Top 10 Infamous Religious Controversies



Top 10 Infamous Religious Controversies

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Q.V. Hough.

There have been many scandals that rocked religion throughout history: whether it's the many controversies surrounding Scientology, the Boston sexual abuse scandal, Jehovah's Witnesses' take on the end of the world or the mere existence of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, these controversial topics have led to debates. WatchMojo counts down ten of the worst religious controversies to shake up Christianity, Judaism and more.

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Script written by Q.V. Hough.

Top 10 Infamous Religious Controversies

Throughout history, religion and drama have gone hand in hand. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Religious Controversies.

For this list, we’re focusing on specific historical events and religious concepts that have left people confused, disturbed and even fearful.

#10: Scientology

Formed by author L. Ron Hubbard in 1954, this new religious movement has long been cloaked in mystery. While celebrities like Tom Cruise have discussed practices and techniques of Scientology throughout the digital age, original controversy surrounding the body of beliefs and practices centered on the overt criminal behavior of members. In the 1970s, the Church of Scientology began “Operation Snow White,” an espionage project set on purging records and information that gave negative impressions of the group. Additional skepticism towards Scientology has emerged through its seemingly perpetual harassment of those who oppose the church and what appears to be forced behavior upon members, as well as its on-and-off status as a tax-exempt religious organization. In 2015, Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary “Going Clear” offered a closer look at Scientology and the consequences of those who choose to separate themselves from the religion.

#9: Mountain Meadows Massacre

By September 1857, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was experiencing a serious reformation. With hysteria over the Utah War creating paranoia among the Mormon community, and the death of notable leaders, the stage was set for a confrontation with perceived enemies. When a party of emigrants from Arkansas arrived in Southern Utah, Mountain Meadows would become their final resting place. Convinced that a group of the settlers was responsible for the Haun's Mill massacre- in which at least 17 Mormons were killed- and that they planned to eliminate the Mormon people at large, the Utah Territorial Militia launched an attack. Five days in, under the guise of a truce and intending to leave no witnesses, John D. Lee approached the remaining emigrants and led them- men, women, and children over 7- into an ambush. In all, as many as 140 people were killed with only a few young children surviving.

#8: The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

By rejecting the more previously accepted norms of creationism, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has their own … unique perspective. Taking over the Internet in 2005, the movement highlights the idea that an origin story involving a flying spaghetti monster cannot be debunked, much like the concept of God central to Christianity. Unsurprisingly, this fundamental ideology has often rubbed people the wrong way. The satirical religion originally came about to protest the teaching of intelligent design over evolution in American public schools, while in theory revolutionizing how schools and people of free will approach the concept of organized religion. Creator Bobby Henderson was only 24 years old when his church was founded, and the satirical ideals are meant to distinguish between faith and actual science.

#7: Islam, the Religion of Peace?

The history of Islam is vast and expansive, but 21st century terrorism has shone a light on fanatics that stray from peaceful ideals. More than twenty years before the Twin Towers were destroyed, the term “Islamic fundamentalism” spread across the globe, most notably by way of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the subsequent hostage crisis. And despite the amount of peaceful Muslims across the world, it’s the jihadists, hijackers and other extremists that have seemingly established a new normal, thus leading many - rightly or wrongly - to question the religion. The conversation continues in society as the core ideas of Islam are interpreted in different ways, leading some to peace and others to violence.

#6: ‘The End of the World,’ According to Jehovah’s Witnesses

Established in 1870s America, Jehovah’s Witnesses have become known for their unannounced visits throughout the neighborhood and handing out pamphlets. There are approximately eight million members throughout the world, but what troubles outsiders is that the religion's Governing Body opposes independent thinking and discourages from individual bible study. More worrisome, however, is the religion’s anticipation of Armageddon, a state of readiness that creates endless controversy. False predictions in 1914, 1925 and 1975 have led to revisions of doctrines and even new interpretations of the Bible.

#5: Metzitzah B’Peh

In the Jewish faith, the circumcision ritual is known as “brit milah” while the removal of the foreskin is called “Metzitzah.” But there’s another step that is sometimes still performed as well, a more controversial method that involves the oral suction of a wound by a “mohel”, or circumciser. Of course, one of the main problems with such an ancient practice is the physical transfer of modern disease. In 2005, three New York babies acquired herpes reportedly through the ritual of “metzitzah B’Peh.” Incidentally, new laws and regulations have emerged in which parents must provide consent, and some have suggested that glass tubes could replace the oral contact.

#4: Mormonism and the Book of Abraham

In 1835, the ancient Egyptian writings of Abraham were supposedly discovered by none other than Joseph Smith – the founder of Mormonism. Smith may have genuinely believed the papyri to be authentic, but a later examination by Egyptologist Theodule Deveria opposed the findings. It was originally believed that the historical documents were once lost in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, but pieces emerged at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1966. Adding additional doubts to Smith's claims are numerous subsequent examinations that proved the so-called “Book of Abraham” was actually Egyptian funerary documents.

#3: Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Scandal in Boston

As depicted in the 2015 Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight,” in 2002, the Boston Globe revealed a sexual abuse cover-up within the Catholic Church. Sadly, the scandal directly connected Roman Catholic priests to the systematic abuse of young children. But the investigation by the “Spotlight” team allowed for other victims to come forward, both within the community of Boston and beyond. And with payouts reaching 100 million dollars, the financial woes paled in comparison to the damaged reputation of the accused and certainly for the Catholic Church in general. But above all, the scandal revealed the existence of a troubling conspiracy that was organized by people preaching the word of God.

#2: Martin Luther’s “On the Jews and Their Lies”

In 1543, a notable man of God published a 65,000-word document in the name of anti-Semitism. His name was Martin Luther, a figurehead of the Protestant Reformation. At first, Luther tried to convert Jews to Christianity, as his steadfast view was that Jesus, who was born a Jew, was, in fact, the Son of God. But the German failed to sway faithful Jews, which led him to write something called “On the Jews and Their Lies.” Within three years, Luther was dead, but approximately 400 years later, The Third Reich openly embraced his ideologies, which influenced the systematic execution of millions of Jews.

#1: The Inquisition

In the 12th century, it was not OK to oppose the Catholic Church. This became evident with the emergence of the Medieval Inquisition. Originally led by the Dominican Order, torture and executions became commonplace to diminish opposition, which were a most violent turn from the usual jail sentence of years past. These events preceded large-scale “Grand Inquisitions,” along with the witch trials of the Renaissance Era and beyond. In retrospect, it doesn’t seem farfetched to think that the original inquisition set the precedent for the Catholic Church to use violent force to manipulate freethinking minds, leading to the trials of Galileo and Joan of Arc, as well as with centuries upon centuries of death in the name of a higher being.

Do you agree with our list? What do you think is the biggest religious controversy? For more thought-provoking Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to