworthy. In the first centuries of the Christian era, apostasy was most commonly induced by persecution, and was indicated by some outward act, such as offering incense to a heathen deity or blaspheming the name of Christ.' In the Roman Catholic Church the word is also applied to the renunciation of monastic vows (apostasis a monachatu), and to the abandonment of the clerical profession for the life of the world (apostasis a clericatu). Such defection was formerly often punished severely.

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

(apo, from, and stasis, station, standing, or position).

The word itself in its etymological sense, signifies the desertion of a post, the giving up of a state of life; he who voluntarily embraces a definite state of life cannot leave it, therefore, without becoming an apostate. Most authors, however, distinguish with Benedict XIV (De Synodo di£cesanâ, XIII, xi, 9), between three kinds of apostasy: apostasy a Fide or perfidi£, when a Christian gives up his faith; apostasy ab ordine, when a cleric abandons the ecclesiastical state; apostasy a religione, or monachatus, when a religious leaves the religious life. The Gloss on title 9 of the fifth book of the Decretals of Gregory IX mentions two other kinds of apostasy: apostasy inobedientiæ, disobedience to a command given by lawful authority, and iteratio baptismatis, the repetition of baptism, "quoniam reiterantes baptismum videntur apostatare dum recedunt a priori baptismate". As all sin involves disobedience, the apostasy inobedientiæ does not constitute a specific offense. In the case of iteratio baptismatis, the offence falls rather under the head of heresy and irregularity than of apostasy; if the latter name has sometimes been given to it, it is due to the fact that the Decretals of Gregory IX combine into one title, under the rubric "De apostatis et reiterantibus baptisma" (V, title 9) the two distinct titles of the Justinian Code: "Ne sanctum baptisma iteretur" and" De apostatis " (I, titles 6, 7), in Corpus juris civilis ed. Krueger, (Berlin, 1888); II 60-61. See München "Das kanonische Gerichtsverfahren und Strafrecht" (Cologne, 1874), II, 362, 363. Apostasy, in its strictest sense, means apostasy a Fide (St. Thomas, Summa theologica, II-II, Q. xii a. 1).


Perfidiæ is the complete and voluntary abandonment of the Christian religion, whether the apostate embraces another religion such as Paganism, Judaism, Mohammedanism, etc., or merely makes profession of Naturalism, Rationalism, etc. The heretic differs from the apostate in that he only denies one or more of the doctrines of revealed religion, whereas the apostate denies the religion itself, a sin which has always been looked upon as one of the most grievous. The "Shepherd" of Hermas, a work written in Rome in the middle of the second century, states positively that there is no forgiveness for those who have wilfully denied the Lord. [Similit. ix. 26, 5; Funk, Opera Patrum apostolicorum (Tübingen, 1887), I, 547]. Apostasy belonged, therefore, to the class of sins for which the Church imposed perpetual penance and excommunication without hope of pardon, leaving the forgiveness of the sin to God alone. After the Decian persecution (249, 250), however, the great numbers of Lapsi and Libellatici, and the claims of the Martyres or Confessores, who assumed the right of remitting the sin of apostasy by giving the Lapsi a letter of communion, led to a relaxation of the rigour of ecclesiastical discipline. St. Cyprian and the Council of the African Church which met at Carthage in 251 admitted the principle of the Church's right to remit the sin of apostasy, even before the hour of death. Pope Cornelius and the council which he held at Rome confirmed the decisions of the Synod of Carthage, and the discipline of forgiveness was gradually introduced into all the Churches. [Epistolæ S. Cypriani, 55 et 68; Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum (Vienna, 1871), III, ii, ed. Hartel, 624, 666; Eusebius, Church History, VI, xliii, 1, 2]. Nevertheless, the Council of Elvira, held in Spain about the year 300, still refused forgiveness to apostates. [Harduin, Acta Conciliorum (Paris, 1715), I, 250; Funk, Kirchen-geschichtliche Abhandlungen und Untersuchungen (Paderborn, 1897), I, 155-181; Batiffol, Etudes d'histoire et de théologie positive (Paris, 1902) 1st series, 111-144]. When the Roman Empire became Christian, apostates were punished by deprivation of all civil rights. They could not give evidence in a court of law, and could neither bequeath nor inherit property. To induce anyone to apostatize was an offence punishable with death [Theodosian Code, XVI, title 7, De apostatis; title 8, De Judæis; "Corpus juris romani ante-Justinianæi" (Bonn, 1840), 1521 - 1607; Code of Justinian I, title 7, De apostatis l. c. 60, 61]. In the Middle Ages, both civil and canon law classed apostates with heretics; so much so that title 9 of the fifth book of the Decretals of Gregory IX, which treats of apostasy, contains only a secondary provision concerning apostasy a Fide [iv, Friedberg, Corpus juris canonici (Leipzig, 1879-81), II, 790-792]. Boniface VIII however, by a provision which was amended in the sixth book of the Decretals [V, title 2, De h£reticis, 13 (Friedberg, II, 1075)], merely classes apostates with heretics in respect of the penalties which they incur. This decretal, which only mentions apostate Jews by name, was applied indifferently to all. The Inquisition could therefore proceed against them. The Spanish Inquisition was directed, at the end of the fifteenth century, chiefly against apostates, the Maranos, or new Christians, Jews converted by force rather than by conviction; while in 1609 it dealt severely with the Moriscos, or professedly-converted Moors of Spain.

Today the temporal penalties formerly inflicted on apostates and heretics cannot be enforced, and have fallen into abeyance. The spiritual penalties are the same as those which apply to heretics. In order, however, to incur these penalties, it is necessary, in accordance with the general principles of canon law, that the apostasy should be shown in some way. Apostates, with all who receive, protect, or befriend them, incur excommunication, reserved speciali modo to the Sovereign Pontiff (Constitution Apostolicæ Sedis, n=B0. 1). They incur, moreover, the note of "infamy", at least when their apostasy is notorious, and are "irregular"; an infamy and an irregularity which extend to the son and the grandson of an apostate father, and to the son of an apostate mother, should the parents die without being reconciled to the Church [Decree of Gratian, Distinction L, xxxii; V, tit. 2, ii, xv of the sixth book of the Decretals (Friedberg, I, 191, II, 1069 and 1075)]. Most authors, however, are of opinion that the irregularity affects only the children of parents who have joined some particular sect, or who have been personally condemned by ecclesiastical authority [Gasparri, De sacrâ ordinatione (Paris, 1893), II, 288 and 294; Lehmkuhl, Theologia moralis (Freiburg im Br., 1898), II, 725; Wernz, Jus decretalium (Rome, 1899), II, 200; Hollweck, Die kirchlichen Strafgesetze (Mainz, 1899), 162]. Apostates are debarred from ecclesiastical burial (Decretals of Gregory IX, Bk. V, title 7, viii, Friedberg, II, 779). Any writings of theirs, in which they uphold heresy and schism, or labour to undermine the foundations of faith, are on the Index, and those who read them incur the excommunication reserved, speciali modo to the Sovereign Pontiff [Constitution of Leo XIII, Officiorum et munerum, 25 January, 1897, i, v; Vermeersch, De prohibitione et censurâ librorum (Rome, 1901), 3d ed., 57, 112]. Apostasy constitutes an impediment to marriage, and the apostasy of husband or wife is a sufficient reason for separation a thoro et cohabitatione, which, according to many authorities, the ecclesiastical tribunal may make perpetual [Decretals of Gregory IX, IV, title 19, vi; (Friedberg, II, p. 722) ]. Others, however, maintain that this separation cannot be perpetual unless the innocent party embraces the religious state [Decretals of Gregory IX, ibidem, vii (Friedberg, II 722). See Gasparri, "Tractatus canonicus de matrimonio" (Paris, 1891), II, 283; De Becker, "De matrimonio" (Louvain, 1903), 2d ed., 424]. In the case of clerics, apostasy involves the loss of all dignities, offices, and benefices, and even of all clerical privileges (Decretals of Gregory IX. V, title 7, ix, xiii. See Hollweck, 163, 164).


This, according to the present discipline of the Church, is the abandonment of the clerical dress and state by clerics who have received major orders. Such, at least, is the definition given of it by most authorities. The ancient discipline of the Church, though it did not forbid the marriage of clerics, did not allow them to abandon the ecclesiastical state of their own will, even if they had only received minor orders. The Council of Chalcedon threatens with excommunication all deserting clerics without distinction (Hardouin, II, 603). This discipline, often infringed indeed, endured throughout a great part of the Middle Ages. Pope Leo IX decreed, at the Council of Reims (1049): "Ne quis monachus vel clericus a suo gradu apostataret", all monks and clerks are forbidden to abandon their state (Hardouin, VI, 1007). The Decretals of Gregory IX, published in 1234, preserve traces of the older discipline under the title De apostatis, which forbids all clerks, without distinction, to abandon their state [V, title 9, i, iii (Friedberg, II, 790-791) ]. Innocent III had however, at an earlier date, given permission to clerks in minor orders to quit the ecclesiastical state of their own will (Decretals of Gregory IX, III, title 3, vii; see also x, Friedberg, II, 458-460). The Council of Trent did not restore the ancient discipline of the Church, but deemed it sufficient to command the bishops to exercise great prudence in bestowing the tonsure, and only laid the obligations involved in the clerical state on clerks who have received major orders and on those who enjoy an ecclesiastical benefice (Session XXIII, De Reformatione, iv, vi). Whence it follows that all other clerks can quit their state, but, by the very fact of doing so, lose all the privileges of the clergy. Even the clerk in minor orders who enjoys an ecclesiastical benefice, should he wish to be laicized, loses his benefice by the very fact of his laicization, a loss which is to be regarded not as the penalty, but as the consequence, of his having abandoned the ecclesiastical state. These considerations suffice, it would seem, to refute the opinion maintained by some writers [Hinschius, System des Katholischen Kirchenrechts (Berlin, 1895), V, 905], who think that a clerk in minor orders can, even at the present day, be an apostate ab ordine. This opinion is rejected, among others, by Scherer, [Handbuch des Kirchenrechtes (Gratz, 1886), I, 313; Wernz, II, 338, note 24; Hollweck, 299].

Today, after three ineffectual notices, the apostate clerk loses, ipso facto, the privileges of clergy [Decretals of Gregory IX, V, title 9, i; title 39, xxiii, xxv (Friedberg, II, 790 and 897)]. By the very fact of apostasy he incurs infamy, which, however is only an infamy of fact, not one of law imposed by canonical legislation. Infamy involves irregularity, and is an offense punishable by the loss of ecclesiastical benefices. Finally, should the apostate persist in his apostasy, the bishop may excommunicate him [Constit. of Benedict XIII, Apostolicæ ecclesiæ regimine, 2 May, 1725, in Bullarum amplissima collectio (Rome, 1736), XI, ii, 400].


Monachatus is the culpable departure of a religious from his monastery with the intention of not returning to it and of withdrawing himself from the obligations of the religious life. A monk, therefore, who leaves his monastery with the intention of returning is not an apostate, but a runaway, and so is the one who leaves it intending to enter another religious order. The monks and hermits of the early Church made no vow always continuing to live the ascetic life upon which they had entered. The rule of St. Pachomius, the father of the c£nobitical life, allowed the religious to leave his monastery [Ladenze, Histoire du cénobitisme pakhomien (Louvain, 1898), 285]. But from the fourth century onwards the religious state became perpetual, and in 385 Pope Siricius, in his letter to Himerius, expresses indignation against religious men or women who were unfaithful to their propositum sanctitatis (Hardouin, I, 848, 849). The Council of Chalcedon decreed that the religious who desired to return to the world should be excommunicated, and the Second Council of Arles called him an apostate (Hardouin, II, 602, 603, 775). Throughout the Middle Ages numerous councils and papal decretals insisted on this perpetuity of the religious life, of which Peter Damian was one of the great champions (Migne, P.L., CXLV, 674-678). Paul IV, at the time of the Council of Trent, instituted very strict legislation against apostates by his Bull Postquam., dated 20 July, 1558. These provisions were, however, recalled, two years later, by Pius IV, in the Constitution, Sedis apostolicæ, of 3 April, 1560 (Bullarum amplissima collectio [Rome, 1745], IV, i, 343, and IV, ii, 10).

As the law stands today, the canonical penalties are inflected only upon apostates in the strict sense, that is, those professed with solemn vows, with whom Jesuit scholastics are classed by privilege. Religious belonging to congregations with only simple vows, therefore, and those with simple vows in orders which also take solemn vows, do not incur these penalties. 1. Apostasy is a grave sin, the absolution of which the superior may reserve to himself [Decree "Sanctissimus" of Clement VIII, 26 May, 1593, "Bullarum ampl. Collectio" (Rome, 1756), V, v, 254]. 2. The religious is suspended from the exercise of all orders which he may have received during the period of his apostasy, nor is this penalty removed by his return to his monastery [Decretals of Gregory IX, V, title 9, vi (Friedberg, II, 792)]. 3. He is bound by all the obligations laid on him by his vows and the constitutions of his order, but if he has laid aside the religious habit, and if a judicial sentence has pronounced his deposition, he loses all the privileges of his order, in particular that of exemption from the jurisdiction of the ordinary and the right of being supported at the expense of his community (Council of Trent, Session XXV, de regularibus, xix). 4. The fact of laving aside the religious habit involves the penalty of excommunication [III tit. 24, ii, of the sixth book of Decretals (Friedberg II, 1065)]. 5. In several religious orders apostates incur the penalty of excommunication, even when they have not laid aside the religious habit, in virtue of special privileges granted to the order. 6. The apostate is bound to return to his monastery as soon as possible, and the Council of Trent enjoins bishops to punish religious who shall have left their monasteries without the permission of their superiors, as deserters (Session XXV, de regularibus, iv). Moreover, the bishop is bound to take possession of the person of the apostate monk and to send him back to his superior [Decree of the Congregation of the Council, 21 September, 1624, in "Bullarum amplissima collectio" (Rome, 1756), V, v, 248]. In the case of an apostate nun who leaves a convent enjoying pontifical cloister, she incurs the excommunication reserved simpliciter to the Sovereign Pontiff [Constitution Apostolicæ Sedis, n=B0, 6. See Vermeersch, "De religiosis institutis et personis" (Rome, 1902), I, 200; Hollweck, 299; Scherer, II, 838. See also HERESY, IRREGULARITY, CLERIC, RELIGIOUS ORDERS].

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.

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