Should sects be treated differently from religions?
Answer: I will assume that the
word “sects” is layman’s use for something that is synonymous with a
cult. In the sociology of religion, a sect is simply an offshoot of the
parent religion. But historically the word “sect” has become very
pejorative. It is usually associated with heretical belief, fanaticism
and rigid control. Regardless of definitions, whether we refer to sects
or religions, let us look at behaviours. Let us assume the question is
pointing to a sect or a religion that manifests extremism, hatred or
violence. What is to be done?
First, what do the Bahá’í writings have to say about religious
fanaticism? Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í
Faith, and the latest in a long succession of Divine Messengers, wrote:
“Religious fanaticism and hatred are a world-devouring fire, whose
violence none can quench. The Hand of Divine power can, alone, deliver
mankind from this desolating affliction....”
Since the early beginnings of the interfaith movement, Bahá’ís have
been involved in the promotion of interreligious dialogue and
mutual understanding. We are dedicated to the elimination of religious
dissension and strife. According to Bahá’u’lláh, one of the several
purposes of religion is the creation of love and harmony among all the
inhabitants of the globe, who are to be regarded as members of one,
organic human family.
All the great world faiths are divine in origin and God-ordained.
Dissension, extremism, shunning, prejudice, hatred and violence are
regarded by Bahá’ís as perversions of faith, whose first sign is love.
The Bahá’í Faith (1844-), although its historical origins are found in
Iranian Shiism, is not a sect of Islam, nor a syncretistic or eclectic
man-made movement, but the youngest of the prophetically revealed,
independent world religions. -