Social Class Changes the Development of Religion (Research Idea)

Scientology targeted the rich, while Christianity and Santa Muerte began with the poor. This raises the question, “How does class affect the way a new religion develops?”

For instance, would a religion started by the upper-class be more sophisticated, more philosophical, and more self-serving? Would it support elitism and traditions that favored the ruling class? (In older times the Roman elites were the last to switch to Christianity, and in the modern times, the more affluent spiritualists have switched to Neopaganism, New agism, or Wicca.)

Would a religion developed by peasants rely on simpler Gods and taboos? Would it be loaded with stories of miracles, and focus entirely on survival?

If anyone can recommend a book or article that tries to interpret the history of religion through a socio-economic lens, please let me know. It’s the sort of thing I might have been motivated enough to write a good thesis on, had I been a religious studies major.

My preliminary google searches have been frustrating, since the keywords yield websites that discuss how religiosity and Atheism correlate to class (Christianity basically declines with class, I’ve know that for a long time, and it’s boring to read about now.) I’m looking this is a separate sociological question, and it’d be nice if the internet would get serious about tracing the roots of religion, and talk about something other than Christianity. But it’s gratifying to know that if you’re not quickly finding the answer, you’ve probably stumbled onto an uncommon question. If I knew another language, or some common sociology keywords, I might readily find the interpretation I’m searching for faster though.

Current reading:


I don’t see what people mean when they suggest doing deep research to discover the power behind beliefs? People easily believe all sorts of crazy things. (Btw, I have found out that women tend to be the more likely to switch to new religions/sects, in early Christianity, in the Great Awakening, Mormonism, or in Neo-Paganism. They then indoctrinate their children at the age when studies show they are more susceptible to trusting in authority, and circular reasoning.)


Well I would like to research the origin of these religions, but I’m not sure how. The scriptures are entirely unreliable for every ancient religion…I would probably have more success if I were to instead lay hold on a book about modern cults written by a non-Christian, since they’re better at being objective on religion. Unfortunately the Religious Studies major is predominately populated by Christians, and I don’t trust any book that describes another religion, but which was written primarily as a defense of the Christian God.


I’ve been thinking about how to work around this problem, but for now I have decided it’s probably not worth going through the frustration of trying to figure it out from scratch. Maybe if I’m lucky, before I die I’ll find out that someone has written a popular book about it. I just wish I was born in a later era, when organized religion had retreated, and I could quickly find neutral answers about founders without having the search results drowned in nonsense from Evangelicals that slander ever other sect. Considering how much we’ve advanced within the last century, I’m quite positive I’d have been much happier if I had been born into a much later century when the average person knew better, or was simply more intellectually honest…

One thought on “Social Class Changes the Development of Religion (Research Idea)

  1. Ditto to your last paragraph!
    If I find the research you’re looking for I’ll be sure to let you know. Likewise, if you find it, please let me know. Thanks and good luck on your journey.


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