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Flashcards in Organisations, movements and members Deck (24)
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Troeltsch (1912;1980) distinguished two different types of religious organisation. What were they?

The church and the sect


What is Troeltsch's definition of a church?

Large organisations, often with millions of members. They are run by a bureaucratic hierarchy of professional priests, they claim a monopoly of the truth. They are universalistic and aim to include the whole of society. However, they tend to be more attractive to higher classes as they often involve conservative ideologies and are linked closely to the state


What is Troeltsch's definition of a sect?

These are small, exclusive groups. They are hostile to wider society and expect a higher level of commitment than churches. They often draw their members from the poor and oppressed, giving them hope and a sense of belonging. Most are led by a charismatic leader rather than a bureaucratic hierarchy. Like churches, sects also believe in a monopoly of the truth


How does Niebuhr (1929) describe denominations?

They lay midway between churches and sects. Membership to denominations is less exclusive than a sect but they don't appeal to the whole of society in the same way a church does


What is a small, highly individualistic group with some shared themes and interests and no sharp belief system identified as?

A cult


When considering the similarities and differences between religious organisations, what are the two characteristics Wallis highlights?

How they see themselves (churches and sects reject any other faith however denominations and cults accept there can be many different interpretations of faith) and how they are seen by wider society (churches and denominations are seen as respectable whereas sects and cults are often labelled as deviant)


What does Bruce (1996) criticise about Troeltsch's idea of a church as having a religious monopoly?

Bruce argues that this theory only applies to the Catholic Church before the 16th century Protestant Reformation, when it had a religious monopoly over society, symbolised by its massive and imposing cathedrals. However, with sects and cults it is obvious that religious diversity has become the norm


What are the three groups Willis (1984) distinguishes when examining new religious movements (NRMs)?

World-rejecting NRMs, world-accomodating NRMs and world-affirming NRMs


World-rejecting NRMs

Similar to Troeltsch's sects. They are religious organisations with a clear notion of God, they are highly critical of the world and seek radical change, members must make a sharp break with their former life, members must live communally with restricted contact with the outside world, they often have strong conservative moral codes


World-accomodating NRMs

Often breakaways from mainstream churches or denominations. They neither accept or reject the world but focus more on religious rather than worldly matters, seeking to restore the spiritual purity of religion


World-affirming NRMs

These differ from all other religious groups and lack some conventional features of religion. They accept the world as it is, they promise followers success in terms of mainstream goals and values, they are non-exclusive and tolerant of other religions but claim to offer additional knowledge. Most of these are cults, whose followers are more often customers than members, the movement places few responsibilities on the individual and they continue to lead normal lives


Which has been the most successful movement in which Wallis has studied?

World-affirming NRMs. In the UK in 2005, Scientology had gained over 165,000 members in contrast to 1,200 Moonies


Criticisms of Wallis' study

He ignores the diversity of beliefs that may exist within a new religious movement, it is not always clear whether Wallis categorises the NRMs according to the movement's teaching or the individual members' beliefs


Strengths of Wallis' study

He offers a useful way of classifying new religious movements, he recognises that real NRMs rarely fit perfectly into his typology and some may have features of all three types, regardless of this, many sociologists find his typology useful in analysing and comparing NRMs


Stark and Bainbridge (1986) - criticising Willis

Stark and Bainbridge reject the idea of constructing such typologies all together, instead we should simply distinguish between NRMs on the degree of conflict between the religious group and wider society


Which two kinds of organisation do Stark and Bainbridge identify as having conflict with wider society?

Sects and cults


Stark and Bainbridge's definition of sects

Sects are a result of schisms (meaning a split in existing organisations), they break away from mainstream religion usually due to disagreements about doctrine


Stark and Bainbridge's definition of cults

Cults are new religions or ones new to a particular society that have been imported. For example, this could include Christian Science and Scientology


Stark and Bainbridge go on to subdivide cults dependent on how organised they are. What are the three subdivisions of cults they identify?

Audience cults, client cults and cultic cults


Audience cults

These are least organised of all subdivisions, they do not involve a formal membership or much commitment. Participation is often through the media and there is little interaction between members. Examples of audience cults are astrology and UFO cults


Client cults

These provide services to their members and are often based on the relationship between a consultant and client. These promise personal fulfilment and self-discovery


Cultic cults

These are the most organised of all subdivisions and therefore demand a higher level of commitment from its followers. The aim of the movement is to meet all its members' religious needs


Strength of Stark and Bainbridge's theory

They make some useful distinctions between organisations. For example their idea to distinguish movements depending on the conflict they have with wider society relates to Troeltsch's distinction between church and sect


Criticism of Stark and Bainbridge's theory

Some of the examples of NRMs used by Stark and Bainbridge do not fit neatly into any of the defined categories