Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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Concept developed in the sociological study of religion by Arthur L. Greil (Alfred University) to encompass activities and groups that deal with the sacred but are anomalous in the context of American folk definitions of "religion."

Many of the phenomena that Greil would classify as quasi-religions probably would qualify as religions under standard sociological definitions but either do not see themselves or are not seen by others as unambiguously religious. Quasi-religions straddle the line between sacred and secular , as these terms are commonly applied. Examples would include New Age and holistic health groups, spiritualist groups, witchcraft, Alcoholics Anonymous, and some excoriated "cults." With David Rudy, Greil developed the concept of the Identity Transformation Organization (ITO) and has argued that all organizations that try to "change" people have certain organizational features in common, whether or not the organizations are explicitly "religious."

Thomas Robbins


A. L. Greil, "Explorations Along the Sacred Frontier," in Handbook of Cults and Sects in America , Vol. A, ed. D. G. Bromley and J. K. Hadden (Greenwich, Conn.: JAI, 1993): 153-172

A. L. Greil and T. Robbins (eds.), Between the Sacred and the Secular (Greenwich, Conn.: JAI, 1994)

A. L. Greil and D. R. Rudy, "Social Cocoons," Sociological Inquiry 54(1984):260-278

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