Assess the sociological explanations for the growth of new religious movements. By: Amy Rashid
Over the years, there has been a growth of new religious movements in the society. This growth can be explained in terms of why people chose to join the movements or in terms of wider social changes. Hence, in this essay, I shall discuss several sociological explanations for this occurrence.
Firstly, Steve Bruce (1995, 1996) attributes the development of a range of religious institutions, including sects and cults, to a general process of modernization and secularization. He believes the weakness of more conventional institutionalized religions has encouraged some people to consider less traditional alternatives. As modern societies developed and faith in traditional sources of authority (eg: churches) declined, religious pluralism and diversity were increasingly tolerated. More recently, in what Bruce believes is a more secular world in which people are less likely to hold strong commitments, cults have become more popular. These require fewer sacrifices and less commitment than churches and sects and are therefore more tolerable in a modern clientele. These new religious movements engage in worldly activities and allow people to drift in and out of participation as the sample the beliefs on offer. For example Transcendental Meditation (TM) is associated with a political party that fights general elections on policies that advocate the benefits of TM and ‘yogic flying’ for solutions to individual and social problems. Thus, showing that new religious movements are appealing due to their less sacrifices and commitment nature. On the other hand, Troeltsch had noted sects tended to draw members from the poor and the oppressed. Similarly Max Weber (1922) argues sects arise in groups who are marginal in society. Such groups feel they are disprivileged. They don’t believe they are receiving their economic rewards or social status. Weber argues that sects offer a...
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