The Social Dimensions of Sectarianism: Sects and New Religious Movements in Contemporary Society
Wilson, Bryan R. The Social Dimensions of Sectarianism: Sects and New Religious Movements in Contemporary Society. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990.
Wilson’s comparative study of the social dimensions of various sects or new religious movements is organized thematically, rather than by a study of each one individually. Christian Science is one of the movements often referenced as an example of a sect that “provide[s] existential and intellectual alternatives to normal social facilities” (v). Topics that include the most discussion on Christian Science include healing practices, the role of charismatic leaders, the role of American-born religions in a European society, pragmatism within a larger social context, intellectual orientation, and the means of enduring in changing society. An example of the study of a topic through the lens of a particular sect is the Christian Science metaphysical philosophy that encourages an intellectual commitment. Wilson argues that for a Christian Scientist, this intellectual commitment is “for his own advantage rather than as a participating member of a group with collective purposes. …or of the wider society. Communal involvement is low, and insulation from evil is operative only at a mental level for each individual” (198). Regarding its pragmatism, Wilson writes, “In many ways, Christian Science represents the first important organized attempt to harness religious ideology rationally and systematically to the service of secular goals” (137).
ISBN-13 (Softcover): 978-0198278832
ISBN-13 (Hardcover): 978-0198273462