Religions historically have followed similar trajectories of splintering into many sub-sects and different interpretations over time. New religions spring forth as a result of new revelations from God: for instance, God speaks to Moses and Judaism is founded; or the prophet Gabriel is sent to Muhammad, which eventually results in Islam. But prophets almost never seek to found new religions—more commonly, it is to correct the mistakes of existing ones. Given the immense amount of common ground we find even between entirely different religions, there is no reason why subsects within a particular religion should make such a huge fuss over minor differences. Yet history is unfortunately littered with far too many examples of people losing the forest for the trees, often with tragic consequences.

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The New Testament
Christian scripture

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.”

C.S. Lewis
Christian theologian and writer

“One of the things Christians are disagreed about is the importance of their disagreements.”

Pascal Boyer
Cognitive anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“In the case of Christianity, the great difficulty at first was to decide exactly what the doctrine was. The essentials of the doctrine did not originate in a scholarly group but were those of a messianic, revolutionary movement, a loose federation of groups with not entirely compatible interpretations of not entirely similar accounts of the Revelation. When the movement did become an organized religious guild with great political leverage, this created a series of complex struggles between political factions that identified themselves in terms of these different interpretations of revelation and morality. Hence the long succession of Councils supposed to establish, once and for all, coherent foundations for the doctrine and therefore to determine who was in and who was out.”

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture

“As for those who have divided their religion and broken up into factions, have nothing to do with them [Prophet]. Their case rests with God: in time He will tell them about their deeds.”

Sefer Ha-Aggadah
Collection of Jewish writings

“‘Do not break up into clusters’ (Deut. 14: 1). Do not form many [small]clusters, but all of you stay as one cluster. ‘Do not break up into clusters. ’Do not divide in dissent against one another, lest you bring about a ‘baldness’ within your number, as Korah did. He divided Israel, making them into many small clusters, and thus brought about a lrorhah, a ‘baldness,’ in Israel."

Baha'i leader

“All races, tribes, sects and classes share equally in the Bounty of their Heavenly Father.”

Swami Vivekananda
Hindu monk
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“If I am sure of anything, it is of this humanity which is common to us all. It is through this generalised entity that I see you as a man or a woman. So it is with this universal religion, which runs through all the various religions of the world in the form of God; it must and does exist through eternity. ‘I am the thread that runs through all these pearls,’ and each pearl is a religion or even a sect thereof. Such are the different pearls, and the Lord is the thread that runs through all of them; only the majority of mankind are entirely unconscious of it.”