Apostasy is the formal disaffiliation from, abandonment of, or renunciation of a religion by a person. It can be defined within the broader context of embracing an opinion, contrary to one's previous religious beliefs. One who undertakes apostasy is known as an apostate. Undertaking apostasy is called apostatizing; the term apostasy is used by sociologists to mean the renunciation and criticism of, or opposition to, a person's former religion, in a technical sense, with no pejorative connotation. The term is used metaphorically to refer to the renunciation of a non-religious belief or cause, such as a political party, social movement, or sports team. Apostasy is not a self-definition: few former believers call themselves apostates due to the term's negative connotation. Many religious groups and some states punish apostates; such punishments may include shunning, verbal abuse, physical violence or execution. Examples of punishment by death for apostates can be found in the Sharia law and they are imposed on apostates in certain Islamic countries.

As of 2014, about a quarter of the world’s countries and territories had anti-blasphemy laws or policies, of which 13 nations, all Muslim-majority, have the death penalty for apostasy. The American sociologist Lewis A. Coser defines an apostate as not just a person who experienced a dramatic change in conviction but "a man who in his new state of belief, is spiritually living not in the content of that faith, in the pursuit of goals appropriate to it, but only in the struggle against the old faith and for the sake of its negation."The American sociologist David G. Bromley defined the apostate role as follows and distinguished it from the defector and whistleblower roles. Apostate role: defined as one that occurs in a polarized situation in which an organization member undertakes a total change of loyalties by allying with one or more elements of an oppositional coalition without the consent or control of the organization; the narrative documents the quintessentially evil essence of the apostate's former organization chronicled through the apostate's personal experience of capture and ultimate escape/rescue.

Defector role: an organizational participant negotiates exit with organizational authorities, who grant permission for role relinquishment, control the exit process and facilitate role transmission. The jointly constructed narrative assigns primary moral responsibility for role performance problems to the departing member and interprets organizational permission as commitment to extraordinary moral standards and preservation of public trust. Whistle-blower role: defined here as when an organization member forms an alliance with an external regulatory agency through personal testimony concerning specific, contested organizational practices that the external unit uses to sanction the organization; the narrative constructed jointly by the whistle blower and regulatory agency is depicts the whistle-blower as motivated by personal conscience, the organization by defense of the public interest. Stuart A. Wright, an American sociologist and author, asserts that apostasy is a unique phenomenon and a distinct type of religious defection in which the apostate is a defector "who is aligned with an oppositional coalition in an effort to broaden the dispute, embraces public claims-making activities to attack his or her former group."

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, considers the recanting of a person's religion a human right protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: The Committee observes that the freedom to'have or to adopt' a religion or belief entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views... Article 18.2 bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to their religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert. As early as the 3rd century AD, apostasy against the Zoroastrian faith in the Sasanian Empire was criminalized; the high priest, instigated pogroms against Jews, Christians and others in effort to solidify the hold of the state religion. As the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its state religion, apostasy became formally criminalized in the Theodosian Code, followed by the Corpus Juris Civilis.

The Justinian Code went on to form the basis of law in most of Western Europe during the Middle Ages and so apostasy was persecuted to varying degrees in Europe throughout this period and into the early modern period. Eastern Europe inherited many of its legal traditions regarding apostasy from the Romans, but not from the Justinian Code. With the rise of Islam came a relative religious tolerance in the Middle Eastern regions; as the Middle Ages progressed, the successive Islamic caliphates began to enforce their own laws against apostasy modeled on those of the Romans and the Europeans. The term "atrocity story" is controversial as it relates to the differing views amongst scholars about the credibility of the accounts of former members. Bryan R. Wilson, Reader Emeritus of Sociology of the University of Oxford, says apostates of new religious movements are in need of self-justification, seeking to reconstruct their

Execution of George Spencer

George Spencer was the first non-native person to be executed in Connecticut. Amongst his charges was sodomy after an alleged sexual act with an animal. George Spencer is described as an balding servant with a glass eye, he is believed to have lived for a time in Boston and while there was found guilty of receiving stolen goods. His punishment was a flogging, he moved to the New Haven Colony, continued to be a "habitual troublemaker". He was open about his lack of faith, never praying in the years of being in Connecticut and only reading the Bible when forced to by his master; when a sow gave birth to a malformed, one-eyed piglet it was considered a manifestation of God's proof of Spencer's sins. Spencer was arrested, the Puritan authorities deemed the birth a work of God, they believed. He was charged with "prophane, atheistical carriage, in unfaithfulness and stubbornness to his master, a course of notorious lying, scoffing at the ordinances and people of God". Spencer was told that "he that confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall finde mercie", but it was never made clear to him whether this mercy related to the proceedings of the court or those of God.

Having witnessed a repentant child molester being whipped for his crime Spencer believed that his best option was to confess. On the realisation that this might lead to a death sentence he retracted his statement, he repeated this retraction again, trying to find the best solution to his situation. When the trial began the magistrates knew the necessity of having two witnesses to the crime, they used Spencer's retracted confessions as one witness and the stillborn piglet as the other, ruling that this was sufficient to determine his guilt. On April 8, 1642, the sow was put to death by the sword and Spencer was hanged. Spencer's death was early in the history of Connecticut and is reported to be only the second execution to take place in Connecticut and the first of a non-Native American. In 1645, Thomas Hogg, another servant in New Haven, was imprisoned for several months for similar crimes. A sow gave birth to two deformed piglets. However, Hogg never confessed to the crime, the requirement of finding two witnesses could not be met.

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A Show of Hands (TV series)

A Show of Hands is a series of short films created by puppeteer Tim Lagasse for Nickelodeon. It was a predecessor to the television program Oobi; each film is about one minute long and follows personified hands as they perform a small skit or a visual illusion. The series started airing on Nickelodeon as an interstitial program in 1992, reruns were shown through 1997; the title is a reference to the phrase "show of hands," used to refer to a television show about hands. Lagasse wrote and performed A Show of Hands at the University of Connecticut while earning his BFA in Puppet Arts; the series was shot in black and white, with the exception of the vanity card that appears at the end of each film. After the conclusion of the series, Lagasse went to work as a director and performer on Nickelodeon's Oobi, which features similar bare hand puppets as characters, his work on A Show of Hands was. The films were positively won awards from UNIMA and Broadcast Design International. In 2001, Lagasse began performing an extended live version of the Show of Hands skits at the HERE Arts Center in New York.

The films include recurring elements. Each film opens with seven white-gloved hands forming a cartoonish face that announces, "And now, Nickelodeon presents A Show of Hands." The hands present the main part of the short. It involves individual hands silently acting out skits. Once the short finishes, an audience of hands gives a big round of applause; the films close with a shot of the Nickelodeon logo on a hand painted orange. The films were shot at the University of Connecticut, they were made in 1991. The series' opening sequence was filmed under blacklight. In the shorts proper, the background was entirely black, but the puppeteers' hands were bare and certain set pieces were made visible through the use of followspots on particular stage areas. According to Lagasse, the films were "based on earlier work." In 1992, The New York Times reported. MTV's parent company, acquired the films but aired them on its children's network Nickelodeon instead. A Nickelodeon vanity card was created for the films.

They premiered as an interstitial program in 1992, reruns were shown through 1997. They were aired internationally, including on the Australian branch of Nickelodeon in 2000. On November 16, 2001, Lagasse debuted an extended live version of A Show of Hands at the HERE Arts Center in New York City. Unlike in the television version, Lagasse did not use gloves; each performance lasted one hour and incorporated a blend of new material and techniques from the original films. Tim Lagasse - lead performer Jim Napolitano - ensemble puppeteer History of Nickelodeon