Types of religious organisations

Sects, cults, demoninations

  • Created by: Sarah
  • Created on: 23-05-11 19:56


Church are:

- Large oganisations

- Million of members such as the Catholic Church

- Run by a bureaucratic heirarchy of professional priests

- Claim a monopoly of the truth

- Universalistic, aiming to include the whole of society

- They tend to attract the higher classes because they are ideologically conservative and often closely linked to the state.

- The British Sovereign is head of both the state and the C of E.

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Sects are:

- Small, exclusive groups

- Hostile to wider society

- They expect a high level of commitment

- Demanding

- They draw their members from the poor and oppressed.

- Many are led by a charasmatic leader rather than a bureaucratic heirarchy

- Monopoly of religious truth

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Neibuhr describes denominations such as METHODISM as lyind midway between churches and sects.

- Membership is less exclusive than a sect

- They accept society's values but are not linked to the state

- They impose some minor restrictions on member such as forbidding alcohol.

- Tolerant of other organisations, therefore do NOT claim the monopoly of truths.

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- Highly individualistic

- Small grouping around some shared themes and interests

- Usually led by practitioners or therapists wo clam special knowledge

- Tolerant of other organisations and their beliefs

- Do not demand strong commitment

- World affirming, claiming to improve the world.

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World Rejecting NRM's

- They are clearly religious organisations with a clear notion of God.

- They are highly critical of the outside world and they expect or seek radical change.

- To acheive salvation, members must make a sharp break with their former life

- Members live communally, with restricted contact with the outside world. The movement controls all aspects of their lives.

- They often have conservative moral codes, for example about sex.

EXAMPLES: Moonies, Children of God, the Manson Family, the People's temple.

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World Accomodating NRM's

- Breakaways from existing mainstream churches or denominations.

- They neither accept nor reject the world

- They focus on religious rather than worldly matters, seeking to restore the spiritual purity of religion.

EXAMPLES: Neo-pentecostalists believe that Christian religions have lost the Holy spirit.

- Members tend to lead conventional lives.

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World Affirming NRM's

- They offer followers access to spiritual or supernatural powers

- Not highly organised

- They accept the world as it is. They are optimistic and promise followers success in terms of mainstream goals and values, such as careers and relationships

- Tolerant of other religions

- Most are cults, whose followers are often customers rather than members

- Most successful of the movements such as Scientology had about 165,000

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Evaluation of NRM's

Wallis offers a useful way of classifying the new religious movements that have developed in recent decades.

However some argue that it is not clear whether he is categorising them according to the movements teachings or individual members' beliefs. He also ignores the diversity of beliefs that may exist within an NRM.

Stark and Bainbridge reject the idea of constructing typologies altogether. Instead they argue that we should distinguish between religious organisations using just one criterion - the degree of conflict or tension between the religious group and wider society.

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