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RET3000 Cults and Sects: Exploring Good and Evil

Semester 3, 2022 Online
Units : 1
Faculty or Section : Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts
School or Department : School of Education
Student contribution band : Band 1
Grading basis : Graded
Version produced : 2 July 2022


Pre-requisite: RET2000


In the last 100 years, and especially since the 1960’s, the increase in new religions, cults and faiths has been enormous. Many of the followers are in their teens or early twenties. But they also come from all ages and backgrounds. In the contemporary world, religion has a significant influence on individuals and societies across the globe, informing significant global events, as well as the everyday detail of people’s lives. An understanding of some of the major cults and sects in our society is important in understanding other people’s psyche and cultures. These movements are studied in such a way that students acquire a sense of what it is like to belong to a particular belief system and how that influences the way in which the followers of that movement understand the world, act in it, and relate and respond to others.

Exploring Good and Evil (Cults and Sects) provides an overview of some of the more popular or notorious cults and sects throughout contemporary society. This course presents an analysis of religious and spiritual ideas held by members of those groups. It provides an introduction into contemporary culture as well as the psychology of people more likely to be involved in such a movement. The course compares some cults and sects with one of the five main world religions. Each cult and/or sect will be examined in terms of its conception, its leader or deity, main tenets of belief, contemporary history, peculiar customs and practices, and view of the afterlife. Some specific cults and sects studied will be Mormons, Seven Day Adventists, Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Science, Scientology, Freemasonry, Unification Church, New Age Movement, The Children of God, The Divine Light Mission, Eckankar, Krishna Consciousness, The Worldwide Church of God, Transcendental Meditation and Baha'i. Students will build upon their existing understanding of the main world religions to compare and contrast them to the practices and beliefs of specific cults and sects. It is in this comparison that students will gain further understanding of the particular views and observances of the chosen religious movement.

Course learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course students should be able to:

  1. demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of relevant spiritual and religious concepts and theories;
  2. demonstrate a broad familiarity with key concepts and ideas across a variety of cults and sects;
  3. understand religious movements as lived by diverse people by considering their history, particular practices, individual beliefs, their understanding of the world and where the movement fits within that world;
  4. critically engage with issues surrounding the study of cults and sects;
  5. demonstrate appropriate cognitive, literacy and communication skills, including spelling, grammar, punctuation and bibliographic referencing.


Description Weighting(%)
1. Introduction to Good v Evil 5.00
2. Contemporary Culture, Society and Spirituality 5.00
3. Introduction to Cults and Sects 5.00
4. Major Sects 40.00
5. Common Cults 30.00
6. Other Cults not so well known 10.00
7. Comparative Analysis 5.00
Date printed 2 July 2022