Critically Examine Sociological Views of Sects in Society Today (33marks)

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A sect is a subgroup of a religious, political or philosophical belief system, usually an offshoot of a larger religious group. Although in past it was mostly used to refer to religious groups, it has since expanded and in modern culture can refer to any organization that breaks away from a larger one to follow a different set of rules and principles. Sects are smaller, less highly organised grouping of committed believers who usually set themselves up in protest at what a church has become. Sects usually have members who are usually numbered around the couple of hundred mark, showing the main difference between them and the church.
According to Troeltsch (1931), sects are essentially the polar opposite of churches. They are much smaller
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Stark and Bainbridge (1985) are critical of typologies, arguing that there are always overlaps between categories. Instead, they ran organisations on their tension contributed into society, as they don’t see all organised groups to be a threat. They say that Sects are small religious groups, which are an offshoot of an existing religion and are in a high degree of tension with the outside world. However, a problem with Stark and Bainbridge’s definitions is that they argue that typologies do not adequately categorise religions because the boundaries are not clear-cut, but then produce their own typology, which could be criticised for the same thing. For example, it is unclear how much involvement members have to have for an organisation to be regarded as a sect.
Weber (1922), like Troeltsch, argues that sects tended to be amongst marginal groups in society, that is, people outside the mainstream of social life who felt they weren’t gaining economic rewards from society they deserved. These sects developed a theodicy of disprivilege, which is a religious explanation and justification for their disadvantages, which often promised them salvation in the afterlife. Wilson (1970) also agrees with this explanation as he says that those in situations like defeat in war, natural disasters and economic collapses would lead to these people becoming marginalised and turning to new religions. However this isn’t always the case as most members from sects

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