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Assess the view that cults and sects are fringe organisations that are inevitably short lived and of little influence on contemporary society. (33 marks)

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´╗┐Yana Garcia Mander 13.0 hw. Assess the view that cults and sects are fringe organisations that are inevitably short lived and of little influence on contemporary society. Cults and sects are often hard to differentiate from one another, as a lot of them have very similar features such as a world-rejecting values and the offer of alternative explanations to traditional beliefs. According to Troeitsch, sects tend to be small, tight-knitted groups of individuals that often disagree with mainstream values and attempt to change society for the better. Cults on the other hand, are loosely knit, require a lot less commitment and do not always hold concrete beliefs. While some sects are low profile and harmless, others carry out horrific actions and rituals which have become apparent to the public through the media, such as 'Heaven?s Gate': a sect that conducted mass suicides as a way of gaining access to heaven, and the 'People?s Temple', a sect lead by the Reverend Jim Jones who famously drove a mass suicide in a jungle campsite in South America. ...read more.


In 1985, Stark and Bainbridge developed the 'Sectarian Cycle' which showed the four stages that sects tend to go through. Beginning with 'schism' the group breaks away from traditional religions to a world-rejecting sect which leads to 'initial fervour' which is when the members are initially enthusiastic and involved the group, however over the years the sect will lessen in its appeal which can then lead to 'denominationalism'. This is when the group is no longer considered a sect as they become less controversial and more world-accommodating, as a means to gain and maintain members. This confirms the idea that sects are extremely short-lived, as they either disappear due to lack of membership, or alternatively they become a denomination. However, there is also evidence that sects can flourish in society and last for much longer than many sociologists assume. The 'Aum Shinrikyo' sect for example, were responsible for numerous gas attacks on the public of Japan, and had began to decline in size when their leader was imprisoned for murder. ...read more.


In a globalised, individualistic and impersonal world, members of society are faced a number of problems sects and cults offer solutions for, e.g. offering a simple path to happiness, success and fulfilment in our everyday lives. Those who experience relative deprivation often seek salvation in world-affirming movements. They provide guidance on how individuals can optimise their achievements, and inject a refreshing element of spirituality into their life. In conclusion, the statement that sects and cults are ?fringe organisations? that are short lived and of little impact on wider society seems to be a reasonable one; many sociologists have commented on the relatively short lifespan of cults and sects, and evidence adds support to their claims. However, it is rather narrow-minded to presume that all sects and cults follow this path, and in contemporary society, the importance of these so called ?fringe organisations? may grow substantially. From providing support during periods of anomie, to giving people an element of spirituality in their otherwise secular lives. Certainly, churches are larger, more established and more influential than sects and cults, it is argued, but perhaps the importance of the smaller religious organisations in the modern world is underestimated. ...read more.

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