Religion and the
THE WORKING-CLASS alienation from the church that was so common in the industrializing nations of Europe and North America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries developed in at least three stages. 1 The first was the loosening of ties with the church that was usually associated with rapid urbanization, or with the establishment of mines or factories in areas previously dominated by agriculture or domestic industry. The second stage was the growth of a sense of separate working-class identity and revulsion from the intimate contacts with members of other classes that active church membership might require. The third was an explicit rejection of Christianity, usually following the adoption of some form of socialism.
In the first stage, the loosening of ties with the church tended to be reflected in the fact that working-class attendance at church services and participation in church organizations was lower than for other sections of the population. In the second stage there tended to be a much more marked decline of attendance at regular services, but the great majority of working-class people retained some links with the church, and in particular they observed the Christian rites of passage. In the third stage, a significant section of the working class had broken with the churches entirely, and to some extent secular rites of passage had been devised to replace those of the churches.
There was no inevitable progression from the first stage to the second and the third. The extent of working-class alienation from the church varied greatly from one city or region to another, and within some cities there were major differences among ethnic and religious communities. Of course, within every city there were also significant minorities of working-class people whose religious outlook differed from the prevailing pattern.
Around 1900, Berlin could be said to be at the third stage, in that a significant minority within the working class had come to reject Christianity altogether, and to break all their ties with their churches. London was at the second stage, in that