Religious organisations


Religious organisations

Churches, sects, denominations

  • Church:
    • Claim a monopoly of truth, their position is true and the views of other religious groups are false
    • Closely connected to the state
    • They have developed a hierarchical bureaucratic structure. There will be clear lines of seniority in the cleargy  and hold a number of rules and regulations
    • Mainstream, conservative organisations. Seek to be open and universal but are attractive to those on high incomes who have an interest in preserving society as it is
    • People are often born into a church, rather than choosing it
    • E.G Roman Catholic Church
  • Sect
    • Organisations that broke away from a church because they were dissatisfied with its teachings/practices
    • Claim a monoploy of truth, often hostile towards other religious organisations
    • Usually led by a charismatic leader
    • Small
    • Demand total commitment from members
    • Usually hostile to the state and mainstream society(world-rejecting)
    • Often made up of marginalised, deprived groups, such as poor people or from marginalised minority-ethic groups
    • E.G The People's Temple or Branch Davidians
  • Denominations
    • Not closely connected to the state and will comment and campaign on social issues
    • Their membership is larger than a sect but smaller than a church
    • Have some bureaucracy and hierarchy
    • They often do not claim a monopoly of truth, quite accepting of others
    • E.G Methodists and Baptists

Evaluating sociological definitions and explanations of these religious organisations

  • It is often the case with typologies that reality never quite fits the theory. Many religious organisations have some elements of more than one type. Also organisations change over time/ between different places. E.G Caholic church in Rome compared to UK
  • Religious pluralism concerning churches-harder to claim a monopoly of truth
  • In modern society it is less usual for most people in a society to belong to a church

New Age movements and cults

  • According to Wallis cults differ from sects in that they are very individualised, loosely-organised, tolerant and make very few demands on their adherents
  • Wallis, cults do not claim a monopoly of truth, nor condemn those who are not part of…


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