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Christianity seems to have many Denominations within it - Roman Catholic, Protestant, Presbyterian, Mormons, Baptists, Methodists to name a few. This is (as far as I know) a lot more than in other major religions such as Judaism or Islam.

Why is this?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Bruce Alderman, Flimzy, fredsbend, David, Mawia Oct 25 '13 at 12:27

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Because everyone always thinks they are right and are so petty that that they are unwilling to worship to the same God with someone who slightly differs in opinion. That's the short answer. – fredsbend Feb 19 '13 at 11:13
Why is this question closed? How is it opinion-based? Is there no factual answer we can come up with here? – Matt Dec 17 '13 at 3:08
@Matt LDS obviously have a factual reason for starting a new denomination but others don't have. :) – Mawia Jan 24 '14 at 9:37
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Most denominations are formed due to differences in doctrine. These usually come about from different interpretations of the Bible or the formation of new doctrine from councils.

The Wikipedia article with the List of Christian denominations does a good job of showing the timeline with the splits in denominations and the reasons for them.

The Reformation resulted in many of the Protestant denominations. These were mostly denominations which split from the Catholic church.

One of the reasons may be that Christians are open to and encourage interpretation of the Bible. Over time, new insight is developed and understanding of the Bible can change.

From what I understand of other religions is that they tend to only follow interpretations by the intellectual elite and doctrine is controlled by the few at the head of the religion. This would also explain why so many Christian denominations were formed during and after the Reformation and splits from Rome's authority over the churches.

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OK, so I understand that they come from different interpretations, but why is the Christian Bible more open to interpretation than say the Qur'an ? – Kevin Sep 3 '11 at 9:58
@Kevin if one believes the whole Bible, then we believe Jesus to be the only truth. Also then we believe that there is a devil who is called the father of lies, who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. One of his major goals is to sow discord among brothers & sisters in Christ. So IF the Bible is true, that means everything else must be false and so even though the devil enjoys spreading discord everywhere, wouldn't it make sense he would spend the most time sowing discord among the followers of Truth, rather than people who already don't believe in the Truth? – 2tim424 Sep 3 '11 at 17:31
@Kevin I've added a bit on comparing Christianity and other religions. – a_hardin Sep 3 '11 at 17:39
@a_hardin Ya missed one denomination chief; The Roman Catholics broke off of the Orthodox in 1054 A.D. due to a mix of language barriers and Papal pride: – leeand00 Sep 4 '11 at 21:40
@leeand00 Yeah, I really didn't know much about that. Thanks for the link. – a_hardin Sep 5 '11 at 0:02

If you are asking the cause it is the Pride and Greed of humans.

Greed and pride are responsible for most of humankind's problems. War? Sometimes pride, sometimes greed.

Jobs going overseas? Mainly greed.

Low quality and dangerous products, illegal drug sales? Mainly greed.

Corrupt politicians? Mainly greed

Corruption and dishonesty in the work place? Mainly greed

Now consider many religious leaders (not all of them of course). Are they Prideful? Have they hoarded vast amounts of wealth? Do they live in palaces? Do they think the are above the laws of men?

I am sorry if I depressed anyone. If you are depressed from reading the above please look at the following picture of a kitten sleeping on a ball of yarn and you should feel better:

enter image description here

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W00t! I can totally agree with this. You could add to it man's fallen nature.<br/> (Oh hello again)<br/> – leeand00 Sep 4 '11 at 21:33

What follows is mostly my opinion/reasoning.

First off, I don't have Biblical support for this yet, but Christianity is more of a "modern" religion than either Judaism or Islam. I don't know for sure, but I'll bet that Judaism and Islam have hardly changed in the millennia since they were founded. However, Christianity was and is being adapted to changing times and different cultures. Early Christians are well known for taking whatever beliefs existed in the area that they were ministering to at the time and somehow getting them and Christianity to co-exist so that it would be easier to reach the people. Once you have parsed that, consider this example: Christmas. December 25th probably came from a pagan source (Wikipedia) and probably had little to do with when Christ was actually born. This would be why Christianity has more than 5 (major) denominations as opposed to Judaism's 3 or Islam's 3.

As for why there are so many, I'll bet that all these different denominations represent practically every possible way to form a set of beliefs about a large number of topics. As an example, if I had to choose a denomination, I would say that I am Wesleyan. However, Wesleyans apparently believe that merely drinking alcohol is sin, but I don't. I wouldn't be surprised if there was already a denomination that exactly fits my beliefs, but if not, I'll just make Starmanism. Ta-da! New Christian denomination!

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I see 8 denominations for Islam – a_hardin Sep 3 '11 at 1:01
@a_hardin: Good catch. Edited to put a "(major)" modifier. – El'endia Starman Sep 3 '11 at 1:34
@El'endia Starman - can you provide a citation for Peter and the early church adapting their teachings to fit the local church? – Bob Black Sep 3 '11 at 3:24
@Bob Black: Good call. I've changed the example. – El'endia Starman Sep 3 '11 at 22:26

Christianity emphasizes a personal relationship with God, and teaches us that God values us as individuals. This leads to personal variations in religious practice and in the details of belief, and that in turn leads to the creation of more denominations.

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What follows is my personal opinion1:

In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, Paul warns the Corinthians of the dangers of splitting into factions; which are the seeds of denominational splits. See especially verses 11-13:

My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: one of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul?

This is the negative effect that we often think of when we think of denominations. However, Paul's letter later highlights something which could show denominations as being part of God's plan. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

In other words, Paul becomes whatever is necessary to enable people to come to Christ and to avoid being a stumbling-block to anyone wanting to come close to God.

So, if someone likes formal music and a liturgy, God has provided a denomination for them. If someone is looking for a more informal setting, or a church with a bias towards the poor, or a church which baptises with lots of water, or not much, or a church which is broad enough to include all these, there is a denomination for them. The human part of the church is flexible so that people can always find God in a community of believers.

I'm also focusing on mainstream (for want of a better word) churches / denominations.

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