Sects are usually very hostile groups and 9 times out of 10 they will be ‘world rejecting’, meaning that they reject the outside world and believe it is either corrupt or beyond redemption. Such groups tend to abandon the outside world and start their own community with their own way of life or attempt to transform the world with an evangelical approach. An example of a sect which has cut off from the world is the Unification Church, often known as ‘The moonies’ – they reject materialism and encourage its members to hand over all assets whilst imposing an ascetic lifestyle on them.
Sects and Cults are known for being quite short lived, and it is suggested that over time they will either turn into a denomination or disband and disappear all together. An example of this is the Methodists, they originally began as a world rejecting religious sect, with members living a lifestyle in opposition to existing society. However, they have evolved over time into becoming the world accommodating denomination that they are today.
Neibuhr puts forward his explanation of this and calls it ‘denomination or death.’ He believes that a Sect is a world rejecting organization that comes into existence because of a schism from an established church due to disagreements within either teachings or religious doctrine. He argues that sects are usually short lived because within one generation they will either compromise with the world, abandon their extreme beliefs and become a denomination or ultimately die out.
One reason that Neibuhr puts forward is ‘the second generation’ – this refers to the children of the members who joined voluntarily, they lack the same enthusiasm and beliefs that their parents showed because they were born into it and will not express the same extreme beliefs. He also suggests, ‘the protestant ethic effect’ this is the result of the members living an ascetic lifestyle. People are most likely to join a sect because they are looking for a theodicy of...
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