apostate adj : not faithful to religion or party or cause n : a disloyal person who betrays or deserts his cause or religion or political party or friend etc. [syn: deserter, renegade, turncoat, recreant, ratter]
- A person who renounces a religion or faith.
- Plural of apostata
Apostasy (IPA: /əˈpɒstəsi/) is the formal 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 apostatises. The word derives from Greek αποστασία, meaning a defection or revolt, from απο, apo, "away, apart", στασις, stasis, "standing".
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.
Many religious groups and even some states punish apostates. Apostates may be shunned by the members of their former religious group or worse. This may be the official policy of the religious group or may happen spontaneously, due in some sense to psycho-social factors as well. Historically as well as currently, the offense can be punishable by death. The Catholic Church may in certain circumstances respond to apostasy by excommunicating the apostate, while the traditional holy writings of both Judaism (Deuteronomy 13:6-10) and Islam (al-Bukhari, Diyat, bab 6) demand the death penalty for apostates.
The reliability of the testimonies of apostates is an important and controversial issue in the study of apostasy in cults and new religious movements.
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 to be the "true followers"), whereas apostates reject it entirely.
The term is also used to refer to renunciation of belief in a cause other than religion to which one has voluntarily professed any form of allegiance, particularly in politics. Conversely, some atheists and agnostics use the term "deconversion" to describe loss of faith in a religion. Self-described "Freethinkers" and those who may view traditional religion negatively may see it as gaining rationality and respect for the scientific method.
Other terms to describe leaving a faith and the associated processes are treated in religious disaffiliation.
Sociological definitionsThe American sociologist Lewis A. Coser (following the German philosopher and sociologist Max Scheler) 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."
The American sociologist David G. Bromley defined the apostate role as follows and distinguished it from the defector and whistleblower roles.
In international lawThe 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."
seealso Religious conversion
In ChristianityThough Christians have in the past executed apostates and even conducted crusades against them, today most Christians live in countries where Freedom of Religion is accepted as a fundamental human right.
In IslamIn 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).
The appropriate penalty for apostasy in Islam (i.e. in the Qur'an or under shariah law) is a highly controversial topic that is passionately debated by various scholars. The Quran itself speaks repeatedly of people going back to unbelief after believing, but is silent on the appropriate punishment. In practice, however, Islam has enforced harsh penalties against apostasy for hundreds of years.
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 of modern Muslim scholars (eg 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. 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 punishable by death in the countries of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan, Mauritania and the Comoros. In Qatar apostasy is a capital offense, but no executions have been reported for it.
The hadith "Whosoever changes his religion, Kill Him", 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. 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 for the individual 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.Qur'an|
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).Qur'an|
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.Qur'an|
Those who blasphemed">Blasphemyblasphemed and back away from the ways of Allah and die as blasphemers, Allah shall not forgive them.|Qur'an|
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.Qur'an|
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.Qur'an|
The Hadith (a collection of sayings attributed to Muhammad and his companions) includes statements taken as supporting the death penalty for apostasy, such as:
- Kill whoever changes his religion.
- 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.
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.
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, 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." 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).
In JudaismThe 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:
- 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.''
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)
Paul of Tarsus was accused of apostasy by the council of James and the elders, for teaching apostasy from the law given by Moses (Acts 21:17-26). Scholars consider this the reason by which some early Christians, such as the Ebionites, repudiated Paul for being an apostate.
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 Juan 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.
However, the issue of what qualifies as "apostasy" in Judaism can be complicated, since in many modern movements in Judaism, rabbis have generally considered the behavior of a Jew to be the determining factor in whether or not one is considered an adherent or an apostate of Judaism.
Abraham Isaac Kook, 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.
In Hinduism and BuddhismContrary to Abrahamic dogmas, there is no concept of an apostate in Hinduism or Buddhism, as everyone is accepted as one and the same. Converts to other religions from Hinduism or Buddhism are accepted in these communities, as there is no Hindu or Buddhist procedure that defines apostasy.
In new religious movements (NRMs) and alleged cultsSome scholars of new religious movements define apostates specifically as individuals who leave new religious movements and publicly oppose them, to distinguish them from others who do not speak against their former faiths. Other scholars dispute this distinction.
Some scholars use the term post-cult trauma to describe the emotional and social problems that some members of cults and new religious movements experience after leaving the group, while other scholars assert that such traumas are either only applicable in rare cases or are more likely caused by deprogramming or pre-existing psychological problems, not by voluntary leavetaking.
Some notable apostates are part of the secular opposition to cults and new religious movements or the Christian countercult movement. Some apostates of new religious movements make public stands against their former religion to warn the public of what they see as its dangers and harm. Several of those apostates maintain websites on their former groups with unflattering perspectives, testimonials and information which, they say, is not disclosed by those groups to the public. Critics like Basava Premanand complain about ad hominem attacks on them by their former organizations or by apologists of their former faith, and claim that their goal is to provide information that enables current and prospective members to make an informed choice about joining or staying with a religious movement. Some of the groups being criticized, such as Adidam in turn, claim being the target of religious intolerance, hate and ill-will by these critics.
James T. Richardson proposes a theory related to a logical relationship between apostates and whistleblowers, using Bromley's definitions, 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.
Opinions about the reliability of apostates' testimony and their motivationsThe validity of testimony by former members of new religious movements, their motivations, and the roles they play in the opposition to cults and new religious movements are controversial subjects among scholars of religion, sociologists and psychologists: Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, a professor of psychology at the University of Haifa, argues that academic supporters of New religious movements are engaged in a rhetoric of advocacy, apologetics and propaganda, and writes that in the cases of cult catastrophes such as Peoples Temple, or Heaven's Gate, accounts by hostile outsiders and detractors have been closer to reality than other accounts, and that in that context statements by ex-members turned out to be more accurate than those of offered by apologists and NRM researchers. Bromley and Shupe, while discussing the role of anecdotal atrocity stories by apostates, proposes that these are likely to paint a caricature of the group, shaped by the apostate's current role rather than his experience in the group, and question their motives and rationale. Lewis Carter and David G. Bromley claim that the onus of pathology experienced by former members of new religions movements should be shifted from these groups to the coercive activities of the anti-cult movement. Dr. Phillip Charles Lucas interviewed ex-members of the Holy order of MANS and compared them with stayers and outside observers, and came to the conclusion that their testimonies are as (un-)reliable as those of the stayers. Jean Duhaime, a professor of religious studies and science of religion at the Université de Montréal writes, based upon his analysis of three memoirs by apostates of NRMs (by Dubreuil, Huguenin, Lavallée, see bibliography), that he is more balanced than some researchers, referring to Wilson, and that apostate testimonies cannot be dismissed, only because they are not objective, though he admits that they write atrocity stories in the definition by Bromley and Shupe. He asserts that the reasons why they tell their stories are, among others, to warn others to be careful in religious matters and to put order in their own lives. Mark Dunlop, a former member of FWBO, argues that ex-members of cultic groups face great obstacles in exposing abuses committed by these groups, stating that ex-members "have great difficulty in disproving ad hominem arguments, such as that they have a personal axe to grind, that they are trying to find a scapegoat to excuse their own failure or deficiency [...] Cults have a vested interest in challenging the personal credibility of their critics, and may cultivate academic researchers who attack the credibility and motives of ex-members." Dunlop further expands on the specific difficulties faced by ex-members in proving harms done to them: "If an ex-member claims that they were subjected to brainwashing or mind-control techniques, not only is this again unprovable, but in the mind of the general public, it is tantamount to admitting that they are a gullible and easily led person whose opinions,consequently, can't be worth much. If an ex-member suffers from any mental disorientation or evident psychiatric symptoms, this is likely to further diminish their credibility as a reliable informant." He concludes with "In general, the public credibility of critical ex-cultists seems to be somewhere in between that of Estate Agents and flying saucer abductees." In the article's summary http://www.ex-cult.org/fwbo/CofC.htm#advantages, Dunlop argues that given that the apostates' testimony is ineffective due to lack of public credibility, and that other forms of criticism are also ineffectual for various reasons, cults are virtually immune from outside criticism making it very difficult to expose cults. Massimo Introvigne in his Defectors, Ordinary Leavetakers and Apostates 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 it intends 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 his loyalties and becoming a professional enemy of the organization he has 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 termIn 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.
Noted apostatesThis is a list of some notable persons that have been reportedly labeled as an apostate in reliable published sources.
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali labelled an apostate by Theo van Gogh according to Ayaan Hirsi Ali
- Salman Rushdie was accused of being an apostate of Islam by Ruhollah Khomeini due to the publication of his book The Satanic Verses
- Tasleema Nasreen, from Bangladesh, the author of Lajja, has been declared apostate - "an apostate appointed by imperialist forces to vilify Islam" - by several fundamentalist clerics in Dhaka
- Dunlop, Mark, The culture of Cults, 2001 http://www.fwbo-files.com/CofC.htm
- 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 http://www.cesnur.org/testi/Acropolis.htm
- The Jewish Encyclopedia (1906). The Kopelman Foundation. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com
- 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
- 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
- Apostates of Islam, why Islam should be avoided http://www.apostatesofislam.com
Testimonies, memoirs, and autobiographies
- Babinski, Edward (editor), Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists. Prometheus Books, 2003. ISBN-10: 1591022177; ISBN-13: 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 http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/Web/People/dst/Library/Shelf/kaufman/isd/isd.htm
- 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, http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Library/Shelf/pignotti/
- Wakefield, Margery, Testimony, 1996 http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/Web/People/dst/Library/Shelf/wakefield/testimony.html
- Lawrence Woodcraft, Astra Woodcraft, Zoe Woodcraft, The Woodcraft Family, Video Interviews http://www.xenutv.com/interviews/woodcrafts.htm
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 http://www.culticstudiesreview.com/csr_articles/malinoski_peter.htm
- Palmer, Susan J. Apostates and their Role in the Construction of Grievance Claims against the Northeast Kingdom/Messianic Communities http://www.12tribes.org/controversies/apostatesandtheirrole.html
- Wilson, S.G., Leaving the Fold: Apostates and Defectors in Antiquity. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2004. ISBN-10: 0800636759; ISBN-13: 978-0800636753
- Wright, Stuart. Post-Involvement Attitudes of Voluntary Defectors from Controversial New Religious Movements. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 23 (1984): pp. 172-82
apostate in Arabic: ردة
apostate in Breton: Apostazia
apostate in Catalan: Apostasia
apostate in Danish: Apostasi
apostate in German: Apostasie
apostate in Modern Greek (1453-): Αποστασία
apostate in Spanish: Apostasía
apostate in French: Apostasie
apostate in Galician: Apostasía
apostate in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Apostasia
apostate in Italian: Apostasia
apostate in Hebrew: משומד
apostate in Dutch: Geloofsafval
apostate in Polish: Apostazja
apostate in Portuguese: Apostasia
apostate in Romanian: Apostazie
apostate in Slovak: Apostáza
apostate in Swedish: Apostasi
apostate in Ukrainian: Апостат
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