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"Assess the view that cults and sects are only fringe organisations that are inevitably short-lived and of little influence in contemporary society"

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Sociology of Religion: Cult and Sect Essay "Assess the view that cults and sects are only fringe organisations that are inevitably short-lived and of little influence in contemporary society" (40 Marks) A sect is a small religious group that has branched off a larger established religion. Sects have many beliefs and practices in common with the religion they have broken off from, but are differentiated by a number of theological differences. Sociologists use the word sect to refer to a religious group with a high degree of tension with the surrounding society, but whose beliefs are largely traditional. A cult, by contrast, also has a high degree of tension with the surrounding society, but its beliefs are new and innovative. Sects, in the sociological sense, are generally traditionalist and conservative, seeking to return a religion to its religious purity. Some cults actually meet their demise once their charismatic leader dies; no longer does the movement have any sort of leadership so it gradually fades away - although, New Religious Movements which fall into this category have been known to linger for additional decades or even centuries after the death of the charismatic leader. ...read more.


consists of individuals and groups who attempt to raise public consciousness about what they feel are extreme danger. As they see it, the threat comes from small, coercive, manipulative groups -- mostly new religious movements. Although they have been largely discredited in North America, their beliefs are accepted in many other countries, notably China and some countries in Western Europe. By comparison the counter-cult movement (a.k.a. CCM or discernment ministries) is composed primarily of conservative Protestant Christian individuals and agencies that attempt to raise public concern about religious groups which they feel hold dangerous, non-traditional beliefs. They are sometimes called heresy hunters or heresiologists. Adding 'fuel to the fire' of such movements allows them to increase the levels of public awareness about such cults; once members of the public are aware of such terrible accounts that have taken place at institutions such as Jonestown, people may take extra care in joining New Religious Movements in fear that a similar fate may lie ahead of them. Sects on the other hand continue to thrive as they remove the radical division between God (Good) and people (Bad) ...read more.


Sects more so allow people to follow the teachings of a traditional religion without certain aspects that don't suit their life. Cults offer a similar service, taking the "Whatever works for you" route. Sects and Cults therefore allow people to follow a faith with much more ease - hence another reason why they are not always shortlived. To conclude, I would disagree with the view that "cults and sects are only fringe organisations that are inevitably short-lived and of little influence in contemporary society". As illustrated in this essay you can quite clearly see that cults and sects have a huge influence on society, whether they are short-lived or not, incidents like The People's Temple will forever haunt (influence) society. Evidence to disprove the fact that cults and sects are short-lived can be found in The Quakers move from a sect to a denomination in the USA over the past few hundred years. Sects and Cults meet some of the specifications of religions and with society starting to see a decline in traditional religion and an increase in Holistic Milieu (Based off the Kendal Project, conducted by Heelas and Woodhead) I would expect for them both to continue to live on and grow over the years, decades or even centuries. Steven Bell MS10 Page 1 of 2 ...read more.

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