unit banner

Unit 1: Redefining World Society and Culture

Lesson B: Division and Diffusion — World Belief Systems

Activity 8: Unity and Division in Christianity

You have learned how to gather historical data from maps, graphs, charts, and tables as well as how to compare them. You also learned that you can create historical questions from what you examine in these types of visuals. In this activity, you will continue to refine these skills by looking at how world religions and belief systems have led to both unity and division.

Throughout history, religions have spread to other regions of the world. Sometimes this led to unity among different groups of people. For example, once Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the people become more culturally united. They used the same calendars, had the same holidays, and used the same language (Latin). This also happened throughout the Middle East. The Islamic calendar, Muslim holidays, and the Arab language are common unifying forces within the regions where Islam is the dominant religion.

However, not all cultures remained united in issues of religion. Many of the world's religions and belief systems had schisms. These "breaks" within a religion led to different groups of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and others. They still had the same fundamental beliefs, but they believed that there were differences severe enough that they broke apart and created different "branches" of the same religion.

Schisms in Christianity:

christianity timeline

Look at the timeline above. It might look different than others you have seen, but it is examined the same way. Notice references to the 11th and 16th centuries. This gives an idea of the chronology of the events. You should first conclude that Christianity split into different "branches." It appears that the first major split was in the 11th century and the second major split was in the 16th century. You might also notice other "branches" off the Reformation split. A historian might look at this data and ask, "How and why did Christianity develop different branches?" Let us quickly review what led to these schisms.

The Great Schism           The Reformation


Page Notes:

[1] Source: This image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ChristianityBranches.svg is licensed under the terms of the GNU License Agreement.