When talking about spiritual beliefs, two terms usually come up: religion and sects, the latter loaded with a negative connotation that is not always correct. We know that they are different, but exactly what are the differences between sect and religion? In what respects are they different? If you want to know more about this interesting topic, we explain how to differentiate them.
WHAT IS A RELIGION?
According to the encyclopedia of the Castilian, it is a set of beliefs and dogmas about divinity, feelings, awe and fear towards it, moral norms for individual and social behavior, and ritual practices, especially prayer and sacrifice to worship him.
Religion – whatever it may be – consists of the belief or worship of one or more gods.
Also, it carries the notion of obedience to divine commandments, as they are reflected in the Holy Scriptures of each religion.
Other definition of religion: Set of beliefs and duties that arise from man’s dependence on God; likewise, as the expression of man’s relationship with God.
The Second Vatican Council has said that the exercise of religion consists of those interior acts, voluntary and free, using which the human being marks the course of his existence in the direction of God.
All nations, all civilizations – even the most primitive ones – have beliefs, ceremonies, rituals, and codes of morals.
Although the variety of these religious expressions is quite wide, this fact – historically verifiable – demonstrates the existence of God’s desire on the part of human beings and the existence of natural law; both things inscribed by God himself in the hearts of all humans. Religion, then, is part of the very nature of man.
In recent years, the problem is that although recently the religious spirit has been resurgent, it has deviated, and many people have tried to design their religion, a combination of many others according to each individual.
WHAT IS A SECT?
The word sect comes from the Latin secure, which means sectarian, to cut. Also, this term has its origin in the word secede, which means to separate. In both cases always present the idea of separation.
In Europe, the word sect has been conceived as derived, mainly, from sequi, to follow; and it is associated with the idea of following a teacher, a Leader.
According to the definition given by Yves de Gibon in the Dictionary of Religions compiled by Cardinal Paul Poupard, the term sect designates a group opposed to the doctrine and structures of the Church and also implies, most of the time, the idea of dissent. In a broader sense, it applies to every minority religious movement.
For its part, the Secretariat for the Union of Christians of the Vatican State in a study – carried out in 1984 – states that for practical reasons, sects are defined as “some religious groups with a specific conception of the world, derived from, but not entirely by the teachings of the great world religions. ‘
Hence a first distinction that should not be ignored: the origin of each sect. That is, if they were born within the Christian religion or if they are based on other religions.
In the case of those that arise within Christianity, the criterion to distinguish between sects of Christian origin, on the one hand, and Church and ecclesial communities on the other, must be based on the sources of the teaching of these groups.
In this way, the sects could be those groups that, in addition to the Bible, have other revealed books or prophetic messages; that exclude some proto-canonical texts from the Bible or radically change their content.
A sect is a group separated from the Christian totality and believes itself to be the only possessor of all truth. It closes itself around leaders. It excludes the others, he considers them as unsaved and acts proselytizing.
A sect is the existential, theoretical and practical key, of those who belong to an autonomous group, non-Christian, fanatically proselytizing, exalting personal effort and expectant of a marvelous change, whether collective – of humanity – or of individuals or of man, in a kind of superman.
SOME MAIN FEATURES ARE:
-Autonomy: the sect is a refuge. They reject society, its values , and institutions. The community itself replaces everything. Here they are kept pure, perfect, saved.
They try to achieve their autonomy, but they do not respect that of the other. In this instability, uncertainty, loneliness is present. They believe they are absolute possessors of the truth.
Only the members of the sect are chosen, accepted by God. The adept is the light. And since we are in the end times, we must prepare for salvation. But the interpretation of salvation is usually reduced by the revelations of the initiators of the community.
– FRATERNITY AND EMOTIONAL WORSHIP:
Personal experiences and religious experiences are highlighted; they are about fostering a fraternity climate among the members. In worship, everything that reaches sentiment is favored, such as appropriate songs and testimonies. Psychological dependence on the leader and the group is created.
– VOLUNTARY MILITARISM:
Membership of a sect requires voluntary and free adherence to its values and norms. The sect demands to be a living, militant, and active member; it comprises voluntary members, although some, after certain stages, have permanence requirements to keep their secrets.
They consider themselves saints. The others are worldly, sinners. They must be willing to sacrifice and follow strong ethical standards.
The formation is not important but charism, experience, dedication to the ideal of the group. Sometimes, the exclusivist nature of the environment in which the individual lives causes them to leave the study, friends, even family, dedicating all their time to the sect. They do not want to contaminate themselves with the world, which they call a place of darkness.
-FEAR AND MORALISM:
It often happens that men act out of fear rather than love, and in the sects, the threat of condemnation is very present, that the end is near. Methods of instilling fear appear easily in the writings and words of the sect faithful.
– AUTHORITARIANISM AND OBEDIENCE:
The sect group must function perfectly. For this, nothing better than an authority that commands decisively.
This comes from the teacher who has had a peculiar experience or revelation, and nothing is discussed but accepted blindly obeying.
There is a total surrender to the sect. The individual closes himself and protects himself within it. As a consoling reward, the sectarian group makes the faithful believe that he is worthy of belonging to the sect. He is chosen, saved.
– INDIVIDUALISTIC IMPROVEMENT:
More than before the masses, the sects appear before the individual promising him perfection. They claim to offer them immediate and attractive salvation.
To do this, they break contact with the world because it is evil and doomed. Since luxury, riches, and everything that gives pleasure is bad, it must be despised. What matters is the future and uncontaminated behavior.
– BIBLICAL ACCOMMODATION:
Sects fall into a biblical simplification. We must recognize many of them who attach importance to the Bible, who guide and motivate to read it, which is something familiar to all its faithful.
The problem is that they confront her with a sect stance, adapt it to their plans, and use it as a strategy to attack and confuse weak or untrained people. His favorite books are Daniel and the Apocalypse.
They fall into reductionism and subjectivism. Many remove, because it does not suit them, seven books of the Old Testament: Tobias, Judith, Maccabees, II Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch.
– PROSELYTIZING TASK:
This is the only activity that many silks have, towards the world and society. In the proselytizing task, they use the Bible and their own publications. Examples of this are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Bible is a good tactic to get attention and encourage group membership. They use it as a means. They say they teach to read and understand the Bible, although sometimes they falsify it. They use studied communication techniques in visits to homes, squares, stadiums, radio, television. They are propaganda specialists.
They have a friendly, receptive, cheerful proselytizing style, attentive to others’ needs and problems, and appear helpful and friendly. The most important idea in preaching is conversion. A change of life is requested, a break with the past marked by sin, evil, vice, error.
– SILKS ARE NOT CHRISTIAN:
Many of the silks claim to be Christian; However, when analyzing them, it is concluded that they are not because they fail in terms of one, several, or all the elements of the basic Christian faith.
About Christ, some silks defend that Jesus is a teacher, a leader, a being with special powers and knowledge. Some point out that Christ is inferior to the eternal God of the Bible, who did not exist as God from all eternity. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that he was Jehovah’s first creature.