Lorne L. Dawson

in The Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of Religion

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199588961
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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This article attempts to refine the classification of religious collectivities into churches, denominations, sects, and cults. While convinced that it remains a useful typology, the discussion recognises that its ethnocentric character largely limits its use to the Western context. It suggests that researchers revisit their writings to gain a better-informed understanding of their ideas, which will provide them with a universally applicable way of categorising religious organisations, based essentially on the variable of mode of membership. The article also examines the relative merits of the two main methodological options used in the creation of typologies: multi- versus uni-dimensional approaches.

Keywords: religious collectivities; ethnocentric character; religious organisations; cult typologies; sect typologies

Article.  8647 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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