What is a sect?

Definition of a sect

In today's world, 'what is a sect?' is an important question. A sect can be defined as:

  • 1. A body of persons adhering to a particular religious faith.
  • 2. A dissenting or schismatic religious body, especially one regarded as extreme or heretical.
  • 3. Religious denomination characterized by insistence on strict qualifications for membership, as distinguished from the more inclusive groups called churches.
  • 4. Any group, party, or faction united by a specific doctrine or under a doctrinal leader.

It has its origin in the Latin word 'secta', which means a course of action or a way of life, and this is probably derived from the Latin word 'sectari', which means to pursue or to follow. 

The term was first used in 1931 to describe newly formed religious groups that have broken away from their parent religion because of disagreements over beliefs or ideology. Nowadays, it is often used interchangeably with cult, especially in the context of a destructive group.

When is a sect destructive?

Steven Hassan, in his book Breaking The Bonds, is very clear that destructive sects are not defined by their ideology or beliefs. People should be allowed the freedom to choose what they believe in.

Instead a sect is said to be destructive when it uses deception and mind control techniques to undermine a person's free will, limit their critical thinking and decision making abilities and make him or her dependent on the group's leader.

For Hassan, a destructive sect has authoritarian leadership, deception, and destructive mind control.

Read more about this kind of leadership and control in destructive sects...

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