Assess Sociological Explanations for the Increasing Number of Religions and Spiritual Organisations and Movements in Society Today. (33 Marks)

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Assess sociological explanations for the increasing number of religions and spiritual organisations and movements in society today. (33 Marks)

Since the 1960’s there has been an increase in the number of sects and cults that are among religious organisations. There are also now an estimated 850 new religious movements. Sociologists offer many reasons for this but the main three are marginality, relative deprivation and social change. However due to the lack of consensus on how to operationalize new religious movements there is difficulty categorising them and therefore there is a complex sociological view 

In the past there have been 4 main typologies of religious organisations, church, sect, denomination and cult. By Troeltsch’s definition a church is a large organisation that is often run by bureaucratic hierarchy and claims to have a monopoly over the religious truth. By contrast Troeltsch sees sects as small exclusive groups that unlike churches are hostile to wider society and are led by a charismatic leader instead of a hierarchy. Niebuhr takes into consideration other aspects and describes denominations as lying in between a church and a sect as their membership is less exclusive but they don’t appeal to all of society, however unlike both of Troeltsch’s organisations they do not claim to monopolise the truth. The cult is extremely different to all of these as it is highly individualistic, loose knit and usually revolves around some small group with a shared common interest. They are usually led by practitioners who claim to have special knowledge. Where these 4 structured organisations may have been definite in the past as new religions have come into play, it has become more difficult to categorise religious movements.

Wallis argues that due to more diversity categorisations aren’t that simple anymore. He argues that all new religious movements fall under three categories, world affirming, rejecting and accommodating. A world affirming religion, like...