types of religious organisations

  • Created by: Gemma
  • Created on: 25-04-12 17:48

Sociologists are interested in the different types of religious organisation, their development and membership

church and sect

Troeltsch distinguished between two main types of organisation - church and sect

  • Churches are large, with millions of members, place few demands on members, have a bureaucratic hierarchy, claim a monopoly of truth and are universalistic, ideologically conservative and linked to the state
  • Sects are small, exclusive groups demanding a real commitment from members, are hostile to wider society, recruit from the poor and oppressed, often have charismatic leadership and believe they have a monopoly of religious truth

denomination and cult

  • Niebuhr (1929) identifies denominations (eg Methodism) as a midway between churches and sects. Membership is less exclusive, they broadly accept societies values and are not linked to the state and impose some minor restrictions, but are not as demanding as sects and tolerant of other religions
  • Cults are the least organised of all religious groups. They are highly individualistic, small loose knit groupings without a sharply defined belief system. Many are world affirming. 

new religious movements

since the 1960s, there has been a big increase in NRMs eg. the Moonies, Scientology etc. Wallis (1984) categories NRMs…


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