|One of many articles on|
|The main players|
In the context of religion, a schism indicates a split between two or more movements or organizations within a larger religious body; the motivations for such a split are not necessarily any major differences of doctrine. Generally, schisms are distinguished from apostasy and heresy because they are still as a part of the larger, (though unofficial) body of the religion.
The word schism has been used most in the context of Christianity. During the first and second centuries, various churches were vying for the right to be the Christian Church. None could really be said to be schisms of another. However, once Paul's church got off and running as the church of the Roman Empire, schisms would define its future. In 431 the Assyrians broke off to form their own church; in 451 the Oriental Orthodox Church formed; the Great Schism of the 11th century brought the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Roman Catholic Church; in the 1500s Martin Luther broke away to form the Protestant churches, and they have spent the last 500 years splintering into further denominations and sects (starting with Calvinism).
Because the Qu'ran states that a Muslim is a person who has submitted to God, the Islamic faith does not formally recognize any schisms as more than just political or human distinctions. There is one primary schism that arose out of the mystical tradition in the late 7th century, the Shi'a claiming God does not give political power. The Shi'a do not recognize the religious and political leadership found in the Sunni traditions.
There have been many schisms in Buddhism including the major split from the strict Theravada Buddhism by the more welcoming Mahayana Buddhism. Though the date of this split is not agreed upon, it is thought to have happened between 100 BCE and 100 CE. From there, the Great Schools represent further schisms within Buddhism. Today there are hundreds of schools, following one of the two major paths, but each holding different views and seeing themselves as separate but complementary to the others.