The sociology of religion defines sect as the type of religion which rejects the laws and values of the world. On the contrary, the church is a religion that accepts the laws and values of the world. The sect is more purist in its approach to its faith but the church realizes that some dose of reality is inevitable for the revival and growth of religion. Thus, unlike the sect, a church seeks power and influence.
Until Simon, the youngest son of Mattathias decided to seek political independence from Syria in 141 BCE, Jews rarely sought harbored political ambitions or grand empires like the rest of the world. Before the start of Hasmonean dynasty by Simon, most Jews were content to just have the freedom to practice their faith without any interference and be allowed to preserve their traditions. Jews had been under different political rules which resulted in an uncertain future for them. They were always at the mercy of their political rulers some of whom were accommodating while the rest were hostile. Even when they were under friendly rule such as that of Cyrus of Persia, they were still obliged to proclaim their loyalty to the rulers.
Another downside to this was that they kept getting caught up in the fight of others. Palestine became part of different empires such as Cyrus of Persia, Alexander of Macedonia, Ptolemy of Egypt, and Antiochus IV of Seleucid Empire. Simon wanted to achieve political independence despite the opposition of some of his own people because he wanted the Jewish people to have more control over their destiny rather than getting caught up in the struggles of other empires. Even though, Simon’s rule didn’t last long (less than 100 years) but it did create political ambitions and helped expose the advantages of self-rule. A good modern example is the state of Israel even though some orthodox forms of Judaism still oppose the idea of Israel.
Stoicism transitioned from a sect to a church out of the frustration with hierarchical Indo-European cultures that led to wide economic and social inequalities. The proponents of stoicism believed that one’s privileges and status in the society should not be determined by hereditary lines and every citizen of the states has a right to happiness and economic well being. The traditional empires were more focused on military might than celebrating the artistic and cultural talents of their people. Thus, stoicism emerged with the intent to create more equal opportunities for the average person and to seek the happiness of the masses rather than the elites. To be able to do so, the principles of stoicism had to be implemented on a large scale as did happen with the introduction of democratic principles by the Greeks. These Greek principles enjoyed their spread on a global scale, thanks to the conquests of Alexander the Great. America is the greatest example of the triumph of Stoicism. Greek principle of democracy spread because they created the notion of a just state.
Buddhism started as a philosophy of life that was more focused on internal struggles and escape from materialism than becoming a rule of the land. Buddhism founder Siddhartha even left his royal origin behind which is not surprising given Buddhism non preference for power and other worldly attractions. Buddhism’s transition from sect to Church can be credited to Ashoka, the Mauryan Emperor who was devastated upon seeing the destruction caused by one of his conquests. He was taken by Buddhism’s focus on harmony as well as respect for life. Thus, Ashoka adopted Buddhist principles. Because Ashoka ruled over a huge kingdom, his actions helped spread Buddhism and changed it from a sect to a church who influence spread also spread outside India. In addition, Ashoka also sent missionaries to other kingdoms.
Some of the consequences of such transitions are that religious institutions become more aggressive in increasing the number of followers because numbers indicate the power of the religious institutions. Such transitions also blur the distinction between the religion and the state because church tries to become the state itself. Because such transitions seek power, they also have the potential to curb the rights of other religious groups.