Assess the usefulness of typologies in our understanding of religious organisations (33 marks)
Religions are based upon very heterogenic principles and are structured in different ways, making them different of each other and therefore proving that they are not universal as some sociologists argue. Typologies within religious organisations have helped as to define religions and prove that they are based on religious pluralism and that they can be era-dependent, or in other ways can become outdated.
Troeltsch was the first sociologist to divide religions into three different typologies; churches, sects and denominations, with very different characteristics and objectives. Troeltsch ...view middle of the document...
Also Robertson argues that globalisation together with trade and consumerism has made religious concerns less important in society which doesn’t place as much importance on religion as it did previously. Also the increase in church-state religion as a result of some actual changes in the law, such as the legalisation of gay marriage and the Iraq war, has decreased the power of the Church in England and so has happened in most societies around the globe.
Moreover Troeltsch also defines other religions as sects, however he sees them not as big and not as strong in contrast to churches and some denominations. The main example of sects is The People’s Temple, which perfectly illustrates the idea of a sect. The foundation of sects orbits around a main charismatic leader which guides disenfranchised and marginalised members towards a better life opposing the state and rejecting the world around them. Similarly to churches sect also guard the monopoly of the truth, however they become a total institution for their members and have very high demands on their members, especially economic demands which becomes the main income of money for the organisation. However not all sects are based on a charismatic leader such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and not all sects die out like Amish, which is one of the main characteristics of NRM’S (new religious movements).
Furthermore Troeltsch concludes with his last type of religious organisation, cults, the best example of this categories is The Landmark Forum. This sociologist describes cults as having no ling whatsoever with the state and focused on individualism. In contrast to the other typologies described by Troeltsch this religious organisation is mainly formed by integrates, young, middle class members and accepts social order giving ways to achieve it. They are very tolerant and see their members as customers or clients with are not demanded to contribute with anything by the cult, apart of money. They have no link with the state and have no real hierarchy within the organisation, are too loose. The distinction between sects and cults is often weak, as we can see with scientology which combines the ideas of both typologies.
The last main typology is defined by Niebuhr, who defines denominations as the last category in religious organisations. These denomination lay midway between sects and churches and have as an example, the CoE or the Baptist church. The member of this category have no specific background and generally accept social order, even though there is a separation between the state and the organisation. They believe in religious pluralism and often demand minor restrictions, such as fasting or banning smoking. Denominations make typologies more sensitive and explain how religious organisations evolve, this is because often this organisation...