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Studying Religions

We can also distinguish religions from one another based on their levels of membership, wealth of the organization, wealth of the individual members, and training of their clergy (See Figure 5). A Cult is a newer religion with few followers whose teachings are perceived to be at odds with the dominant culture and religion. Do not confuse a cult with the Occult which applies more to magical knowledge that is hidden from the average person and is found in extreme areas of truth. Most religions begin as cults. Even Islam and Christianity began with only a few followers. In the sense that "cult" is used by sociologists, it could be compared to a group of friends who form a soccer team then a number of soccer teams and eventually their own league. Most new cults rarely get past their small foundation nor do they typically endure for extended periods of time.

A Sect is a group larger than a cult but still perceived as being weird and is often treated with hostility by non-sect members. A sect is relatively small by comparison to an established church. A Church is a sect that has gained numerous followers and has become highly bureaucratized. Today's trend in US Christian worship involves Megachurches, or modern churches attended by thousands of followers in person and even many thousands more via television or the Internet (taken from Internet on 27 March 20009 from http://hirr.hartsem.edu/megachurch/database.html ).

Megachurches tend to be Protestant and evangelical in nature. Then after much time and growth of membership, wealth, and training, there sometimes emerges Ecclesia, or religious organizations which have grown to be large and are integrated with government and other social institutions. In our modern world there are few ecclesia found in Muslim (Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.) and Christian (Rome, Italy) countries; the boundaries between government and religion in these countries are vague and overlapping.

In Utah, when it was still an official territory and not yet a state, Brigham Young served simultaneously as the Governor of the Utah Territory and Superintendent of Indian Affairs while also serving as the Mormon Prophet. In order for Utah to become an official state a non-Mormon Governor had to replace Brigham Young, which transpired in 1858. Utah became the 45th state in 1896.

Figure 5. Cult, Sect, Church, and Ecclesia are Based on Levels of Membership, Wealth of Organization, Wealth of Members, and Training of Clergy

2009 Ron J. Hammond, Ph.D.

One final concept should be discussed. Secularization is the trend toward worldly concerns and away from concerns for the religiously sacred in the lives of society's members. Another study of US religiosity was collected over three scientific surveys conducted in 1990, 2001, and again in 2008 (The American Religious Identification Survey was taken from the Internet on 9 March 2009 http://www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/ ). Data indicated an increase in the percentage of those in the US claiming no religion from 8.2 percent 1990, to 14.2 percent 2001, and finally 15 percent in 2008. The US is becoming more and more secular. Typically the more modern a society becomes the less religious it remains and the more secular it becomes. There exist an inverse (opposite) correlation between science, modernization, rationality and religious traditions and adherences


Date: 2015-02-28; view: 2417

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