• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Evaluate the usefulness of the distinction between church and sect in explanation of the changing nature of religious beliefs and participation in modern society.

Extracts from this document...


Evaluate the usefulness of the distinction between church and sect in explanation of the changing nature of religious beliefs and participation in modern society. The proven decline of religion in modern society shows us that there has been a change in the nature of religious beliefs and religious participation. Religious pluralism is far more common nowadays yet simultaneously secularisation and the number of atheists are largely increasing. The concept of religious pluralism however does not support the idea of religious decline, but merely the changes and divisions that have come about within religious forms since people are far more liberal with their beliefs. Many researchers see the activity of a religious institution as the key element of religious behaviour. More specifically the significance of religion in modern society can be measured by church attendance. The statistics shown below indicate the way religion is declining. August Comte, a French functionalist, said that the decline in participation correlates with the transition from stage two to three of 'human history.' ...read more.


If therefore we are recognising the actual decline of religion as the key change then the distinction, in this case between church and sect, fails in efficacy. It in fact holds little relevance to decline which is the fundamental change taking place. In order to further assess the utility of this distinction we must first recognise the basis of it as both theoretical and methodological. Attention should be drawn to not only the sources that have been used to compose the theory behind this distinction, but also the methods by which they can be applied to a purpose or objective. The division between church and sect was composed by sociologist Ernst Troeltsch, in 1931, and is based on historic and contemporary sources regarding a range of different religious institutions. One assumes therefore that the norms he encountered engendered a systematic approach to divorcing certain religion types from others depending on their fundamental characteristics. One issue though that emerges here is whether this distinction holds validity if it reveals correlation rather that attribute. ...read more.


One could extract from this that the institution with the majority has the most desirable characteristics. The process of distinction would then indicate how certain qualities have become more appealing in modern society. For example, with greater social freedom in modern society the church has more stigma attatched due to tradition and legalism. One point Troeltsch mentioned for example was that sects are egalitarian while churches are hierarchal. One would assume then, that if we know that the church is in decline, that egalitarianism has become desirable. Again however, the distinction itself is useless in determining this unless we have statistics to indicate such things. And even though this would determine far more about which practices and beliefs are preferred, it would give little indication as to why it has come to be like this. This positivistic approach therefore fails to discover what we are looking for; phenomenological reason; vestehen. Most would agree that religion, as a system of beliefs, is far too personal to pigeon hole and rationalise. The question requires qualitative data but the process of distinction only offers quantitative data. We can not therefore utilise this information for the purpose we have. 1 Olivia Santiago ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Religion in the Media section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Religion in the Media essays

  1. The falsification principle offers no real challenge to religious beliefs

    For example, people could make up gods and believe them, and they could easily say that for them there belief in many gods is meaningful because even though they cannot prove their gods exist they may understand the existence of the gods, therefore their belief is meaningful.

  2. Discuss the merits of theories of secularisation with regard to religion in modern Britain

    In this respect, we will necessarily refer to the kind of problems that Berger has outlined. However, before we start to examine this concept in more detail it would be useful to note the following: REASONS FOR & AGAINST: On a commonsense level of understanding, the whole question of whether

  1. Assess the sociological for / against view of secularisation occurring.

    Overall Free Church membership declined slightly between 1980 and 1995, falling by around 3,400 or by just under 0.3 per cent. Membership of some non-Christian churches and other religious organisations has been increasing. Much of this increase is accounted for by the rises in the numbers of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Scientologists (Cult?).

  2. Is There A Decline In Religion...In Today's Society?

    Membership Hamilton also points out that fewer people are church members. Critics of the secularisation thesis point to the growth of new churches and the fact that ethnic-minority churches have pretty much held their own. However, it is clear that the big organisations such as the Church of England and

  1. To what extent were the witch hunts of the Early Modern Period the result ...

    Catholics believed that their traditional rituals such as these protected them from the evils of the devil and therefore they weren't as scared of him as they could have been, these 'magical' rituals that helped them face him. Consequently, with the Reformation, the reformers' decision to reject the practises of

  2. Crusading Began with religious passion but quickly progressed into cynical self interest." To what ...

    Crusaders were certainly motivated by the benefits of church indulgence and protection, but perhaps, even at this early stage, cynical self-interest was a motivating factor. Riley Smith argues that there was concern that the crusaders were motivated by the possibility of financial reward.

  1. Discuss the merits of theories of secularisation with regard to religion in modern Britain

    While David Martin see this as being concerned with "the ecclesiastical institution, and specifically with any decline in its power, wealth, influence, range of control and prestige." The Church as an institution has lost many of its former functions it performed in pre-industrial societies, such as education and social welfare, making it become a social institution.

  2. How helpful is Wimpole Hall as a source in helping us understand the religious ...

    The grounds around the hall have also been developed for fashion. There is conspicuous consumption in the Chinese bridge that gives an all round impression of the owners as well traveled. Another building designed to impress is the folly. On the inside, the brickwork is small and new but the

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work