Religion in Secular Society: A Sociological Comment

By Bryan R. Wilson | Go to book overview

PART IV THE SECTARIAN AND DENOMINATIONAL ATTITUDE

XI
THE ORIGINS AND FUNCTIONS OF SECTS

ALTHOUGH ecumenical tendencies dominate the contemporary religious scene in Britain, and are increasingly important in America, there persist a variety of movements within Christianity which manifest no immediate ecumenical disposition. These are the sects. Their response to the world is more intensely and specifically religious than that of the Churches. They have, in general, made much less compromise with the social order. They represent an alternative pattern of religious commitment in the secular society. They are themselves a feature of societies experiencing secularization, and they may be seen as a response to a situation in which religious values have lost social pre-eminence. It is in conditions in which the sacred order has been subordinated to the secular -- usually the religious institution to the political institution, as in the Roman Empire or Europe from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, or twentieth-century Japan -- that sectarianism becomes most manifest and institutionalized.

They have played an important part in the development of Western society, and in this last part of the book, some attention must be paid to their description and analysis, and

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