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Sociological Explanations Essay

2016 words - 9 pages

Since the 1960s there has been massive growth in the number of sects and cults and the number of people belonging to them. For example there is an estimated to be over 800 new religious movements and half a million individuals belonging to these and other non-mainstream Christian churches in the UK. Sociologists have offered three key explanations for this trend; marginality, relative deprivation and social change.
Troeltsch had noted sects tended to draw members from the poor and the oppressed. Similarly, Max Weber argues sects arise in ...view middle of the document...

Thus although middle class people are economically well off and they feel spiritually deprived , especially in today’s materialistic, consumerist world which they perceive as impersonal and lacking in moral, emotional and authentic values. Thus Wallis argues they turn to sects for a sense of community.
Stark and Bainbridge agree it’s the relatively deprived who break away from churches to form sects. When middle class members of a church seek to compromise its beliefs in order to fit into society, deprived members are like to break away to form sects that safeguard the message of the original organisation. For example the deprived may stress Christ’s claim that it’s harder for a rich man to enter heaven then for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. This is a message the affluent will want to play down whereas the poor want to emphasise this. Stark and Bainbridge argue world rejecting sects offer to the deprived compensators they need for the rewards deprived of in this world. Contrastingly the affluent don’t need compensators or world rejecting religions. Thus they’re attracted to world accepting religions that express their status and bring them further success.
A third explanation for the increasing number of religions and spiritual organisations in today’s society is social change. Wilson argues periods of rapid change disrupt and undermine traditional norms and values; this produces normlessness. Insecurity and uncertainty is created; in response those most affected by disruption turn to sects as a solution. For example the industrial revolution caused dislocation in Britain. This led to the birth of Methodism, which offered sense of community clear norms and values and promise of salvation. Methodism was successful in recruiting large numbers of people from the new industrial working class. Bruce also sees the growth of sects and cults as a result of modernisation and secularisation. Bruce argues society is now secularised thus people are less attracted to traditional churches and strict sects as they demand too much commitment. People now prefer cults as they demand less commitment and sacrifice.
Sociologists have put forward arguments as to explain the growth of both world rejecting and world affirming new religious movements. For the growth of world rejecting new religious movements, Wallis looks at the social changes in the 1960s and their impact on young people. Increased time in education gave them freedom for adult responsibilities; this enabled counter culture to develop. The growth of radical political movements offered alternative ideas about the future. By offering a more idealistic way of life world rejecting new religious movements attracted young people. Bruce argues it was the failure of counter culture to change the world that caused disillusionment among young people; thus they turned to religion instead.
Bruce argues the growth of world affirming new religious movements were a response to modernity, especially...

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