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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Religious style and social class. Goodall, Raymond Maurice


This thesis examines the relationship between religious style and social class in the City of Lethbridge, Alberta, Numerous theoretical and empirical studies have associated religious characteristics and social characteristics, but the discrepant findings of some of these studies prompted a fresh approach to the problem through focussing on religious style, defined in terms of worship-ritual, and social class, defined in terms of occupational prestige and measured by a socio-economic index. In order to tackle the problem posed by this study it was decided to undertake an empirical investigation of the class structure and religious style of a sample of churches in Lethbridge. Twenty-seven local churches formed the sample; this was representative of the forty-two churches in the city. Social differences are manifest in Lethbridge, and if social class is defined in terms of occupational prestige and measured by a socio-economic index (SEI), then class differences are also manifest. Such differences were found to exist in: (a) the general population (b) the church population. Samples of the general population and church population were differentiated along class lines and differences between the two distributions were apparent; upper and middle class members of the community are over represented in the local churches. Class structure of the churches was determined by drawing a sample of members from each church involved, ascertaining their occupations, and allocating a SEI based on these occupations. A mean index was computed for each of the churches which were then ranked according to their SEI and classified as upper, middle, or lower class. Religious style, defined in terms of worship-ritual, which is one of the dimensions of the traditional church-sect typology, was determined through participant observation as a result of which the churches were classified as formal, semi-formal, or informal. The relationship between religious style and social class was determined by calculating the weighted average mean SEI score for each of the "formality" categories, and additionally by using gamma as a simple measure of association. The relationship is curvi-linear. An additional analysis of the data points to the predominantly middle-to-upper class structure of local churches and gives indication of an inverse relationship between class and style. Theory relates religious characteristics and social characteristics in terms of the church-sect typology which, since its formulation by Weber and Troeltsch, has been developed by numerous scholars and has stimulated a variety of empirical studies. Discrepancies between studies based on the typology and those based on poll data appear to be due, in part, to different definitions of the concept "church-type." Although the relationships between style and class disclosed by this study do not precisely conform to the patterns of relating assumed by the church-sect typology, the discrepancies are not deemed to be serious bearing in mind the "ideal-type" character of that typology. If formal-style churches may be identified with church-type, informal with sect-type, and semi-formal with developed denominations, then the findings here generally support the relationships posited by the traditional typology, although the "fit" is not exact.

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