There are several differences between a religion, a sect, and a cult. According to our notes worldly religions meet a certain criteria to be known mainstream. Each religion has a long history of existence and ancient texts. The religion has many people who follow it and elites that adhere and accept it (i.e. Emperor Constantine). The religion is normalized an influential; no one questions the faith. Finally, there is a cultural/social integration of the religion; for example, when someone new is being initiated into the presidency they must swear on the Bible. Some major religions are Christianity containing 2.1 billion followers, Islam containing 1.5 billion followers, and Judaism containing 14 million followers (class slide show dated 11/18).
A religious sect has similar qualities of a religion, but they feel they have made improvements to older established religious. According to our notes, sects are a branch of previously existing religions; the group uses old ancient texts (like the Bible or the Qur’an) and mix new interpretations of that text. An example of this would be the book of Mormon. These sects are not fully accepted in mainstream society and are considered to be “weird” by major religions. The sect usually contained a small number of followers who have a disdain for mainstream religions. Elites are not usually members of religious sects, but rather choose to attack them claiming they are blasphemers. Finally, many sects started to reform a much larger church. Some examples of religious sects would be the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Scientologists (class slide show dated 11/18). Although, I would argue that Scientology has more cult like qualities than sect like qualities; it is only labeled a sect because its members are people like Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
A group that is considered a cult usually does not have many members all of which are not dependent on orthodox religious beliefs. According to our notes, cults usually have many different ideas, a lot of which are about the end of the world. These groups are often hostile, but at the same time provide members with everything the group needs. Outsiders often view these groups as threats; this is why they are labeled a cult. Cults have deviant beliefs about sex, drug use, and other acceptable behavior (class slide show dated 11/18). Myths are also associated with cults and the media plays on these myths to present these cults as a threat to society. According to our notes from the slideshow, some cult myths are that members are brainwashed, they are sexual deviants, there is abuse among members, and there are strange acts like sacrificing animals etc. An example of a cult would be Jim Jones and the People’s Temple mass suicide. Jim Jones managed to create one of the largest mass suicides in history convincing 900 people to kill themselves by drinking poisonous Kool-Aid.
In my opinion, the Branch Davidians in Waco Texas could be classified as a sect with cult-like characteristics. According to the documentary, “The Final Report: Waco Tragedy,” the Branch Davidian group is a branch of the Seven Day Adventist Church. Their leader, David...