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loose canons
There's a thin line between saintliness and madness. Here are inspiring tales of holy folly that laugh in the face of human wisdom... and also breathtaking examples of religious stupidity that fly in the face of common sense.

As told by Stephen Tomkins

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17: No heaven, no hell, no morals... yes, it's the Ranters!
OST DENOMINATIONS HAVE LITTLE say in what name they are called by, and the Ranters are no exception. But if the name suggests tub-thumping street preachers going on about hell, nothing could be further from the truth.

Originating during the English Revolution in 1649 (and lasting till around 1651), no two Ranters believed the same thing. Some were atheists. Some just denied life after death. Some believed all people will be saved whatever they do. Some believed that only Ranters would be saved – and because of their perfect inner holiness could indulge the flesh without the spirit being soiled.

They agreed on one thing though: Ranters could do whatever the hell they liked.

They did not neglect fellowship, but met together in taverns. The main focus of their meetings seems to have been smoking and swearing. They celebrated Holy Communion with beer and steak and sang psalms with rude words. Naked dancing was the exception rather than the rule.

Lawrence Clarkson toured the country preaching that no one could be pure till they indulged in adultery and drunkenness "in pureness of spirit". And to give him credit, he practised what he preached.

Most deviant sects have to be savagely persecuted into the ground with torture and burning, but the Ranters were much less trouble. In August 1650, Ranterism was outlawed on pain of a six-month gaol sentence (loosely enforced). Within a year it had petered out.

It was a faith to go to the pub for, not to prison.

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st simeon
St Simeon
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