Sect is a term derived from the Latin “secta” and is used to describe a movement, political party, school or doctrine. In our language, a sect generally refers to the separation of a religious community from its mother church.
In contrast to a classical schism within a church, where there are no fundamentally new theological views in the divided parties after the split, sects are often formed precisely because of possible theological differences within the church.
The Sect – From late antiquity to the end of the Middle Ages, there were major church schisms and splits, such as the separation of the Eastern and Western Churches around 1054 AD, the Western Schism within the Catholic Church in the 14th and 15th centuries, and the Reformation in the 16th century, initiated by Martin Luther.
Since the beginning of the Reformation, there have been more and more schisms, even within the Reformed churches. To this day, hundreds of new denominations have emerged – all with a Christian background, not to mention the many non-Christian sects and groups.
If the term “sect” or the meaning of this word is analysed in a value-neutral way, it follows that most people who belong to a religious denomination today are members of a sect. In recent times, the term “sect” has been applied in a very emotionally charged way, to smaller churches and faith communities that may have different values and world views from the masses. It has even been misused to stigmatise adherents of other faiths, thus giving this value-free term a negative connotation.
Since then, the term “sect” has been misused by all kinds of organisations for propaganda purposes. Members of religious or spiritual groups, or simply those who think differently, have often been defamed and discredited, perhaps because of a lack of understanding among the general public.
The result is a so-called combat term. It is almost as loaded as the term “Nazi”, although, unlike National Socialism, it does not refer to a tyrannical or dictatorial movement. Trivialising Nazism by misusing the term Nazi is almost as manipulative as labelling a dissident as a cult member.
It is clear from what has already been said that, by definition, no mystery school or esoteric school of thought can be a cult!
Since it has already been mentioned that most so-called churches are in fact sects – and that we are free to choose our own worldview, religion or cult practice because of the freedom of religion enshrined in human rights – the real issue is whether or not a group is “dangerous” to society.
Steven Hassan, an American psychologist, has developed the B.I.T.E. model, which can be used to assess the influence of a group. B.I.T.E. stands for the control exercised by the group over the following areas:
Depending on the intensity with which each of these areas is controlled by the group, conclusions can be drawn about the dangerousness of the community. However, this is usually impossible for outsiders to do, as psycho-groups and dangerous groups often appear more harmless than they are.
It should be noted that the common definitions used by the so-called “mainstream” churches for “dangerous” cults also apply 1:1 to them!
What are cults?
From late antiquity to the end of the Middle Ages, there have been major church schisms and divisions, such as the separation of the Eastern and Western Churches around 1054 AD, the Western Schism within the Catholic Church in the 14th and 15th centuries, and the Reformation in the 16th century, initiated by Martin Luther.
Since the beginning of the Reformation there have been more and more schisms, even within the Reformed churches. Hundreds of new denominations have emerged in this way – all with a Christian background, not to mention the many non-Christian sects and groups.
What is a sect explained to children?
The term sect means separation from a religious community. As a result, the term is often used incorrectly. This is because most people who are part of a religious community today are actually members of a sect. The term sect is used as a fighting term to discredit people with different religious, political, social or economic ideas.
Since the Reformation, there has been an increasing number of splits within churches. Sects are splits from mainstream churches or religious communities. Hundreds of new faiths with a Christian background have emerged. There are also many non-Christian sects and groups.
Is a sect a religion?
Most so-called churches are actually cults. Everyone is free to choose their own worldview, religion or worship, based on the freedom of religion enshrined in human rights. Therefore, it is much more a question of whether or not a group is ‘dangerous’ to society. Most of the definitions of psychogroups or dangerous cults issued by church organisations also apply specifically to the church in question.