Types of religious organisations

Below are the characteristics of the 4 typologies (ways of grouping religion) created by Troeltsch and Niebhur.

NOTE: Here a Church doesn’t refer to Christianity alone but to the group of religions that have the characteristics of a Church.

Church

  •   Large
  •   Very inclusive
  •   Claims a monopoly on truth
  •   Run by a bureaucratic hierarchy   – deacon, priest, Pope, Imam etc
  •   Open to all but mainly attracts upper/middle class because it is very conservative
  •   Doesn’t demand high   commitment

E.g Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism

Sect

  •   Demands high commitment
  •   Usually attracts the working   class or relatively deprived
  •   Run by a charismatic leader
  •   Claims  monopoly on truth
  •   Detached from wider society and hostile towards it

E.g Manson Family, People’s Temple, Jehovah’s Witness

Denomination

  •   Not as inclusive as a Church but not as exclusive as a sect
  •   Doesn’t claim a monopoly on truth and is tolerant of other religions
  •   Demand a moderate level of commitment
  •   State some rules but are not very fussy about it

E.g Pentecostalism, Methodism

Cult

  •   Small, loose knit groups
  •   Highly individualistic (the individual is more important than the group)
  •   Shared themes and interests but no sharp, defined belief system
  •   Are usually led by ‘practioners’ or ‘therapists’ who claim to have special knowledge
  •   Are tolerant of others and do not demand strong commitment
  •   Claim to improve life

E.g Scientology

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