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Anabaptists, whose name means rebaptizers, are a subset of Protestant Christianity. The name was given to them by critics who objected to their practice of baptizing adults who had already been baptized as infants. Anabaptists embrace this practice because they infant baptism to be invalid, that only an adult's conscious decision to embrace Christ can form the basis of a valid baptism. Christian groups who believe that the state of an infant's soul is endangered by the absence of baptism typically find the Anabaptist's doctrines very harmful.

It should be noted that historically the term Anabaptist has often been used simply to refer to religious, political, or philosophical radicalism as such rather than adherents to specific Anabaptist doctrines.

Designation and definition

The first historically known expressions of Anabaptist beliefs date from the second century, although Anabaptists themselves consider their beliefs established in the Bible. Many early Christians denied infant baptism, practiced what is known as believer's baptism, and rebaptized those baptized by heretics. However, by the sixth century the early Church seems to have decisively rejected Anabaptist doctrines and there is no established historical continuity between these second century Christians and any group of modern Anabaptists.

While the name Anabaptist means rebaptizer, Anabaptists do not think of themselves as such. They believe that infant baptism (and often baptism by certain other Christian denominations or baptism not done by immersion) is not valid and thus the people they "rebaptize" were never actually baptized a first time.

The term Anabaptist may legitimately be used to describe any Protestant Christian group which baptizes Christians previously baptized as infants or as members of some other Christian group. More generally, it can be used to refer to any Christian group which traces its roots to the Radical Reformation. Anabaptists are not a uniform group and many diverse denominations may fairly be styled Anabaptist.