A sect is a small religious group that has branched off a larger established religion. Sects have many beliefs and practices in common with the religion they have broken off from, but are differentiated by a number of doctrinal differences. The word sect comes from the Latin secta, meaning an organized religious body or organization, a course of action or way of life.
Sociologists use the word sect to refer to a religious group with a high degree of tension with the surrounding society, but whose beliefs are (within the context of that society) largely traditional. A cult, by contrast, also has a high degree of tension with the surrounding society, but its beliefs are (within the context of that society) new and innovative. Sects, in the sociological sense, are generally traditionalist and conservative, seeking to return a religion to its (perceived) religious purity.
People who are keen (or even desperate) to know spiritual truth and to have some sort of higher meaning in their lives can often be less discerning when it comes to being deceived. A cult can offer easy (but false) answers to their spiritual questions. The cult appears attractive in the areas that the new member is needy in. For example, a cult might make a lonely new member feel really welcome and provide the new member with lots of new friends with similar interests – especially effective for someone who has just moved to the city. The cult might provide meals to someone who has just lost a spouse. Cults fill needs – emotional, spiritual, and practical.
The members become convinced and are led on a course that affects them on every level, emotional, psychological, the heart and mind, soul and spirit. From this they are taken captive replacing critical thinking and even biblical thinking with the ways the group wants them to think in. Destructive cults are basically pyramid-shaped with a person or group of teachers that have total control over the lives of their followers. The cult’s lifestyle is based on the hopes and goals of their leader and the group collectively. They will often use psychological manipulation and deception to recruit new members. Individuals are not told up front what the group is really about or what will be expected of them if they become members. They find these things out later. So many people never have a chance of making a knowledgeable choice because most of them are encouraged to join as soon as possible without looking into the background or history of the group.
Cults are found in two categories: theological and sociological. And they can practise both in some degree. Cults operate through a thought reform process to create a new identity for the person, one that fits in with the group. The means is through intensive indoctrination; the other is living a new life according to their doctrine. In a mind control environment, freedom of choice is the first thing one loses. The cult leader’s philosophy, his books, teachings, and practices determine the new life for the members. This creates the member’s new reality. Everything done prior to this is found meaningless. Whatever practice is adopted by people let it be done open-eyed and rationally – after all we are educated animals…