World’s major religions revolve around Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Each religion has its unique element including how each is organized as well as their belief systems. Other notable differences do include the nature of belief in higher power, how the religion began and history of how the world started. Also, this involves the utilization of sacred objects and texts.
In reality, you are going to find various kinds of religious organizations and each has its own practitioner, structure and institution. To give you an example, when Roman Catholic Church emerged, it has borrowed most of its organizational principles from ancient Roman military and also, turned senators into cardinals.
Sociologists are using different terms similar to sect, denomination and ecclesia in an effort to define these organizations. Scholars are aware as well that these said definitions are not static.
Most of the religions are transitioning through different stages of organization. To give you an example, Christianity actually started as cult and transformed into sect and now, it exists as ecclesia.
Cults similar to sects are basically new religious groups. In the US these days, such term is used to carry pejorative connotation. On the other hand, virtually all religions started as cults and slowly progressed to greater organization and size.
The word cult is occasionally used interchangeably with New Religious Movement or NRM. These groups are typically disparaged as highly controlling of the lives of its members, secretive and being dominated by one charismatic leader.
Cult following can be used as well not just in religion but also in products like for example, a short scale bass guitar creating a cult following because of the remarkable sound and quality it has.
What’s a Sect?
Sect is basically a new group which is most often small in size. Majority of well-known Christian denominations in the US nowadays actually started as sects. An example would be Baptists and Methodists that have protested against its parent Anglican Church in England just as how Henry VIII protested against Catholic Church by establishing Anglican Church. From the word “protest”, comes Protestant. This being said, sect can be considered as breakaway group that might be in tension with a bigger society.