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He argued that the bulk of what interested us in such differentiation could be traced to two simple principles: the extent to which the ideology saw itself as uniquely (rather than pluralistically) legitimate, and the extent to which the ideology was viewed as respectable (rather than deviant) by the surrounding society.His interest in new religious movements led to a general study, The Elementary Forms of the New Religious Life (Routledge 1984), which again showed his skill at going to the heart of the matter in categorizing new religious movements as world-affirming, world-rejecting, and world-accommodating.For example, both the Quakers, or Society of Friends, and the Methodists originally began as world-rejecting religious sects, with members living distinctive lifestyles in opposition to existing society.However, both have long abandoned their world-rejecting features, and have evolved from sects into the highly respectable world-accommodating and tolerant denominations they are today.

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On the other hand, some sects, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have retained their features as world-rejecting sects over a long period of time, while others, like the People’s Temple, have completely disappeared.

What influences whether a sect is short-lived or long-lived, whether it turns into a denomination or whether it disappears?

The available evidence strongly indicates that there has been a long history of nontraditional religious groups in the United States and that these groups have maintained a strong minority presence (Moore 1985).

Since a high proportion of these NRMs have survived, the overall number has continued to rise.

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