USQ Logo
The current and official versions of the course specifications are available on the web at
Please consult the web for updates that may occur during the year.

RET3000 Cults and Sects: Exploring Good and Evil

Semester 3, 2021 Online
Short Description: Cults and Sects
Units : 1
Faculty or Section : Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts
School or Department : School of Education
Student contribution band : Band 1
ASCED code : 070199 - Teacher Education not elsewher
Grading basis : Graded
Version produced : 28 January 2022


Examiner: Mark Butlin


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.


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

Text and Materials

ALL textbooks and materials available to be purchased can be sourced from USQ's Online Bookshop (unless otherwise stated). (

Please contact us for alternative purchase options from USQ Bookshop. (

There are no texts or materials required for this course.

Reference Materials

Reference materials are materials that, if accessed by students, may improve their knowledge and understanding of the material in the course and enrich their learning experience.

Student Workload Expectations

Activity Hours
Directed Study 80.00
Independent Study 85.00

Assessment Details

Description Marks out of Wtg (%) Due Date Objectives Assessed Notes
ONLINE QUIZ 1 25 25 20 Dec 2021 1,2,3
ONLINE QUIZ 2 25 25 17 Jan 2022 1,2,3
COMPARATIVE SYMBOLIC ASSIGN 50 50 27 Jan 2022 1,2,3,4,5 (see note 1)


Important assessment information

  1. Attendance requirements:
    There are no attendance requirements for this course. However, it is the students’ responsibility to study all material provided to them or required to be accessed by them to maximise their chance of meeting the objectives of the course and to be informed of course-related activities and administration.

  2. Requirements for students to complete each assessment item satisfactorily:
    To satisfactorily complete an individual assessment item a student must achieve at least 50% of the marks for that item.

  3. Penalties for late submission of required work:
    Students should refer to the Assessment Procedure (point 4.2.4)

  4. Requirements for student to be awarded a passing grade in the course:
    To be assured of receiving a passing grade a student must achieve at least 50% of the total weighted marks available for the course.

  5. Method used to combine assessment results to attain final grade:
    The final grades for students will be assigned on the basis of the aggregate of the weighted marks obtained for each of the summative items for the course.

  6. Examination information:
    There is no examination in this course.

  7. Examination period when Deferred/Supplementary examinations will be held:
    Deferred and Supplementary examinations will be held in accordance with the Assessment Procedure

  8. University Student Policies:
    Students should read the USQ policies: Definitions, Assessment and Student Academic Misconduct to avoid actions which might contravene University policies and practices. These policies can be found at

Assessment Notes

  1. Referencing in assignments must comply with the APA referencing system. This system should be used by students to format details of the information sources they have cited in their work. The APA style to be used is defined by the USQ library's referencing guide. This guide can be found at

Evaluation and Benchmarking

In meeting the University’s aims to establish quality learning and teaching for all programs, this course monitors and ensures quality assurance and improvements in at least two ways. This course:

  1. conforms to the USQ Policy on Evaluation of Teaching, Courses and Programs to ensure ongoing monitoring and systematic improvement.
  2. forms part part of the Bachelor of Secondary Education and is benchmarked against the
  3. internal USQ accreditation/reaccreditation processes which include (i) stringent standards in the independent accreditation of its academic programs, (ii) close integration between business and academic planning, and (iii) regular and rigorous review.
  4. professional accreditation standards of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.

Date printed 28 January 2022