Here’s How This Religious Sect Copied Adam And Eve’s Lifestyle

It’s been 2,000 years of Christianity, and people still can’t agree on how to do it right: Which books belong in the Bible? Are statues okay in church? When Jesus said, “This is my body,” was that … like … a metaphor? And when he said “Love your enemies,” he was only kidding, right?

As you might suspect, these and many other controversies have led to the creation of endless Christian sects, all of which were convinced that they had finally, totally nailed the practice of Scripture’s teachings — some of which have historically fared better than others. Different schools of thought on Christian theology range all the way from the Catholic Church — at more than a billion adherents worldwide, according to the BBC — to sects of one, like your crazy uncle who’s convinced Satan lives in his underwear drawer. They range from totally celibate, like the Shakers (via PBS), to, um, totally naked, like the Adamites.

Yep — the Adamites, in case you’re unfamiliar, were a sect of Hussites living in the 15th century who were convinced that God wanted them to strip off their clothes and prance around like hippies. And if you’re wondering how they reached that conclusion … read on.

The Adamites just kind of walked out of Tabor and stripped naked

There were forerunners to the Christian nudists who called themselves the Adamites — St. Augustine wrote of a similar sect in the fifth century, e.g. (via History of Yesterday) — but the story of the modern Adamites begins with Jan Hus, a Czech theologian living at the turn of the 15th century. Hus was one of the first to speak out publicly against medieval Catholic corruption, and like Martin Luther after him, particularly objected to the selling of indulgences as a means of enriching the Church on the backs of the poor; unlike Martin Luther, though, Hus didn’t have any powerful princes to protect him when the Catholics showed up to burn him at the stake.

Following Hus’ death in 1415, his followers, the Hussites, gradually divided into various sects, including a particularly radical one called the Taborites. The Taborites declared an end to monarchy, servitude, taxation, and private property — from now on, they promised, all people would be equal. As you might expect, though, some people turned out to be more equal than others, and they ended up expelling a leader named Peter Kanis, who led several hundred followers away from Tabor — all of whom immediately stripped naked (via The Historian’s Hut).

Or, as early modern writer Lawrence of Březová put it: “Wandering through forests and hills, some of them fell into such insanity that men and women threw off their clothes and went nude, saying … they were in a state of innocence” (via Medievalists.net).

Here's what we (kinda, sorta) know about the naked Adamites

As with nearly all small, defunct sects, the usual disclaimers apply: Most of what we know about the Adamites comes from writers who had every motivation to paint them in the worst possible light. That said, though, we can say a few things about them with a fair amount of certainty.

The Adamites believed themselves to have achieved a sort of sinlessness like pre-Fall Adam — they could be naked because they were innocent like Adam and Eve before the talking-snake incident. Beyond that, we don’t know much, but several contemporary writers accused them of having endless debauched orgies, because, well, what else would naked people be up to? According to Lawrence, the Adamites practiced free love, and when the inevitable pregnancies happened, they were said to have been “conceived of the Holy Spirit” (via Medievalists.net). At the other end of the spectrum was Enea Silvio Piccolomini (later Pope Pius II), who acknowledged their promiscuity but wrote that no Adamite was allowed to “take a lover” without the consent of “Adam” (their chief elder).

Regardless, the Adamites didn’t last long, mainly because the Taborites still had it in for them. First, they accused the Adamites of raiding their supplies (strange choice for a sect that didn’t believe in private property, but we digress), and then used it as a pretense to invade, burn their leaders alive, and wipe them out. So the new Eden had one more thing in common with the old Eden: it was done in by petty human nature.

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