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    (circa 200 BC-circa 500)
    Ancient mystery religion
    Origins shrouded in uncertainty but believed to have arisen as early as the second century BC
    Considers the material world evil and man a fallen creature trapped here
    Holds that man can arise from this present world through the use of secret knowledge available to their initiates
    Some of the tenets include; to get to heaven you have to know the names of the demons that will be blocking the way and therefore be able to control them, seven spirits created the world, and God is a woman/mother earth
    Leaders include Marcion and Valentinus
    Disappeared with the preeminence of Christianity in the Roman Empire and if not, was certainly finished off by the rise of Islam
    There are so many strands in it that it is hard to consider it one religion.
    Its believers have clearly stolen ideas from many sources including Judaism, Christianity, Manichaeism, and other mystery religions.
    If this knowledge helps you get to heaven (or wherever they say you go when you die) wouldn't the right thing be to let everybody know the secrets?
    Very few of their writings survive and much of what we know about them and their beliefs come from early Christian writers opposing them.
    By definition it can't have wide appeal or a large following.
    All their knowledge comes through revelations and not genuine study.
    Against all historical record, some New Age types claim to be members of the same cults that existed in Roman times.
    Although some sects within it are libertine in outlook, most of their teachings emphasize common morality and reject materialism.
    Yes, they stole ideas from others but the modern New Agers stole ideas from them also.
    They're harmless, nobody ever started a war over Gnosticism.
    Many of their leaders, particularly Marcion, were very bright and well meaning.
    Opposition to them helped to solidify early Christianity.
    They were supposed to have had some really cool rituals and ceremonies.

Credit: tom_jeffords

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