The Info List - Sect

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A sect is a subgroup of a religious, political, or philosophical belief system, usually an offshoot of a larger group. Although the term was originally a classification for religious separated groups, it can now refer to any organization that breaks away from a larger one to follow a different set of rules and principles. In an Indian context, sect refers to an organized tradition.[1]


1 Etymology 2 Sociological definitions and descriptions 3 In other languages 4 In Buddhism 5 In Christianity

5.1 Roman Catholic sects 5.2 Protestant sects

6 In Hinduism 7 In Islam

7.1 Amman Message

8 In Jainism 9 See also 10 References 11 External links


A Catalogue of the Severall Sects and Opinions in England and other Nations: With a briefe Rehearsall of their false and dangerous Tenents. Broadsheet. 1647

The word sect comes from the Latin
noun secta (a feminine form of a variant past participle of the verb sequi, to follow[2]), meaning "a way, road", and figuratively a (prescribed) way, mode, or manner, and hence metonymously, a discipline or school of thought as defined by a set of methods and doctrines. The present gamut of meanings of sect has been influenced by confusion with the homonymous (but etymologically unrelated) Latin
word secta (the feminine form of the past participle of the verb secare, to cut), as though sects were scissions cast aside from the mainstream religion.[2] Sociological definitions and descriptions[edit] Main article: Church-sect typology There are several different sociological definitions and descriptions for the term.[3] Among the first to define them were Max Weber
Max Weber
and Ernst Troeltsch
Ernst Troeltsch
(1912).[3] In the church-sect typology they are described as newly formed religious groups that form to protest elements of their parent religion (generally a denomination). Their motivation tends to be situated in accusations of apostasy or heresy in the parent denomination; they are often decrying liberal trends in denominational development and advocating a return to true religion. The American sociologists Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge assert that "sects claim to be authentic purged, refurbished version of the faith from which they split".[4] They further assert that sects have, in contrast to churches, a high degree of tension with the surrounding society.[5] Other sociologists of religion such as Fred Kniss have asserted that sectarianism is best described with regard to what a sect is in tension with. Some religious groups exist in tension only with co-religious groups of different ethnicities, or exist in tension with the whole of society rather than the church which the sect originated from.[6] Sectarianism
is sometimes defined in the sociology of religion as a worldview that emphasizes the unique legitimacy of believers' creed and practices and that heightens tension with the larger society by engaging in boundary-maintaining practices.[7] The English sociologist Roy Wallis[8] argues that a sect is characterized by "epistemological authoritarianism": sects possess some authoritative locus for the legitimate attribution of heresy. According to Wallis, "sects lay a claim to possess unique and privileged access to the truth or salvation" and "their committed adherents typically regard all those outside the confines of the collectivity as 'in error'". He contrasts this with a cult that he described as characterized by "epistemological individualism" by which he means that "the cult has no clear locus of final authority beyond the individual member."[9][10] In other languages[edit] The corresponding words for "sect" in European languages other than English – Sekte (German), secte (French), secta (Spanish, Catalan, Romanian), seita (Portuguese, Galician), sekta (Polish, Czech, Slovak, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, Slovenian, Latvian, Lithuanian), sekt (Danish, Estonian, Norwegian, Swedish), sekte (Dutch) and szekta (Hungarian), секта (Russian, Bulgarian) – refer to a harmful religious sect and translate into English as "cult".[citation needed] In France, since the 1970s, secte has a specific meaning[which?] which is very different from the English word.[11][need quotation to verify] In Buddhism[edit] Main article: Schools of Buddhism

Japanese buddhist monk from the Sōtō Zen
Sōtō Zen

The Macmillan Encyclopedia of Religion
distinguishes three types of classification of Buddhism, separated into "Movements", "Nikāyas" and "Doctrinal schools":


Theravada, primarily in South Asia
South Asia
and Southeast Asia. Mahāyāna, primarily in East Asia. Vajrayāna, primarily in Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Mongolia
and the Russian republic of Kalmykia.

Nikāyas, or monastic fraternities, three of which survive at the present day:

Theravāda, in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
and South Asia Dharmaguptaka, in China, Korea
and Vietnam Mūlasarvāstivāda, in the Tibetan tradition

In Christianity[edit] See also: List of Christian denominations and Christian denomination While the historical usage of the term "sect" in Christendom
has had pejorative connotations, referring to a group or movement with heretical beliefs or practices that deviate from those of groups considered orthodox,[12][13] its primary meaning is to indicate a community which has separated itself in some way from the larger body from which its members came and to which they may or may not still adhere. The term remains valid for this purpose. Roman Catholic sects[edit] There are many groups outside the Roman Catholic Church
Catholic Church
which regard themselves as Catholic, such as the Community of the Lady of All Nations, the Palmarian Catholic Church, the Neocatechumenal Way, the Philippine Independent Church, the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God
and others. Protestant sects[edit] See also: List of the largest Protestant denominations In Hinduism[edit] Main article: Hindu denominations


The Indologist Axel Michaels
Axel Michaels
writes in his book about Hinduism
that in an Indian context the word "sect does not denote a split or excluded community, but rather an organized tradition, usually established by founder with ascetic practices."[1] According to Michaels, "Indian sects do not focus on heresy, since the lack of a center or a compulsory center makes this impossible – instead, the focus is on adherents and followers."[1] In Islam[edit] Main articles: Islamic schools and branches, fiqh, and madhhab The ancient schools of fiqh or sharia in Islam
are known as "madhhabs." In the beginning Islam
was classically divided into three major sects. These political divisions are well known as Sunni Islam, Shia Islam
and Khariji Islam. Each sect developed several distinct jurisprudence systems reflecting their own understanding of the Islamic law during the course of the history of Islam. For instance, Sunnis are separated into five sub-sects, namely, Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali
and Ẓāhirī. The Shia, on the other hand, first developed Kaysanism, which in turn divided into three major groupings known as Fivers, Seveners
and Twelvers. The Zaydis separated first. The non-Zaydis are initially called as " Rafida Groups." These Rafidis were later divided into two sub-groups known as Imamiyyah
and Batiniyyah.[14]

The "Imami-Shi'a" later brought into existence Ja'fari jurisprudence. Akhbarism, Usulism, and Shaykhism
were all ensued as variations of "Ja'fari fiqh," while Alawites
and Alevis
who are not the strict followers of "Ja'farism" are developed separately from the teachings of Ithna'ashari

valley in Sahara is home of the Ibadi
religious sect

Batiniyya groups, on the other hand, were divided into two sub-groups known as Seveners
and Ismā'īlīs. Qarmatians
who did not follow the Fatimid Caliphate
Fatimid Caliphate
were branched from the Seveners. Those groups of Batiniyya who followed the Fatimids
are the ancestors of today's Ismā'īlīs. Druze
was emerged as an offshoot of Ismāʿīlism at the beginning of the 11th Century. Isma'ilism
at the end of the 11th Century split into two major branches known as Nizārī Ismā'īlī ( Assassins
of Alamut) and Musta’li Ismaili. As a result of the assassination of Fatimid Caliph Al-Amir bi-Ahkami'l-Lah, Mustaali
was once more again divided into Hafizis and Taiyabi Ismailis (Dawoodis, Sulaymanis and Alavis) The Khawarij
were initially divided into five major branches: Sufris, Azariqa, Najdat, Adjarites and Ibadis.

The Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i
and Hanbali
Sunnis, the Twelver
groups, the Ismā'īlī
groups, the Zaydis, the Ibadis, and the Ẓāhirīs continue to exist. In addition, new sects like Ahmadiyya
movement, Black Muslim movements, Quranists, Salafis, Wahhabis, and Zikris
have been emerged independently. Amman Message[edit] Main article: Amman Message Further information: Islamic denominations An Islamic convention held in Jordan
in July 2005, which brought 200 Muslim scholars from over 50 countries together, announced the official recognition of eight schools of Islamic jurisprudence[15] and the varying schools of Islamic theology.[16] The eight recognized Islamic schools and branches
Islamic schools and branches

Sunni Hanafi Sunni Maliki Sunni Shafi'i Sunni Hanbali Shi'i
Imāmī (followers of the Ja'fari jurisprudence) Shi'i
Zaydi Khariji Ibadi Sunni Ẓāhirī

In Jainism[edit] Main article: Jain schools and branches See also[edit]

Classifications of religious movements Cult
(religious practice) New religious movement One true church Religious exclusivism


^ a b c Michaels, Axel. Hinduism
past and Present (2004) translated from German "Der Hinduismus" (1998). Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08952-3.  ^ a b Harper, Douglas. "sect". Online Etymology Dictionary. etymonline.com. Retrieved 2010-03-14. c.1300, "distinctive system of beliefs or observances; party or school within a religion," from Old French secte, from Late Latin
secta "religious group, sect," from Latin
secta "manner, mode, following, school of thought," literally "a way, road," from fem. of sectus, variant past participle of sequi "follow," from PIE *sekw- "to follow" (see sequel).  ^ a b McCormick Maaga, Mary excerpt from her book Hearing the Voices of Jonestown
(Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1998) available online ^ Stark, Rodney, and Williams Sims Bainbridge (1979) Of Churches, Sects, and Cults: Preliminary Concepts for a Theory of Religious Movements Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
18, no 2: 117–33 ^ Stark, Rodney, and William Sims Bainbridge
William Sims Bainbridge
(1985) The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival, and Cult
formation Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press ^ Kniss, Fred, and Numrich, Paul (2007) Sacred Assemblies and Civic EngagementRutgers University Press ^ McGuire, Meredith B. "Religion: the Social Context" fifth edition (2002) ISBN 0-534-54126-7 page 338 ^ Barker, E. New Religious Movements: A Practical Introduction (1990), Bernan Press, ISBN 0-11-340927-3 ^ Wallis, Roy The Road to Total Freedom A Sociological analysis of Scientology
(1976) available online (bad scan) ^ Wallis, Roy Scientology: Therapeutic Cult
to Religious Sect
abstract only (1975) ^ Esquerre Arnaud, "Lutter contre les sectes: l’invention d’un psycho-pouvoir", Le Banquet, n°24, février 2007, p. 199-212 ^ Wilson, Bryan Religion
in Sociological Perspective 1982, ISBN 0-19-826664-2 Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press
page 89 "In English, it is a term that designates a religiously separated group, but in its historical usage in Christendom
it carried a distinctly pejorative connotation. A sect was a movement committed to heretical beliefs and often to ritual acts and practices like isolation that departed from orthodox religious procedures." ^  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). " Sect
and Sects". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.  ^ Ahmed Cevdet Pasha, Kısas-ı Enbiyâ, vol. II, page 12. ^ The Amman Message
Amman Message
summary – Official website ^ The Three Points of The Amman Message
Amman Message

External links[edit]

Look up sect in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Sect

Church sect theory by William H. Swatos, Jr . in the Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society by Swatos (editor) Apologetics Index: research resources on cults, sects, and related issues. The publisher operates from an evangelical Christian point of view, but the site links to and presents a variety of viewpoints. ReligionNewsBlog.com Current news articles about religious cults, sects, and related issues.

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