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Critically Examine Sociological Explanations For The Emergence And Growth Of Religious Sects In An Apparently Secular Society.

5617 words - 22 pages

The widely accepted definition of a sect is a religious group with characteristics, which distinguishes it from either a Church or a denomination. Many groups which fit this definition now prefer the less contentious title of "new religious movements", because over the last fifty years, sects have become linked with brainwashing, mass suicide, and even a murder. One of the examples is the suicide of 900 members of the People's temple.Sects are not a new phenomenon and they have always attracted controversy. Throughout History, humanity has formed secret societies and secular groups to try to make sense of the world. Most of the time, their strong beliefs have sprung from dissatisfaction with mainstream religions, although the influence of Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism can be seen in many of today's sects.Sects mainly depend on the qualities of the 'charismatic leader', if there is one. A dictatorial sect leader is as potentially dangerous as a dictatorial political leader; perhaps even more so, because members are subjected to their guru's every whim, they are often portrayed as being inspired by some form of "higher power", and are told that they will only reach salvation if the obey his or her word,Sects are small religious movements. They always keep a strong distance between themselves and the world outside. Troeltsch claimed that sects are 'connected with the lower classes or at least with those elements in society which are opposed to the state and the society'. They are in opposition to the world (Haralambos and Holborn, sociology Themes and Perspective).Sect members are sometimes expected to remove all contacts with the outer world except only when they wish to see changes taking place in the wider society. Members are expected to intensely commit themselves to the sect's beliefs. They can be expelled from the sect if they fail to show such a commitment which is required from them.Young children are not allowed to enter the sect by being baptised if they are not old enough to understand the significance of the ceremony and the commitment they are required to show once they become members. They are supposed to adopt the lifestyle and beliefs of the sect very keenly. They must not make any contact with the outer world and they should sacrifice the worldly pleasures in order to devote themselves to their religious life.Sects share the characteristics of having total control over individuals' lives with religions such as Islam where religious beliefs still have a strong hold over social life.In this sense, sects have more restrictions and commitments then for example the Church of England.Sects are in many ways, the opposite of churches. A Church is defined as a religious group that accepts the social environment in which it exists while a sect is said to be a group that rejects its social environment.Churches are defined as large complex organisations with a long history of investment in the past. They are inclusive. Individuals do not...

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