At mass and ringing

Hope Aguirre, a neighbor of the Madrid neighborhood of Malasaña, has begun to go to mass, where she is now found by a friend, who had not seen her there for decades. What has happened so that Aguirre feels the need to give himself to the local Catholic liturgy, in a church apparently maintained with opusine grasslands?

It could be that the path of the years breathes the need to meet the Most High, or perhaps it is the pressure of the right (Paco Umbral, they who are about to die salute you) to embody the Catholic religion in public life, as a sinequanon of those good Spaniards who are always the others, never the ones.

The relationship between social class and religion is not easy to spot or analyze. The middle classes are more likely to attend mass than the rest of the social classes, but in parallel it is among their ranks that the majority of agnostics / atheists and followers of minority religions emerge, both the offshoots of the large ecclesiastical denominations. (Opus, Adventism, Rosicrucian, Mormonism, Theosophy), like the sects, from the classic negative parareligious ones (occultism, Satanism, enlightened ones, Martinism), to the positive millennialists (meditation, yoga, tantra, Zen) and the personalistic ghettos that they practice brainwashing and deceptive member recruitment (Scientology, Dianetics, Edelweiss).

It is within the large traditional churches (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Taoist, Christian Orthodox, Hindu, Muslim) where mass attendance is produced in their respective countries by social imperative, to keep up appearances for family, work, political purposes. Pressure from local groups forces hundreds of thousands of people to show themselves in the corresponding church without identifying with the religion of the day, or with its rites.

Paradoxically, there is less attendance at Mass among the working classes, generally more believers than the middle classes

Groupthink, or groupthink, that Doris Lessing wanted to disassemble in the 90s with his book The prisons we choose it explains the relationship, invisible to many, between classism and official religions. The dangerous thing about belonging to any group, Lessing said, is not the inclusion itself, but the ignorance of the social laws that govern the groups and their members.

The British writer put her finger on the gut of the matter by pointing out that human beings live and die trapped in family, social, religious and political groups, often intermingled. The human race badly supports loneliness, or the fact that the surrounding environment can classify someone as a lonely being, Lessing said, so a good part of people spend their entire existence looking for tribes to belong to.

But the moment we join a group, we seek the acceptance of its members, and we agree to change our mentality or behavior in order to obtain that acceptance. Anything as long as I’m not a lonely geek.

Given that group coercion is a relevant factor in the relationship between classism and religion, the issue is as complex as that of the analysis of the voting intention polls, given the variable percentages of lies based precisely on the social pressure of the environment. . That is why paradoxes such as lower mass attendance among the working classes, generally more believers than the middle classes (and also more manipulable by religious denominations such as evangelical Christianity or Jehovah’s Witnesses), are produced.

Now that the right-wing parties have recovered their religious politicization, Aguirre has started going to mass

A 2015 British government survey found that 62% of regular churchgoers were middle class, while 38% were working class. The same survey found that among married working-class men there were twice as many individuals who had never attended Mass in their entire lives, compared to middle-class men who had never attended Mass either (17% versus a 9%).

According to the 2019 CIS Barometer, the Spanish population behaves in a similar way, since the traditional middle class (24%) and the upper middle class (15%) maintain regular attendance at Mass, while liturgical regularity is a 13% in the new middle class and 11% in the working class.

Given the paucity of analysis on the relationship between religion and social class, there is no reliable information, since the data suggest that mass attendance and the percentage of believers are higher among the middle classes, but this does not necessarily mean that the middle classes are more religious. They may show up at the local church to keep up appearances or so their children can attend the local charter or religious school. Or they may have greater social pressure to publicly demonstrate that they are religious people, compared to members of the working classes.

After all, Esperanza Aguirre had never been seen in the church in her neighborhood, and now that the right-wing parties have recovered religious politicization, she has started going to mass.

*** Gabriela Bustelo is a writer and journalist.

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