While churches have a history of stretching over many centuries, sects by contrast are often short-lived organisations, sometimes lasting only a single generation.
Denomination or death
- Niebuhr argues that world-rejecting sects arise from a schism (splitting due to disagreement over religious doctrine).
- Sects are short-lived and either die out, or they compromise with the world, abandon their extreme ideas and become a denomination.
- Reasons for this:
1) The second generation lack the commitment and fervour of their parents.
2) The 'Protestant ethic' effect occurs whereby members wish to compromise with the world so that they may prosper in wealth.
3) The death of the leader often can cause a sect to collapse.
The sectarian cycle
- Stark and Bainbridge see religious organisations moving through a cycle: