Class aspects of religion. Most religious groupings, whether one thinks of a single congregation or of a sect, particularly if it is a creed accepted by practically the whole society, contain representatives of all, or nearly all, the social classes. In a single congregation the social distinctions are sometimes externally evidenced by the membership of the hierarchy of offices in the church or even by the seating of families in their respective pews.Next Page
In the United States, for instance, many Episcopalians are very high in social standing, but belonging to the Episcopalian church does not indicate high social standing, for there are many domestic servants (lower class) also in that church.
In Senftenberg, Germany, it was easy to note that nearly all the Poles, mostly of lower class standing, attended the Catholic Church; whereas, for the most part, higher class Germans attended the Evangelical church. However, some higher class Germans attended mass at the Catholic church, but it so happened in 1928-29 few of the lower class Germans in that town attended any church at all.
From a man's class, his religion cannot be ascertained; from his religious affiliation, his class cannot be determined.
The division of German society or that of the United States into followers of Catholicism, Evangelism, Judaism, and others, does not parallel the division into social classes; and the treatment of these groups by each other throughout the history of these nations requires a different psychological, sociological, and historical explanation and interpretation than that which is called for in a study of the development and adjustments of the social classes.
Social class distinctions are to a great degree based on the intrinsic qualities in the behavior and ways of life of the families concerned; religious distinctions are based on differences in the various religious beliefs and upon personal attitudes towards those beliefs. Religious prejudice does not ask what are the qualities of the person or of his family; it asks only, "What is your faith?" One is inside or outside of a religious group according to criteria that have nothing to do with class habits, class attitudes, or class distinctions.
If, as sometimes happens, one religious sect lives apart from another, and the children and their parents do not fraternize, is there a class distinction? It would seem the wiser explanation to regard these two exclusive groups as castes, not as classes. In the first place, each of these groups has its hierarchy of dignity, prestige, status, and esteem. Furthermore, neither is likely to accept the social superiority of the other, and therefore the basic psychological mechanism whereby the social classes are formed is lacking. This division is the kind that makes of one community (one thinks of some Easter Polish town before the present war) two in all things intimate and personal but leaves it one community in its economic and some of its political activities.
Nationality and social class. One Mexican family may be of lower standing than most of the whites in a town. Most of the Mexicans in the United States may be poor and lacking in prestige, but does this mean that a Mexican is a person of low class standing because he is Mexican? Can his nationality be equated with his class position? Sorokin would seem to think this not only possible, but also imperative: 55
In order to know a man's social position, his family status, the state of which he is a citizen, his nationality, his religious group, his occupational group, his political party, his economic status, his race, and so on must be know. Only when a man is located in all these respects is his social position definitely located.
But does a person not carry his class position with him, when he comes from South Carolina to New York, from France to California? Is it not a part of his personality, his credentials, his recommendations, his habits and attitudes? Is a family's social standing not recognizable even where language handicaps have not yet been overcome? The Huguenots were strangers in a far land, but they took up their work, and, by dint of effort, long their accustomed habit, they retained their honored status as skilled craftsmen. The Jews were driven from Spain, and are now being driven from central Europe, but only the direct sort of persecution could or can make such families as were of the middle class give up their habits of learning, trading, working, enterprising.
55. Sorokin, op. cit., p. 5.