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Religious Organisations

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Religious Organisations

  1. 1. Religious Organisations
  2. 2. Troeltsch Church Sect •Large organisations •Led by a bureaucratic hierarchy of the truth •Claim monopoly of the truth •Universalistic •Place few demands on members •Ideologically conservative •Small, exclusive groups •Hostile towards wider society •Expect a high level of commitment •Draw members from the poor and oppressed •Led by a charismatic leader •Believe they have monopoly of the truth
  3. 3. Neibuhr Denomination Cult •Lie between churches and sects •Don’t appeal to all of society •Membership is less exclusive •Impose some minor restrictions on members •Broadly accept society’s values •Tolerant of other religious organisations •Don’t claim monopoly of the truth •Highly individualistic •Small grouping around shared themes and interests •No sharply defined, exclusive beliefs •Led by ‘practitioners’/’therapists’ who claim special knowledge •Tolerant of other organisations •Don’t demand strong commitment •Members are like customers •World-affirming
  4. 4. Wallis Similarities and Differences  How they see themselves: Churches and Sects see their interpretation of the faith as the only correct one. Denominations and Cults accept there may be many valid interpretations.  How they are seen by wider society: Churches and denominations are seen as respectable. Sects and Cults are seen as deviant.
  5. 5. Criticisms The above descriptions don’t fit today’s reality. Bruce argues Troeltsch’s idea of a church can only apply to the Catholic Church before the Protestant Reformation (in the respect of claiming monopoly). Since then, sects and cults have flourished and religious diversity is a norm. In Troeltsch’s sense, no monopoly means churches are no longer churches.
  6. 6. New Religious Movements (NRMs) Wallis categorises these NRMs into 3 groups based on their relationship with the outside world...  World-Rejecting  World-Accommodating  World-Affirming
  7. 7. World-Rejecting World- Accommodating World-Affirming •Religious and have a clear notion of God •Highly critical of the outside world •Members must make a sharp break from their former life •Members live communally with restricted contact with the outside world •Have conservative moral codes •Examples: Moonies, Manson Family These are often breakaways from existing mainstream churches or denominations. They focus on religion rather than worldly matters and wish to restore the spiritual purity of religion. Members lead conventional lives. •Not highly organised and lack some conventional features of religion •Accept the world as it is and promise followers success of mainstream goals and values •Non-exclusive •Tolerant of other religions •Offer special knowledge •Offer this-worldly gratification •Most are cults (followers are customers) •Entry is through training •Examples: scientology
  8. 8. Evaluation Wallis offers a useful way of classifying the new religious movements. But, some argue it is not clear whether he is categorising them based on the teaching or members beliefs. Also, he ignores the diversity of beliefs that may exist within a NRM. He knows real NRMs may not just fit into one category, but sociologists find these typologies useful.
  9. 9. Sects & Cults Stark and Bainbridge reject typologies all together. We should distinguish between organisations based on the degree of tension and conflict between it and wider society.  Sects  result from schisms (splits in existing organisations). They break away from churches, usually due to differences in beliefs.  Cults  are new religions or ones new to that particular society
  10. 10. Subdividing Cults  Audience Cults  these are the least organised with no formal membership or commitment. There is little interaction through members and participation could be through media. (e.g. Astrology)  Client Cults  the relationship between a client and a consultant. Emphasis has shifted to ‘therapies’ promising personal fulfilment and self-discovery. Some followers become enthusiastic so class it as cultic. (e.g. Homeopathy and spiritualism)  Cultic Movements  these are the most organised and demand commitment. The aim is to meet all of its members religious needs and the are rarely allowed to belong to other religious groups at the same time. (e.g. The Moonies)
  11. 11. Evaluation Stark and Bainbridge make some useful distinctions between organisations, but the idea of using their degree of conflict with wider society is similar to Troeltsch’s distinction between churches and sects. Also, some of their examples don’t fit neatly into any one of their categories.
  12. 12. Explanations There are 3 main explanations for the growth:  Marginality  Relative Deprivation  Social Change
  13. 13. Marginality Troeltsch noted sects tend to draw members from the poor and oppressed and Weber supports this by pointing out that sects arise in marginalised groups. Weber believes sects offer a solution to their problem by offering their members a “theodicy of disprivilege” (give deprivation a meaning in order to cope with it). This may involve explaining their misfortune as a test of their faith. Historically, sects and millenarian movements have recruited from the marginalised poor, but since the 1960s, the sect- like world-rejecting NRMs have recruited from affluent groups. However, Wallis says even the affluent middle class members have become marginal to society (by being hippies, using drugs for example)
  14. 14. Relative Deprivation Middle class people feel spiritually deprived too; they could see today’s materialistic, consumerist world as impersonal. Wallis argues they may turn to sects for a sense of community. Stark and Bainbridge argue it is the relatively deprived who break away from churches to form sects to safeguard the original message. They do this because the middle class members of the church seek to compromise its beliefs to fit into society. They also argue that world-rejecting sects offer the deprived the compensators they need for the rewards they are denied in this world. By contrast, the privileged need no compensators or world-rejecting religion; they are attracted to world accepting churches that express their status and bring them further success.
  15. 15. Social Change Wilson argues the rapid social change disrupted and undermined established norms and values, producing anomie. In response to the uncertainty and insecurity this creates, those who are most affected by the disruption may turn to sects which offer a sense of a community and clear norms and values. Bruce sees the growth of sects and cults as a response to the social changes involved in modernisation and secularisation. In today’s secular society, people are more attracted to cults as they are less demanding.
  16. 16. The Growth of World-Rejecting and World-Affirming NRMS
  17. 17.  World-Rejecting: Wallis believes changes during the 60s gave freedom from adult responsibilities and let a counter-culture develop. Also, the growth of radical, political movements offered alternative ideas about the future.  World-Affirming: Bruce believes this growth is a response to modernity. Work no longer provides meaning or a source if identity and we don’t always have the opportunities to achieve. World-Affirming NRMS provide identity and the technology for success.
  18. 18. The Dynamics of Sects & NRMs Sects are often short-lived. Niebuhr argues sects are world-rejecting and exist due to a schism. They are short lived as they either...  Die out  Compromise with the world  Abandon their ideas and become a denomination
  19. 19. Reasons  The Second Generation: who are born into the sect and lack the commitment and fervour of their parents who voluntarily joined the sect.  The ‘Protestant Ethic’ Effect: sects that practise ascetism tend to become prosperous and upwardly mobile. So, members compromise the world and leave the sect.  Death of the Leader: Sects have a charismatic leader, so their death or the introduction of a bureaucratic leader would turn the sect into a denomination.
  20. 20. The Sectarian Cycle: Stark and Bainbridge 1. Schism: There is tension between deprived members of a church and privileged ones. The deprived form away and form a sect. 2. Initial Fervour: A charismatic leadership and tension between the sects beliefs and wider society. 3. Denominotionalism: The ‘Protestant Ethic’ effect occurs and the coolness of the second generation disappears. 4. Establishment: The sect becomes more world accepting and tension reduces. 5. Further Schism: The less privileged members break away to create a new sect true to the original message.
  21. 21. Established Sects However, Wilson argues not all sects follow this pattern. There are two different answers to the question: “What shall we do to be saved?”  Conversionist  (e.g. Evangelicals). Their aim is to convert large numbers of people, so are likely to rapidly grow into larger, more formal denominations.  Adventist  (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses’). To be saved, they believe they must hold themselves separate from the corrupt world around them. This separatism prevents them from compromising and becoming a denomination. Nevertheless, some sects have survived over many generations (e.g. The Amish). They have become established sects.
  22. 22. The Effect of Globalisation However, globalisation could make it harder for Adventist sect members to keep to themselves. On the other hand, globalisation could make it easier for them to recruit in the Third World.
  23. 23. The Growth of New Age The term ‘New Age’ covers a range of beliefs and activities that have been widespread since the 1980s. They include beliefs in aliens, UFOs and yoga for example. Heelas identifies two common themes that characterise the New Age:  Self-spirituality  New Agers seeking the spiritual have turned away from traditional ‘external’ religions such as the churches and instead look inside to find it.  Detraditionalisation  The New Age rejects the spiritual authority of external traditional sources such as priests or sacred texts. Instead, it values personal experience and believes that we can discover the truth for ourselves and within ourselves. But, New Age beliefs vary; some have world-affirming aspects, others have world-rejecting. Heelas notes most offer both.
  24. 24. Postmodernity and the New Age Drane argues the popularity of the New Age is part of a shift towards postmodern society. One of postmodern features is a loss of faith in ‘meta-narratives’. Instead of progress, science brought war, global warming and environmental disaster so people lost faith in experts. At the same time, they were disillusioned with the churches failure to meet spiritual needs. As a result, they turn to New Age to find the truth for themselves.
  25. 25. The New Age and Modernity Bruce argues its growth is a feature of the latest phase of modern society. It values individualism which is an important value among those in “expressive professions”, whom the New Age appeals to most. Bruce notes New Age beliefs are often softer versions of much more demanding and self-disciplined traditional Easter religions that have been ‘watered down’ to make them attractive to self-centred Westerners. (This is why New Age activities are usually audience or client cults).
  26. 26. The Links Between New Age and Modernity: Heelas  A Source of Identity: Today, an individual has a fragmented identity. New Age beliefs offer ‘authentic’ identity.  Consumer Culture: This creates dissatisfaction as it doesn’t deliver perfection, whereas New Age does.  Rapid Social Change: This disrupts established norms and values; the New Age provides certainty and truth (like sects).  Decline of Organised Religion: Modernity leads to secularisation, so removing alternatives to New Age beliefs.

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