Types of religious organisation - Notes

Notes on the different types of religious organisations: including sect, cults, churches, denominations and NRMs (new religious movements)
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  • Created on: 04-04-12 10:44
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Types of religious organization
Individuals express faith through membership of a religious organization `RO' (e.g. church)
Ernst Troeltsch (first to attempt to identify features of diff types of `RO'. Distinguished between two
main types:
Other types identified .... Richard Niebuhr describes denominations (e.g. Methodism) `lying
midway between churches and sects)
Similarities and differences: Roy Wallis (1974) = highlights 2 characteristics
1. How they see themselves. Churches and sects claim that their interpretation of faith is the
only legitimate/correct one. Denominations and cults accept can be many.
2. How they are seen in wider society. Churches and denominations = respectable and
legitimate, sects and cults = deviant.
From cathedrals to cults: Argued descriptions don't fit today's reality.
Bruce: monopoly only applies to Catholic Church before 16th cent protestant reformation when
symbolized by massive imposing cathedrals. Sects and Cults flourished since then= religious diversity
become the norm. Today churches= no longer truly churches since lost monopoly and reduced to status
of denominations competing with the rest.
New religious movements: e.g. unification church/ `Moonies', the children of god, transcendental
meditation (TM), Krishna consciousness and many more.
Wallis: categorizes these NRM -> 3 groups based on relationship to outside world, whether reject,
accommodate/ affirm.


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