Religious Organisations



the classification of religious organisations was first undertaken by Weber (1920) and developed by Troeltsch (1931)

a large, formal religious organisation most commonly associated with Christianity 

  • large formal organisation
  • hierarchy of paid officials 
  • automatic recruitment
  • tried to appeal to all members of society 
  • may have a close relationship with the state
  • accepts wider society
  • claims a monopoly of truth 
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smaller, formal religious organisations 

  • Neibuhr (1929) 
  • develop from sects that have broken away from the main church 
  • have a hierarchy of paid officials
  • tries to appeal to all members of society 
  • no claim on monopoly 
  • accept religious diversity 
  • no close relationship wit the state
  • may not fully accept wider society 
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small religious groups often hostile towards the outside world 

  • Troelstch
  • small orginsation with no professional hierarchy 
  • headed by a charismatic leader
  • exclusive membership
  • no automatic recruitment 
  • requires total commitment
  • opposed to the state and wider society 
  • claims a monopoly on religious truths 
  • born out of conflict resulting in a breakaway group from the church 
  • normally over wealth 
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Stark and Bainbridge (1985)

  • cults have no previous link with a religious group
  • audience cults - people participate in lectures and buy books and have a low level of commitment. They are often highly individualistic and not organised and sustained through media 
  • client cults - occasaional meetings when clients have specific needs, e.g. power within courses. This is a profitable cult
  • cult movements -  membership is requires and there is movement towards a sect, They are organised and have regular meetings 

Wallis (1985)

  • minimal organisation with no developed theology 
  • limited formal contact
  • no control over members lives
  • no claim on monopoly 
  • affirm life to this world, often with vague mystical elements 
  • short lived
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