Sect vs Cult: Difference and Comparison

Many scholars omit the terms’ sect and cult.

From these religions, many cults and sects have emerged from all over the world. Sects and cults are the splinter groups from a religion.

To many people, they look similar but not identical. They both have different features like mind control and brainwashing.

Key Takeaways

  1. A sect is a subgroup within a larger religious organization, whereas a cult is a small, controversial group with unorthodox beliefs and practices.
  2. Sects connect with the parent religion and share core beliefs, while cults revolve around a charismatic leader and may reject mainstream religious teachings.
  3. Cults are more likely to be perceived as dangerous and controlling than sects, which tend to be more accepted.

Sect vs Cult

A sect is a subset of a larger religious or cultural organization that shares some beliefs or practices but differs in specific interpretations or activities. A cult is a group with specific beliefs that vary from standard religious or cultural conventions, frequently centered on a charismatic leader.

Sect vs Cult

The members of the sect lead normal lives in society. For example, Vaishnava and Shaiva sects are the subsets of Hinduism.

A cult is a group of people who have no association with religion because they are formed with non-religious people. A cult is a quasi-religious group.  

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonSectCult
DefinitionA sect is a subset of religion.A Cult is a group of people who have no association with religion because they are formed with non-religious people.  
MembersThe members of a sect lead normal lives in society.The members of a cult lead a non-social life, they live separately from their families.  
AcceptableSects are accepted by the government and the people.Cults are not accepted by the government and the religious people.  
ObedientThis is not the case with members of sects.   The members of a cult are obedient to their leaders
BrainwashedThe members of sects are not brainwashed.  The members are brainwashed or coerced into cults.
ExamplesFor example, Vaishnava and Shaiva sects are the subsets of Hinduism, Baptism and Lutherans are the subsets of Christianity, Sunni and Shia‘s sects are the subsets of Islam.The Osho movement or KKK are examples of cults.    

What is Sect?

The term sect is derived from the Latin word ‘secta’, whose literal meaning is manner or school of thought. It refers to the people who have distinct beliefs.

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Thus, the sect is a subset of a religion formed by a small group of people. They have their own ideas and are considered non-religious.

The people that are a part of sects belong to marginal communities. The members of the sect lead normal lives in society.

For example, Vaishnava and Shaiva sects are the subsets of Hinduism, Baptism and Lutherans are the subsets of Christianity, and Sunni and Shia’s sects are the subsets of Islam.

The government and the people accept sects.

sect

What is Cult?  

The term cult is derived from the Latin word cultus, whose literal meaning is labour or worship.

A cult is a quasi-religious group. They have different but unorthodox ideas and beliefs with different rituals.

Cults give out negative beliefs. The people who join a cult believe that it is the only way to overcome salvation and that everything outside of it is bad or an omen.

The cult may or may not be religious. It is seen as a negative group. The belief is that just their ideas are supreme. The people are brainwashed or coerced.

The Osho movement and KKK are examples of cults.  

Main Differences Between Sect and Cult

  1. A sect is a small group of people, whereas a cult is a quasi-religious group.
  2. The cult members are obedient to their leaders, but this is not the case with the members of sects.
  3. The members are brainwashed or coerced into cults, whereas the members of sects are not brainwashed.
Difference Between Sect and Cult
References
  1. https://academic.oup.com/socrel/article-abstract/42/1/17/1630485
  2. https://elibrary.ru/item.asp?id=3803116

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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13 thoughts on “Sect vs Cult: Difference and Comparison”

  1. This article is very informative, it’s very interesting to see a comparison between sects and cults from different perspectives

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