Cults or new religious movements
Cults or new religious movements.
By sociological typology, cults are, like sects, new religious groups.
But, unlike sects, they can form without breaking off from another religious group,
though this is by no means always the case. The characteristic that most distinguishes cults from sects is that they are not advocating a return to pure religion but rather the embracing of something new or something that has been completely lost or forgotten (e.g., lost scriptures or new prophecy). Cults are also much more likely to be led by charismatic leaders than are other religious groups and the charismatic leaders tend to be the individuals who bring forth the new or lost component that is the focal element of the cult.
Cults, like sects, often integrate elements of existing religious theologies, but cults tend to create more esoteric theologies synthesized from many sources. Cults tend to emphasize the individual and individual peace.
Cults, like sects, can develop into denominations. As cults grow, they bureaucratize and develop many of the characteristics of denominations. Some scholars are hesitant to grant cults denominational status because many cults maintain their more esoteric characteristics. But given their closer semblance to denominations than to the cult type, it is more accurate to describe them as denominations. Some denominations in the US that began as cults include Christian Science and the Nation of Islam.
Finally, there is a push in the social scientific study of religion to begin referring to cults as New Religious Movements (NRMs). This is the result of the often pejorative and derogatory meanings attached to the word “cult” in popular language.