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The significance of the Oneida Community

According to Randall Hilldebrand in his article ‘The Oneida Community’ the utopian Oneida Community was founded by John Humphrey Noyes of Vermont. It was, according to the Britannia Encyclopedia, established in Putney, Vermont in 1841. Noyes came from a very religious family. He came to believe strongly in the Millennial kingdom and that Christ had returned in A. D. 70. While attending Yale he came up with the concept of Christian perfectionism i. e. that man could live a perfect, sinless life because he himself felt no sense of guilt. On this doctrine he based his efforts.

During the 1830’s he tried to get converts. Eventually he received financial backing and set up his group which mainly consisted at first of family members. The economic base for the group was agricultural together with a saw mill. The community lived together in a form of communism for 30 years. The teaching of complex marriage, in which each man was married to all the women and vice versa received lots of criticism. Male continence, a form of birth control, was also practiced, which meant few children were born to the eventual 306 members.

By 1878 the group was breaking up. This was partly because it was now led by Theodore Noyes, an agnostic who was very strict with members. John H. Noyes returned to try and put matters right, but it was too late. In 1881 the group was abandoned. Why did it fail? The doctrines and rules were unusual so did not attract large numbers and too few members were born to replace the originals. Right from the beginning Noyes condemned the institution of marriage which many see as a stabilizing factor in society. This roused outside opposition.

Internally everything, even haircuts according to Randall Hilldebrand, was controlled by many commitees. Noyes left so was not able to be in control. Few would believe that man was capable of perfectionism and this doctrine does not fit with scripture as generally understood. References Hilldebrand, R. The Oneida Community, New York History Net. Retrieved 27th May 2009 from http://www. nyhistory. com/central/oneida. htm Oneida Community, Britannica Encyclopedia, retrieved 27th May 2009 from http://www. britannica. com/EBchecked/topic/429132/Oneida-Community

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