According to the General Social Survey (GSS) by the University of Berkeley, upper class people’s religions are mostly Protestants, Catholics, and Jewish making up 84.3%, with none weighing in at 12.5%. All other classes mostly consist of Protestants, Catholics, or none. The Jewish religion mostly consists of the upper class, while all other religions are pretty much even in the amount of people from all classes including no religion.
Associations: Religion and Race
The majority of blacks, 80.2%, claim to be Protestants (GSS). These high percentages are due to the church playing a central roll in the lives of black people. No other secular institution has helped the black community so much, providing a psychological and social haven from hostility and marginalization, social networking, community involvement, self-help and political activism (Conley 609). Blacks have the largest percentage in the Protestant religions and the least having no religion, 7.9%, followed by Catholic at 7.4%. All other religions total 4.4 % of the black population. White people are 56.6% Protestant, 27.2% Catholic, and 10.8% no religion. Only 2.3% are Jewish, and all other religions have a combined percentage of 3. All other races are 45.8% Catholic, 24.4% Protestant, and 14.4% have no religion which is the highest of the races. Other races have the most people in different religions than Protestants, Catholics, and Jewish, with 15.5% (GSS).
Associations: Religion and Gender
According to the General Social Survey, women express a stronger religious affiliation than men, while men are more likely than women to not have any religious affiliations. Women have a more absolute belief in God, pray more often, and attend worship services more often than men . Conservative faiths contribute to gender inequality. Women with traditional religious beliefs are less interested in careers and more concerned with family. They get married and have children earlier than other women (Conley 610)
Religious Preference and Social Class
The majority of Catholics are the middle and working class people. Protestants are mainly the working and lower classes. Jewish people are mostly upper and middle class people. The rest of the religions are pretty level across the classes except for Christianity which is mainly comprised of the lower and working classes. (GSS)
Belief and involvement in religious activities are two different things. Highly educated people are more likely to have less traditional faiths and beliefs but participate in religious organizations for the civic advantages of belonging to such an organization. Those who’s education surpasses that of their religious peer group often switch to a “higher-brow group” (Conley 611). People with high incomes donate more but participate less than those with lower incomes. Episcopalians, the fourteenth largest religious institutions, are among the elite religions in the U.S. with one in four presidents having been a member (Conley 611). According to the GSS, Jewish people are mostly comprised of upper class white people. It seems that religion is about socializing and trends with the upper class, and for the lower class it’s about having a helping hand.
Conflict Theory and Religion
Throughout the history of the U.S., black people have been oppressed. For them, the church is the place to get personal help and become involved in their communities and political activities. This coincides with Karl Marx’ conflict theoretical approach to religion by the “opiate of the masses” (Conley 589). In this theory, it’s acceptable to the faithful religious servant to be downtrodden because of the promise of great reward in the afterlife. Although not a popular theory, it has it’s merit. Growing up in a Christian house, complaining was something frowned upon. When I was an adult going to a Christian church, one is taught not to “murmur and complain.”
Functionalist Approach to Religion
“When people conform to the rules of their religion, they are in effect yielding to the moral authority of society,” (Conley 595) There is a bond between religious people and society. Religious people are less likely to commit crimes, whether out of fear of “going to hell,” being found out by their religious peers, or from personal religious convictions. Since religion frowns upon the use of alcohol, tobacco, and substance abuse, illness from these substances are lower in religious people. The social activities in their religious communities contribute to lower levels of depression; people have a sense of belonging.
Symbolic Interactionism and Religion
What religion would be complete without all of symbols of their beliefs and the titles of those in the ministry? The office held by the pope is the symbol of the Catholic church, and the papacy is their system of government. Much like any governing body, the collective acknowledgment of their title make their meaning so (Conley 30) While the Catholic religion is an easy one to tackle with symbolic interactionism, all religions have their governing order, with the ministry as the governing body.
Conley, Dalton. You May Ask Yourself. 2nd ed. Ed. Karl Bakeman. New York: Norton, 2011. 30, 589, 595, 609-11. Print. Computer-assisted Survey Methods Program. Religion and Social Class, Race, and Affiliation by Gender. UC Berkeley. 1 April, 2013. Web. 22 July 2013.