Religious Organizations

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  • Religious organizations
    • Churches and sects
      • Weber (1920) and Troeltsch (1931) distinguished difference. Church- large, well established body- mainstream organizations.
      • Sect- small, less highly-organized grouping of committed believers. Usually set up in protest of what church has become.
      • World-Rejecting
    • Denominations
      • Becker (1950)- denomination is a sect that has 'cooled down' to become an institutionalized body rather than an active protest group.
      • Niebuhr (1929)- sects that survive over a period of time become denominations. Bureaucratic, non-hierarchical structure becomes necessary one the charismatic leader dies. Rarely survive longer than a decade. (sects.)
      • Gradually evolve into a more accepted offshoot of an established church.
      • No longer claim a monopoly of truth. Low level of commitment.
    • Cults
      • Least coherent form of religious organization. Individual experience, like-minded individuals brought together.
    • Theories
      • Postmodernity and organized religion
        • The advent of postmodern society has resulted in
          • Previously powerful religious organizations becoming less significant
          • An increase in fundamental factions within major world religions.
          • New types of religious movements and networks, and the development of the 'spiritual shopper'.
        • Lyotard (1984)- society is characterized by a loss of confidence in meta-narratives.
        • Newer expressions of religiosity have become more individualistic and less socially divisive - enabling individuals to restore meaning to their lives without having to rely on religious institutions imposing monopoly of truth.
      • Fundamentalism
        • Holden (2002), fundamentalist movements, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, offer hope, direction and certainty in a world that seems increasingly insecure, confusing and morally lost.
        • Fundamentalism can lead to violence.
          • Beliefs can be so strong as to overcome any respect or compassion for others- overcome basic human values of preserving one's own life and lives of others.
          • Examples: Bombing of abortion clinics (USA), attacks on Pentagon and World Trade Center Towers (9/11) suicide bomb attacks in Madrid (2004), London bombings (2005)
    • New Religious/ New Age Movements
      • Difficulties in measuring affiliation in UK
        • Many of the organizations have a large number of followers who are not formally registered in any way. It is estimated that 30,000 people have attended meditation courses.
        • Some groups have disbanded their organizations but still have 'devotees'. E.g. Divine Light- once initiated, practice meditation techniques independently.
        • Many organizations are based overseas and their supporters in the UK are not traceable.
        • Commitment required varies- those who devote themselves full time to their movement are generally quite visible, part-time commitment is harder to identify.
      • World-Affirming
        • Individualistic, life-positive, aim to release 'human potential'.
        • Do not require radical break with a conventional lifestyle, doesn't restrict members' behaviour.
        • Middle-aged, middle-class.
          • Scientology
      • World-Rejecting
        • Highly critical of outside world.
        • Significant commitment from members
          • The Moonies
            • Korea, rejects mundane secular world as evil and strong moral rules.
          • The mass suicide of Jim Jones' People's Temple, Jonestown, 1987
          • Suicidal death of 39 members of Heaven's gate. California 1997.
        • Exclusive, share possessions and seek to relegate members' identities to that of the greater whole. Millenarian.
        • Signs of cultist behaviour
          • Control of organization stems from absolute leader, elite commanders.
          • Infallibility- experiential panacea, only one path to salvation and all others are worthless.
          • Leader derived from the abandonment of critical and rational thinking.
          • Members are encouraged to sever communications and relationships with friends and family members.
          • Certain teachings are 'secret' and must never be revealed to the outside world.
          • Members of the cult are encouraged to believe they were chosen, or made their choice to join the cult because they are special or superior.
          • Leaving the cult, failing at one's endeavor to complete the requirements to achieve its panacea, will result in consequences greater than if one had never joined the cult in the first place.
      • World-Accomdating
        • The Holy Spirit 'speaks' through the Neo-Pentecostalists giving them the gift to 'Speak in tongues'.
        • Contact the spirits of the dead. Inspirations from Buddhism.
    • Appeal of NRMs and NAMs
      • Spiritual Void
      • Pragmatic motives
      • Marginality
      • Relative deprivation
  • Appeal of NRMs and NAMs
    • Spiritual Void
    • Pragmatic motives
    • Marginality
    • Relative deprivation

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