Topic 6 - Organisations, movements and members


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Types of religious organisation:
Church Denomination
Hierarchal Breakaway from the Church
Linked to the state Less hierarchal
Conservative Generally conservative but broadly accept society's
Membership = Universalist and open. Members values - concerned with 'everyday morality'
integrate with society Universalist with open membership BUT tend to rely
Have monopoly on the truth on conversion and family ties
E.g. Church of England See themselves as one of many explanations of
Wallis - 'world accommodating' - try and make the
world a better place, focus on spirituality
E.g. Methodists
Cult Sect
Loose structure No distinct structure - one charismatic leader
emphasis opportunity and success Radical - advocate a return to pure religion
open membership Closed and controlled membership - members
tolerant of other religions - do not have monopoly withdraw from society
on the truth intolerant of others and see themselves as the only
Wallis - 'world affirming' - offer success and truth
betterment through spiritual teaching. Aim to make Wallis - 'world rejecting' - highly critical of the outside
the world a better place world: often aim to create social change
Stark and Bainbridge - cults promise members 'this Stark and Bainbridge - sects offer 'other worldly
worldly benefits' such as good health benefits' such as a place in heaven
E.g. Scientology E.g. Jones Town
Subdivisions of Cults - Stark and Bainbridge:
Subdivide cults dependent on levels of organisation
1. Cultic Movements - most organised and demand high levels of commitment (e.g. Scientology)
2. Client Cults - based on relationship between consultant and client. Services offer fulfilment and self
discovery (e.g. Homeopathy)
3. Audience Cults - least organised, no formal commitment. Participation via media
Explaining the growth of religious movements:
1. Weber: Marginality
Sects arise in groups who are marginal to society and who may feel disprivileged
Sects offer a solution: 'theodicy of disprivilege' - a religious explanation and justification for their
disadvantage and suffering (may be explained as a test of faith)
However since 1960s sect like world-rejecting NRMs such as the Moonies have recruited from more
affluent groups - may be because they had become marginalised
2. Relative Deprivation
Someone who is fairly privileged may feel they are deprived compared to others
m/c are materially well off but may feel spiritually deprived in today's world - Wallis argues they may
turn to sects for the sense of community that they offer
3. Social Change
Wilson - periods of rapid change undermine social norms and values. In response to uncertainty
and insecurity, may turn to sects for sense of community
Bruce - growth of sects in response to changes involved in modernisation and secularisation.
Attracted less to traditional religion which requires too much commitment and sacrifices

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Features of the New Age:
No formal organisation
Ritual behaviour
There are many truths
Members integrate in society
Commitment to spiritual growth
Growth of the New Age:
Modern society values individualism, a key principle of the New Age
New Age beliefs are less demanding and require less self discipline - easier to participate in
New Age offers a source of authentic identity, in a society where we have many roles
New Age offers an alternative way to achieve perfection
New Age provides certainty…read more


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