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Discuss The Differences Between Churches, Sects And Cults

1228 words - 5 pages

Discuss the differences between churches, sects and cults.

A church: is a religious group that accepts the social environment in which it exists. In more plain language, a church is widely accepted by the host culture in which it resides. In America, Protestantism would be a church. It is generally accepted by the whole and is consistent with the culture's values (maybe not traditional Protestantism, but what forms we have of it today). Church may have denominations which are small changes made in the church that are still accepted by the host culture.

A sect: is a religious group the rejects the social environment in which it exists. Now, it's not as extreme as that definition ...view middle of the document...

Shortly after a new revelation from God banned the practice, statehood was granted. This caused a number of small sects to break away from the established church, in order to allow their male followers to continue to have multiple wives. Some of these sects continue to this day in the United States and Canada, although they have been excommunicated by the main LDS Church. A similar crisis occurred in the mid 1970's when a new revelation from God abolished the church's institutionalized racism against African-Americans. This time, the membership accepted the new ruling; there were no breakaway sects. Sects can therefore be considered a normal mechanism by which new religious movements are generated. Most sects die out quickly. Others linger. Still others grow and evolve in to a new established religious movement and are properly called denominations. A very few become new religions.
There remains a negative connotation for many people to the word sect; they would much rather refer to their faith group as a denomination.

Cults: Cults are novel forms of religion that are not evolved from churches or other religious groups. They typically completely reject the values of the host culture and hold the host culture in distrust. The host culture generally holds the cult in distrust as well. The two groups hold a lot of tension with each other. By sociological typology, cults are, like sects, new religious groups. But, unlike sects, they can form without breaking off from another religious group, though this is by no means always the case. The characteristic that most distinguishes cults from sects is that they are not advocating a return to pure religion but rather the embracement of something new or something that has been completely lost or forgotten (e.g., lost scriptures or new prophecy). Like churches and sects, Cults are also much more likely to be led by charismatic leaders than are other religious groups and the charismatic leaders tend to be the individuals who bring forth the new or lost component that is the focal element of the cult. Cults, like sects, often integrate elements of existing religious theologies, but cults tend to create more esoteric theologies manufactured from many sources. Cults tend to emphasize the individual and individual peace.
Cults, like sects, can develop into denominations. As cults grow, they bureaucratize and develop many of the characteristics of denominations. Some scholars are hesitant to grant cults denominational status because many cults maintain their more esoteric characteristics. But given their closer semblance to denominations than to the cult type, it is more accurate to describe them as denominations. Some denominations in the U.S. that began as...

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