Difference Between Sect and Denomination

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    Sect vs Denomination

    Billions of people around the world belong to one form of religious group or another. Everyone has heard of Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and many of the hundreds of religions that have developed over the centuries, that are based on various teachings. The differences between these major religions are known, but there are two terms that are confusing to many people: Sect and Denomination. This article identifies the differences between sects and denominations of these various religious groups.


    The word ‘Sect’ identifies a smaller religious group that is an offshoot of the larger established religion. Sects still have much in common with their original religious beliefs; however, some fundamental differences in the rules and principles have allowed them to deviate from of the original creed.

    The word ‘Denomination’ identifies a recognized religious group with its own distinctive faith, or set of beliefs. Generally, these have existed for many centuries as world-wide congregations, and operate under a common set of beliefs, traditions or identities. Christians and Catholic s would be considered Denominations because of centuries of tradition in their beliefs.


    Denominations form slowly over time, as a result of geographical distances, cultural differences, and influences by other groups. The members develop specific theological, philosophical and ethical views, that evolve into definitive practices and rituals.

    Sects within the denomination generally form from a dispute with the authorities of the primary religious group’s views. Distinct differences in the formal belief constantly change, based on new leaders that arrive, and convince the congregation to split off into a separate group because of the newly emerging interpretations of the sacred book of the denomination.


    In the context of Denominations, the Christian Church has two primary Denominations ‘“ Protestant and Catholic, but within each, there are around 1500 Sects. Within the Protestant faith, there are sects of Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Amish, Quakers, and many more. Within the Catholic Denomination, there are sects such as Orthodox, Greek, Roman, Episcopalian, and numerous more offshoots. What differentiates them is the interpretation of the original tradition and set of beliefs.

    Judaism has four primary Denominations: Orthodox, Masorti, Reform, and Reconstructionist. Several examples within Orthodox Judaism, are the sects of Hasidism, Misnagdim, Modern, Messianic, Sepharadic, and many more.

    Within Islam, there are three primary branches, which are the Sunni, Shia, and Sufis. Examples within the Shia Islam denominations, are the Twelvers, Ismailiam, Zaidyyah, Alawiyyah, and the Alevism. Again, they parted based on different interpretations of the original traditions.


    1. There are several fundamental religions throughout the world that are known as Denominations. They vary in their deep-seated theology, philosophy, and beliefs of the founders and teachers who identified, and set up, the original beliefs.

    2. Every denomination is further divided into sects, primarily based on differences of interpretation from the original, fundamental beliefs, from the emerging leaders.

    3. In the context of Denominations, the Christian Church has two primary Denominations ‘“ Protestant and Catholic, but within each, there are around 1500 Sects.

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