The Appeal of Religious Organisations


7 reasons for the rise in Religious Organisations

1. Marginality and Theodicy of Disprivledge   

2. Relative Deprivation   

3. Pragmatic Motives  

4. Protest  

5. Secularisation   

6. Social change or disruption  

7. Globalisation and The Media

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Marginality and the Theodicy of Deprivation

Weber (1922)= argues that sects tend to appeal to people who feel 'marginalised' in society (pushed to the edge). Weber believes that Sects are based on a 'Theodicy of Disprivledge': this offers an explanation for suffering and offers the idea of an afterlife or 'divine revolution'. Sects also offer integration, support and status which is denied in wider society.

AO2- Bellah (1974)= says that this helps explain the high membership of Black Americans in NRM'S since WW2 e.g. black Muslims.


  • Barker (1984) 'The making of a moonie'= when studying the 'Moonies', Barker found that most members came from happy, affluent (well-off) middle-class backgrounds.

Counter- Argument

  • Wallis (2004)= Despite Barkers criticism, Wallis points out that most of these middle class members did feel marginalised as they were 'stop-outs' drug-users and hippies and therefore did feel marginalised within their middle class backgrounds. 
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Relative Deprivation

Stark and Brainbridge (1985)= disagree with the marginalisation argument in that it confines membership to NRMs to the poverty stricken working class; whilst ignoring the fact that NRMs attract a high proportion of middle class individuals. 

  • Large members of middle class people in America have joined NRMs because they feel deprived compared to others in a materialistic society. 
  • Even though these people are not deprived materially, they feel 'spiritually deprived'- (often described as 'spiritual vacuum'.
  • This might explain the growth in NAMs amongst the middle class.
  • Also, the growth in world- accomadating Church membership allows members to balence their lives between the material world and the spirital realm. 
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Pragmatic Motives

Heelas (1996)= suggests that many NRMs appeal to the wealthy and highly educated who use religious organisations as 'escapes' from the pressures of work and family life. The NRMs give followers 'a break' from reality and as such the followers gain respite from their hectic lives- which allows them to function and be successful. NRMs can teach techniques that inspire people to achieve emotionally and materially.

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Glock and Stark (1965)= say people join Sects as a form of protest against society. Sects help unite people who have suffered or who struggle within mainstream society. This Sect membership becomes a symbol for rebellion. This might help explain the growth in NRMs + NAMs within society as people may be disillusioned with the liberal nature of the post-modern world. 

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Social change or disruption

Wilson (1982)= argues that people are more likely to turn to NRMs during times of social upheaval or disruption to the norm e.g war, natural disaster. During these times people are likely to experience feelings of normlessness; uncertainity and insecurity. NRMs offer certainty, security and structure during these times.

Cohn (1999)= agrees with this idea and points out that there was a growth in NRMs within the Medieval time period, where they experienced the plague, famine and war.

Bellah (1974)= During the 1960s and the Vietnam War, many young Americans joined the Hippy Movement which went hand in hand with NRMs + NAMs.

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Bauman (1992)= In post-modern world, with so many conflicting ideologies and beliefs, people experience a 'Crisis of Meaning' and such form and join NRMs to retain some control and normality. Many traditional Churches have watered down their beliefs in contempoary society making people feel they need to reassert their beliefs through NRMs. 

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Globalisation and The Media

Baudrillard (1970)= the post- modernist world is saturated by the media and as such people are more aware of, and have more access to, different and new types of NRMs. Religion is fast becoming a 'fashionable' with younger generations, thanks to celebrity endorsements and profiles. e.g. Tom Cruise and John Travolta are part of Scientology. 

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