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John Ballou Newbrough's Orphan Utopia

In 1881, a dentist named John Ballou Newbrough wrote a new bible called Oahspe. According to Newbrough, the text was dictated to him by angels who visited him every morning for fifty weeks. This text was the foundation of a new religion. While plenty of new groups were being formed under the mantle of Spiritualism at the time, Newbrough's Faithists were under scrutiny because their bible plainly contradicted Christianity.

What most fascinated the newspapers, though, was Newbrough’s intention to found a colony. Oahspe enjoins its followers—called Faithists—to gather orphans and raise them to be independent, vegetarian, and spiritually pure, as preparation for leadership of a New World Order. The New York Times reported that “all that was asked of the members was that they should buy tracts of land in order that head-quarters might be established and people removed to them from the profanity of the world,” and at the time of the article’s publication, the search was already underway for a site in the southwestern desert.4 Shalam, as Newbrough ultimately named the colony, would be a religious community and a refuge for thousands of indigent babies, far from the corruption of cities. As they prepared to leave a year later, the New York Times reassessed the colonists’ aims: “[the Faithists] have given no intelligible idea of what they want or seek to accomplish.”5

Newbrough and his Faithists founded a commune called Shalam in New Mexico to raise their orphans. They eventually took in 28 children, but the commune did not last long enough to become as well known as some other communal religions of the period. Read about the Faithists and the strange bible they followed at Cabinet magazine.  -via Metafilter

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