Finally, it should be noted that there is a push in the social scientific study of religion to begin referring to cults as New Religious Movements or NRMs . The reasoning behind this is because cult has made its way into popular language as a derogatory label rather than as a specific type of religious group. Most religious people would do well to remember the social scientific meaning of the word cult and, in most cases, realize that three of the major world religions originated as cults, including: Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism.
Rationalists object to the phenomenological and functionalist approaches, arguing that they fail to understand why believers in systems of non-scientific knowledge do think they tell the truth and that their ideas are right, even though science has shown them to be wrong. We cannot explain forms of knowledge in terms of the beneficial psychological or societal effects that an outside observer may see them as producing. We have to look at the point of view of those who believe in them. People do not believe in God, practice magic, or think that witches cause misfortune because they think they are providing themselves with psychological reassurance, or to achieve greater cohesion for their social groups. They do so because they think their beliefs are correct – that they tell them the truth about the way the world is.
Many protest movements display sectarian characteristics but to different degrees and often in somewhat different respects. Most of the important protest movements in Christianity, while highly influenced by sectlike elements, endeavored to achieve organizational forms which also involved many of the characteristics of the church. Thus the Reformed churches of the Protestant Reformation vary along a complex continuum from Anglicanism with its episcopate and quite ecclesiastical structure, at one end, to the sectlike organizations of the Baptists, at the other, with interesting combinations of church and sect attributes characterizing the in-between groups, for example, the Churches of the Standing Order in colonial Massachusetts. Joachim Wach (1944) has called a number of them independent groups and has pointed out that they vary in form from churchlike hierarchical structures to egalitarian covenants of laymen.