Religious organisations : SECT

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  • Created by: Lilly
  • Created on: 19-05-14 16:44


Troeltsch (1912)- A sect is a small organisation that has brokenaway from a church or denomination.

  • Hostile/ indifferent to outside society
  • Intolerant of other groups, claiming monopoly on the truth
  • Attract LC/ WC
  • Opposed to / persecuated by the state. Often ostricised by society.
  • High demand of committment, withdrawn from society.
  • Usually led by a charasmastic leader


Jehova's Witnesses

Jim Jone's Peoples Temple


Black muslims

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  • Not Bureacratic and hierarchical, more egalitarian- have charasmatic leader, but other than this leadership is shared equally.
  • Radical in nature- reject dominant beleifs in society, replace mainstream norms with their own beliefs.
  • Withdrawal- members expected to withdraw from soceity, tigh control of lives, often in breakaway societies (People's Temple moved from USA to jungle)
  • Closed/ controlled membership- self selective. Close knit communities and hostile / suspicious of non-members
  • Intolerant of others- exclusive, make up a minority, tend to attract epople from marginalised positions in society.
  • World rejecting - Wallis- sects critical of outside world, demand significant life changes, require high levels of committment.

Stark and Bainbridge- sects promise their members 'other worldly benefits' to those who reject what the world denies them such as entrance to heavan.

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Wilson - 6 types of sects:

1) Conversionists- world is evil, needs to be saved by converting people to the 'true path' - Nation of Islam

2) Revolutionist- second coming is soon, millinerian movements- 7th day adventists

3) Introversionist- withdraw from society, Moonies

4) Manipulatist- offer set of teachings/ rituals for life success

5) Thaumturgical- ''magical healing' / 'miracles' from magical sources

6) Reformist- desire to change society, not necessarily revolutionary- Quakerism

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Dynamicism of sects.

Concerned with how and why they change overtime. Some suggest sects are short-lived or over timr will either die out or turn into denominations.


  • Becker- World rejecting movements commitment is hard to maintain. Niebhur- commitment is hard to maintain after the 1st generation, difficult to maintian levels with children. Will either die out or become less protest to accomodate others. This is why Becker refers to a 'denomination as a sect cooled down.'
  • Loss of charasmatic leader- inspirational personal magnetism/ leadership attracted people, often lose support following their death.
  • People's reasons for joining (RD, marginalisty) may cease to be relevant. Bruce- as they grow older, reasons why they joined begin to disappera.
  • Religious diversity in postmodern society, characterised by fragmented belief and widespread diversity of belief. Greater tolerance for a range of beliefs.
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Dynamicism of sects 2

Not all sects are short lived:

Aldrige- idea that sects have become denominations/ breakdown is false because:

  • many exist a long time while retaining features of a sect, Jehova's Witnesses
  • Not all dependent on charasmatic leaderhip.
  • Many are successful in socialising children into acceptance of beliefs.

Wilson :  Established sects- Jehovas EGs of long standing groups that have remained sect like features.

Conversionist- most likely to develop into denomincation- way to save world is to interact with it, win support= turn into denomination, doesn't prevent them carrying on as they did before.

Introversionist- unable to survive as denomination-withdraw from world, preaching outside seen as corrupt/ polluting experience, comprosmising fundamental beliefs.

Adventist/ revolutionary- unable to be sect due to millinarian beleifs

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