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Religious Expression and Its Social Factors Essay


Social class as a determinant of religious expression

Social class determines religious expression in that the adherence of a person to certain religious beliefs is correlated to his or her position in the social class he or she belongs. People in the non-working class tend to be more conservative in their religious beliefs. Sectarianism is a term that helps to describe this fact better, which refers to a form of organization of religious beliefs that is common in the lower class. Religious beliefs and doctrines of the traditional churches tend to meet the needs of people in the upper classes (Campbell & Putnam, 2010).

On the other hand, evangelical churches offer a fantasy world in order to meet the needs of its working class. People with poor social-economic backgrounds tend to associate themselves with activities of sect-type religion. In Great Britain, it is also observed that the majority of poor people comprise a greater percentage of sect churches (Johnstone, 2007).

In the United States of America, there is a notable difference in the involvement of religious activities among people in different social classes (Honeycutt & Sheldonand, 2011). People in the middle class are more oriented toward traditional beliefs and tend to engage in insect activities. Social class determines religious participation because high-class people tend to participate more in voluntary organizations.

There is always a high correlation between membership in such organizations and religious beliefs and churches linked to particular social classes. People from the middle class tend to work at different times with many organizations, which include churches. People from these middle class also tend to join church organizations and activities voluntarily. Religious expressions vary with different social classes (Campbell & Putnam, 2010).

For example, members in protestant churches in the middle class prefer formal organizations when it comes to church activities. On the other hand, people in the working class who confess protestant faith prefer expressing their religious beliefs in an emotional, spontaneous style.

Members being less expressive in their religious behavior characterize main denominations in the United States of America. Extreme commitments, on the other hand, characterize membership in sect denomination where members are more involved to the extent of affecting other aspects of life. Members in sect denominations, unlike those in churches, are more psychologically involved at a personal level. Secularization through the church activities for members in the middle class has also caused a correlation of religious expressions and social class in the United States of America (Honeycutt & Sheldonand, 2011).

In a society that has both privileged and underprivileged people, the common trend is that underprivileged people tend to join religious organizations that are organized while privileged people prefer traditional beliefs. Religious expressions are related to the needs of people in different classes. For example, people whose social class is low and are undergoing frustrations in life engage in religious styles that are more involving (Johnstone, 2007).

If a person is socially underprivileged, he is likely to join a sect in order to gain increased status where they feel they are equal to other people in the society or even recognized as spiritual elites to be emulated by other people. When such underprivileged people join the sects, they perceive other people outside the sect as sinners. However, both lower and higher social class members have alternatives to their needs and frustrations and, therefore, may opt not to join any religious sect (Honeycutt & Sheldonand, 2011).

Gender as a determinant of religious expression

In many religious beliefs, there has been social conflict regarding the shaking of hands between members of the unrelated and opposite gender as a way of maintaining values in the religion. The related opposite gender allowed for handshaking includes spouses and members of the extended family. For Muslim scholars, the religion does not allow unrelated sex members to have physical contact. In Muslim society, adhering to the rules of avoiding physical contact does not cause any discomfort. However, adhering to the same rule can easily lead to social conflict for non-Muslims, even when transacting business (Honeycutt & Sheldonand, 2011).

Forgiveness is a virtue rooted in many religious practices where all people, irrespective of their gender, ought to have. However, through research, there have been differences in the level of forgiveness in females compared to males. Women tend to forgive more than males because moral reasoning is different for men and women (Johnstone, 2007). Females have their modal stage of development characterized by the desire to maintain relationships and to meet the expectations of other people. On the other hand, males go through their modal stage that is characterized by inherent desire to preserve law and order where people have to uphold law for social order (Johnstone, 2007).

The ethic of care is a common practice for many religious organizations and all people regardless of their gender should observe this virtue. However, when it comes to religious practices, females are observed to be more adhering to religious practices because they care to preserve relationships and meet needs of other people in the society and in churches. Males on the other hand like seeing justice exercised through fairness.

Females are also more religious than males and therefore use religion to promote good values, which are associated with religion such as personal forgiveness (Johnstone, 2007). When a conflict arises in marriage, women initiate talking while men are found to avoid it. This is a virtue correlated to religious practice. Women are better emotional managers; they prefer discussing issues to avoid conflict in marriage and therefore are more religious as religion promotes this virtue (Johnstone, 2007).

Females are more religious than males because in most churches, they are observed to engage in worship services more compared to their men counterparts. Women also attend player services and express more strongly their agreement regarding beliefs in traditional religious practices. Women also have more interests with religious practices and generally show importance of religion in their lives compared to men.

These differences occur because of the processes through social influence during training in sex roles at earlier stages in life. For example, the society expect women to practice submissiveness and be more nurturing to men especially in marriage, which are traits linked with religiosity (Johnstone, 2007). There is also a general expectation in the society that women compared to men should exercise expressions that are more religious.

Men and women perceive God differently especially on their reaction to female versus male God. For example, a study on men and women reaction towards Gods of different sexes revealed that the reaction of men towards God was more concerned with action while the reaction of women involved more of feelings than action. Skepticism and criticality as well as surprise in reaction towards a male God was less observed towards a male than in a female God, which is a concept that can develop in early childhood through socialization process (Johnstone, 2007).


Campbell, D., & Putnam, R. (2010). American grace: How religion divides and unites US. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Honeycutt, J. & Sheldonand, P. (2011). Impact of gender and religiosity on forgiving communication. Journal of Communication and Religion, (34), 59-75.

Johnstone, R. (2007). Religion in Society: A Sociology of Religion (8th Edition). Pearson: Prentice Hall.

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