Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Christian ethics, Religion and sociology



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, vii, 138 leaves)


Troeltsch’s distinction between the church and the sect and similar dichotomies suggest that different kinds of religious organizations affect not only members’ religious beliefs but also their more general attitudes in different ways. For example, the church-type organizations generate more receptiveness to community involvement while the sect-type organizations induce more collective self-centeredness among members. This study examines the tendency toward punitiveness—i.e. a tendency to punish rather than reforms those who break the rules—in a similar context. It was assumed that the individuals belonging to a sect-type organization would be more punitive that those belonging to a church-type organization. The results of this study bear out this assumption. The religious bodies that allow more internal latitude in beliefs, attitudes, and practices are more tolerant in general, while the religious bodies that believe they have the only truth are more punitive in general, while those who do not claim such a position are less punitive. Beliefs and attitudes concerning factors necessary for or preventing salvation also differentiate the religious bodies. They further substantiate the assumption that persons who closely adhere to denominational positions are the more fundamental and the more punitive. Various relationships among variables that were associated with punitiveness, were explored. The highest relationship existed between fundamentalism and membership in a liberal/conservative church. The next highest relationship existed between intrinsic/extrinsic orientation, fundamentalism and membership in a church. A strong relationship existed between punitiveness, fundamentalism and membership in a particular church. The relationship between the degree of religious commitment and the degree of fundamentalism proved to be very strong. The more religiously committed persons were more likely to be the more fundamental. Another variable examined was that of socio-economic status. The data and findings point out that an inverse relationship existed between fundamentalism, punitiveness, and socio-economic status. This is not to say that individual orientations –as distinct from organizational constraints—are irrelevant. This study confirms the expectation that fundamentalist orientation and religious commitment both are positively related to punitiveness. The findings indicate that the more fundamentalist person in the fundamentalist organization is the most punitive; the liberal person in the fundamentalist organization is the second most punitive; the third most punitive person is the fundamentalist in a liberal organization; and the liberal person in the liberal organization is the least punitive. Two churches were selected for the study. Neither of them is completely typical of its respective denomination. The Assembly of God, example of the sect-type, is typical both nationally and regionally for churches in the denomination that are urban and of higher status. It is rather atypical of most Assembly churches which are generally small, rural, and lower status churches. The Episcopal church, example of the church-type, is typical of many large, urban, upper-class churches, both Protestant and Catholic. When compared with Episcopal churches regionally, it may be atypical, but nationally it remains typical. The total sample for both congregations was 250 persons but only 150 persons responded, 78 from the Assembly of God (58 per cent) and 72 from the Episcopal church (60 per cent). The data were gathered through personally administered questionnaires.


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Portland State University. Dept. of Sociology

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