Lodowicke Muggleton

Lodowicke Muggleton by William Wood

This fellow founded his own religion with the impressive name “Muggletonianism”. In 1651 he and his pal John Reeve decided that they were the last two prophets of Christianity, and set about proselytizing their faith. It was a remarkable faith indeed: utterly pacifist in all matters, without any hierarchy or organizational structure. It had no priests, no churches, no committees, no rites — absolutely nothing that we associate with religions. It was a highly individualistic faith, whose only social expression was regular discussion meetings for the faithful. These were not prayer meetings and they were not led by anybody. Instead, people simply came together to discuss their thoughts about religion. 

The basic principles of Muggletonianism are as follows:

There is no God but the glorified Man Christ Jesus.
There is no Devil but the unclean Reason of men.
Heaven is an infinite abode of light above and beyond the stars.
The place of Hell will be this Earth when sun, moon and stars are extinguished.
Angels are the only beings of Pure Reason.
The Soul dies with the body and will be raised with it.
God doesn’t care if people sin.

Muggleton’s primary means of expression was the pamphlet. These were popular during the period from about 1550 to 1850. Each pamphlet addressed a single issue, usually with much “extremity of expression”, to use a polite term. They played the role now played by op-ed pages on newspapers and political websites. Muggleton was a master pamphleteer, primarily because of his creative and extravagent contumely.

His beliefs got him tossed into jail a couple of times, but that never slowed him down. He kept pushing his religion, and gained a goodly following. Somehow, despite the complete lack of any of the factors that make religions popular, Muggletonianism continued for several centuries. Its last adherent died in 1979.