Becker as an expansion of German theologian Ernst Troeltsch's church–sect typology.
Troeltsch's aim was to distinguish between three main types of religious behavior: churchly, sectarian and mystical.
References to the "cult" of, for example, a particular Catholic saint, or the imperial cult of ancient Rome, use this sense of the word.
Beginning in the 1930s, cults became the object of sociological study in the context of the study of religious behavior.
The terms cult and cultist came into use in medical literature in the United States in the 1930s for what would now be termed "faith healing", especially as practised in the US Holiness movement.