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Pseudoreligion or pseudotheology is a pejorative for a non-mainstream belief-system or philosophy which is functionally similar to a religious movement, typically having a founder, principal text, liturgy and faith-based beliefs.[1][2] Belief systems such as Theosophy,[3] corporate Kabbalism,[4]Christian Science,[5]Scientology, Wahhabism, Salafism and the Nation of Islam[6] have all been referred to as pseudoreligions, as have various New Age religions, as well as political ideologies such as Nazism and Positive Christianity.[7] Within the academic debate, political ideologies that resemble religion are sometimes referred to as political religions.

While the more serious-minded participants in these groups may prefer to consider themselves part of a proper religion, or not part of a religion at all, the mainstream ascribes to them a fringe status. Such groups as the Church of Scientology, the Raëlian Church and Heaven's Gate, seen as dangerous, exploitative, secretive, or closed, have been classified as pseudoreligious cults.

Splinter and modern movements that don't accept the Christian doctrine fully, material and formal heresy for example Gnostics, New Heathenery, Americanism, Community of the Lady of All Nations, Positive Christianity, Reincarnationism and Santa Muerte. All magical orders and secret society like Golden Dawn. Parody religion such as Church of the SubGenius.[citation needed]

Others may begin as splinters or hold-overs from traditional religions based in Apocryphal or Pseudepigraphical writings not accepted within the originating religion.

Examples of marginal movements with founding figures, liturgies and recently invented traditions that have been studied as legitimate social practices include various New Age movements,[8] and millennaristic movements such as the Ghost Dance and South Pacific cargo cults.[9]



In 1963 Paul Tillich distinguished pseudo-religions (intentionally similar to acknowledged religions) from quasi-religions (entities with unintended similarities to religions).[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Biever, Bruce (1976). Religion, Culture and Values: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Motivational Factors in Native Irish and American Irish Catholicism. Arno Press, a New York Times Company. p. 165. ISBN 0-405-09319-5.
  2. ^ Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (1993). The Need for a Sacred Science. SUNY Press. p. 61. ISBN 0-7914-1517-1.
  3. ^ Guenon, Rene (1921). Theosophy, a History of a Pseudo-Religion. Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis. ISBN 0-900588-79-9.
  4. ^ Wenig, Gaby (2003-11-07). "Q & A With Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 2006-05-27. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: There is no spirit in it, no message in it. This is part of a general term toward the esoteric that seems to be a' la mode for the time being, but it is not important on any real level. At best, it is shallow and unimportant. At worst, it may become slightly dangerous for Judaism and for the people who get involved in it. To get involved in any kind of pseudo-science or pseudo-religion is always slightly dangerous for the religion.
  5. ^ Albert B. Olston (1 February 2003). Facts and Fables of Christian Science. Kessinger Publishing. p. 303. ISBN 978-0-7661-2991-7. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  6. ^ McCloud, Sean (2004-03-01). "Monitoring the Marginal Masses". Making the American Religious Fringe: Exotics, Subversives, and Journalists, 1955–1993. UNC Press. ISBN 0-8078-5496-4. William Buckley's more conservative National Review dubbed the group a "pseudo-religion." Writing in Ebony, Hans J. Massaquoi concurred, calling the Nation of Islam a "quasi-religion."
  7. ^ Grunberger, Richard (1995). The 12-Year Reich: A Social History of Nazi Germany 1933–1945. Da Capo Press. pp. 72–75. ISBN 0-306-80660-6.
  8. ^ MacDonald, Jeffery L. (December 1995). "Inventing Traditions for the New Age: A Case Study of the Earth Energy Tradition". Anthropology of Consciousness. 6 (4): 31–45. doi:10.1525/ac.1995.6.4.31.
  9. ^ Errington, Frederick (May 1974). "Indigenous Ideas of Order, Time, and Transition in a New Guinea Cargo Movement". American Ethnologist. 1 (2): 255–267. doi:10.1525/ae.1974.1.2.02a00030.
  10. ^ Tillich, Paul (1963). "Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions". In Scharlemann, Robert P. (ed.). ReSchriften [Religious writings]. Hauptwerke. 5. Walter de Gruyter (published 1988). p. 293. ISBN 9780899253817. Retrieved 2013-12-26. Sometimes, what I call quasi-religions are called pseudo-religions, but this is as imprecise as it is unfair. 'Pseudo' indicates an intended but deceptive similarity; 'quasi' indicates a genuine similarity, not intended, but based on points of identity, and this, certainly, is the situation in cases like Fascism and Communism, the most extreme examples of quasi-religions today.

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