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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)

1119 words - 5 pages

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 ...view middle of the document...

Many sects survive long after the leader dies, as members still see the individual as existing in some other form (e.g. spiritual presence). Also, it is important to note that not all sects depend on second generation members to ensure their continued existence. Aldridge rejects the ideas that all cults and sects have a 'charismatic leader' and that over time they often conform to less world-rejecting views. He states that there are many cults that exclude members if they view their behaviour to be below the group's high standards, therefore they are still able to maintain their principles. Aldridge also claims that children can be successfully socialised into acceptance of the sect and share the same enthusiasm as their parents.

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. However, this did not destroy the sect, and on the contrary, it actually grew under the new leadership of “Aleph”, and the movement continued to recruit members. This casts doubt on the claim that sects are short lived movements, or if certain sects manage to continue on due to the dedication of the members.

Wilson proposes that there are a number of movements that can hold their ground and last for much longer than is popularly assume. He claims that 'Adventist' sects for example, such as the 'Seventh Day Adventists' and 'Jehovah’s Witnesses' believe in the end of the world, or “the second coming of...

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