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Prototypes of Faith: An International Project on Assessing Life Perspectives Assessing Life Perspectives David M. Wulff Department of Psychology Wheaton.

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Presentation on theme: "Prototypes of Faith: An International Project on Assessing Life Perspectives Assessing Life Perspectives David M. Wulff Department of Psychology Wheaton."— Presentation transcript:

1 Prototypes of Faith: An International Project on Assessing Life Perspectives Assessing Life Perspectives David M. Wulff Department of Psychology Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts U.S.A.

2 The Central Goals of this Project: Assessing “faith” in a global, diverse, and partially secularized world; Providing an assessment instrument equally serviceable for empirical research and clinical assessment; Casting light on the terms “religious” and “spiritual” in contemporary discourse; Supporting the research careers of psychologists of religion in other countries.

3 Allport-Ross Religious Orientation Scale (the most frequently used scale) A. Intrinsic (9 items) 1. Quite often I have been keenly aware of the presence of God or the Divine Being. 2. Religion is especially important to me because it answers many questions about the meaning of life. 3. I try hard to carry over my religion into all my other dealings in life. 4. The prayers I say when I am alone carry as much meaning and personal emotion as those said by me during services.

4 B. Extrinsic (11 items) 1. The primary purpose of prayer is to gain relief and protection. 2. A primary reason for my interest in religion is that my church is a congenial social activity. 3. Occasionally I find it necessary to compromise my religious beliefs in order to protect my social and economic well-being. 4. Although I believe in my religion, I feel there are many more important things in life. 5. What religion offers me most is comfort when sorrows and misfortune strike.

5 Quest Scale (Batson; 12 items) 1. I am constantly questioning my religious beliefs. 2. For me, doubting is an important part of what it means to be religious. 3. My life experiences have led me to rethink my religious convictions. 4. There are many religious issues on which my views are still changing. 5. I have been driven to ask religious questions out of a growing awareness of the tensions in my world and in my relation to my world.

6 Four Fundamental Orientations (from D. M. Wulff, Psychology of Religion [2 nd ed., 1997], p. 635)

7 The Faith Q-Sort Sources : Wilfred Cantwell Smith: Faith as how one views and responds to the world, other persons, and oneself in the light of the transcendent Early contributors to the psychology of religion: - William James: healthy-minded vs. the sick soul - Harald Höffding: religion as the preservation of values - James Leuba: belief in a divine being with whom one can have personal relations - Eduard Spranger: the importance of the problem of evil (theodicy) Religious traditions: What they count as most important—e.g.: a. Evangelical Christian: being born-again; being close to Jesus b. Islam: The Five Pillars (Shahada, prayers, alms, Hajj, fasting) c. Neopagan: the feminine, the Earth, polytheism d. Humanism: rationality, realization of human potential

8 Sources (continued): Attitudes toward religious scriptures: from inerrancy to total rejection Prominent variables in the literature, e.g.: - Intrinsic, Extrinsic, Quest orientations - God representations - Closeness to God Individuals: - Case studies: Theodore Flournoy’s Mademoiselle Vé - Famous persons: Mother Teresa - Internet narratives: Positiveatheism.com - Persons known to me The contemporary challenge of religious pluralism Cognitive dispositions (e.g., certainty vs. mystery)

9 The Faith Q-Sort 101 statements in the third person nine categories: from “least descriptive” (-4) to “most descriptive” (4) forced distribution of statements: three forms: - standard: 1- by 2.8-inch laminated cards (11-point font) - large type version (18-point font) - magnetic version of the standard form Initial pool of 42 participants: college students; residents at a retirement center in New Hampshire; miscellaneous adults between the ages of 24 and 70.

10 Principal component analysis with varimax rotation: based on correlations of sorts, not items (Q versus R methodology) prototypes, not scale dimensions three principal components were found, accounting for 46 percent of the variance: 1. Traditionally Theistic (12 %) 2. Spiritually Attuned (17 %) 3. Secular-Humanistic (17 %)

11 Traditionally Theistic Firmly rooted in the religious values taught in childhood, persons of this prototype feel personally protected and guided by a spiritual being, who is turned to with joy and thanksgiving and from whom is received forgiveness for earlier thoughts and deeds. Guided and sustained by familiar religious scriptures and private spiritual practices, these individuals are at the same time active, contributing members of some religious community. A fundamental core of values and a well-defined set of moral principles are embraced. Self-described as caring and compassionate, these persons express their faith by reaching out to those in need. They feel at home in the universe and a sense of peace, even in the face of life difficulties.

12 Spiritually Attuned Sensing a transcendent or universal luminous element within themselves, persons of this prototype reject religious authorities or exemplars as sources for understanding and direction. Religious faith is conceived of as a never-ending quest, the transcendent, as a deep mystery that can be pointed to but never grasped. Indeed, these persons take delight in mystery and paradox, and music, art, or poetry provide sustenance. Moments of profound illumination are familiar, especially in the midst of the natural world. Following a spiritual path that above all is in harmony with the Earth, these persons are dedicated to making the world a better place to live. The full realization of human potentialities is seen to be the goal of human life and ultimate truth is thought to be reflected in symmetry, harmony, and balance. Being religious is not considered a prerequisite for being a deeply moral and compassionate person.

13 Secular-Humanistic Religion is viewed as an illusory creation of human fears and desires, its scriptures, as mythic and metaphoric, the products of human authorship rather than divine inspiration. All religious ideas that conflict with scientific and rational principles are rejected. Whereas no higher purpose or ultimate destiny is discerned for the human species, there is nevertheless hope for human progress on a worldwide scale. Indeed, persons of this prototype actively work to relieve the suffering of others and to make the world a better place to live. A fundamental affirmation of a core of values and moral principles undergirds this perspective, according to which being religious is not a prerequisite for being deeply moral and compassionate. Music, art, or poetry, not scriptural passages or religious convictions, are important sources of sustenance.

14 Two Types of Secular-Humanists among the Unitarian-Universalists Type I: Is far more likely than Type II to have religious views that are vague and shifting; to retain a notion of divinity that is vaguely meaningful; to have doubts about their religious views; to report feeling adrift, without direction, purpose, or goal; to feel guilty or inadequate; to report not feeling at home in the universe; to report feeling threatened by evil in the world; to become more religious in times of crisis.

15 Type II: Is far more likely than Type I to be receptive to the atmosphere of traditional places of worship; to find value in the teachings of religious authorities; to engage in private religious or spiritual practices; to be committed to helping persons in need; to be dedicated to making the world a better place to live. Is less likely than Type I to reject religious language in the name of rationality; to be troubled by the problem of evil.

16 The UU Secular-Humanists, in sum: Type II seems to have worked out a coherent and stable humanistic faith that shows some resemblance to the Spiritually Attuned prototype. Type I more actively rejects traditional religious ideas and practices, but has not yet found a positive replacement for them.

17 Literal Symbolic Inclusion of Transcendence Exclusion of Transcendence

18 Minor Prototypes from the Initial Participant Group

19 Reluctantly Skeptical A religious faith originating in childhood has been largely and regretfully lost, leaving an ongoing state of doubt that the person is reluctant to share with others. Except in times of crisis and in certain settings, God is experienced as distant and mysterious. Religious scriptures, recognized as a human product, are neither familiar nor a source of sustenance. A strong moral or ethical residue nonetheless remains, expressed in positive actions; otherwise, the person feels adrift, without clear purpose or goal. He or she seldom participates in religious services or engages in private spiritual practices, such as prayer.

20 Relig iously Extraverted: Like the humanists, persons of this prototype do not think of themselves as fundamentally religious or spiritual. Yet they are religious in some strikingly traditional ways, standing out for their positive images of God; their reports of having experienced a divine presence and profound illumination, especially in the midst of nature; and their taking guidance from scripture and religious authorities. Furthermore, they are members of a religious community—which they, above all others, deny is a den of hypocrisy—and they consider attendance at services to be relatively important. They are not, however, generous supporters of that community, tending, rather, to express their faith by reaching out to those in need. They do not engage in private spiritual practices, whether prayer or meditation; indeed, no prototype reports thinking less about religious or spiritual matters. In times of crisis, however, they experience a surge in religiosity. They feel guilty for not living up to religious ideals and long for a deeper faith; but day-to-day responsibilities, they say, leave them little time for spiritual concerns. Thus they are not spiritual questers, nor are they lovers of paradox and mystery; their religious outlook is what it is, clear and unchanging.

21 Situationally Religious: Although inclined to view all events in this world within a vague and shifting religious framework, to report thinking deeply about religious or spiritual questions, and to affirm the doctrine of hell as a place where heretics and criminals belong, this prototype is not involved in religious organizations, knows little about religious scriptures, and does not engage in private spiritual practices. But moments of profound illumination are not unfamiliar, especially in particular settings, such as nature, or in response to music, art, or poetry. Crisis and need are also likely to trigger episodes of deepened religiosity. Religion, viewed as a product of human fears and needs, is not thought to be a prerequisite for morality and compassion. Whereas persons of this prototype report being caring and compassionate, they do not seek to follow a well-defined set of moral principles or to make the world a better place to live. Faith, such as it is, is not expressed primarily by means of charitable acts.

22 Institutionally anchored: This prototype combines two closely interrelated trends. On the one hand is an exceptionally strong commitment to some religious insti-tution, expressed in a substantial investment of time and money; the observing with great care of prescribed religious practices and prohibitions; the following of a well-defined set of moral principles; and confidence that the meaning of religious scriptures is clear and unambiguous. On the other hand, persons of this prototype feel guilty for not living up to religious ideals and long for a deeper, more confident faith. Day-to-day responsibilities seem to leave little or no time for spiritual matters. Whereas times of crisis or need do dispose them to become more religious, attendance at religious services—considered a vital expression of faith—serves mainly to intensify feelings of closeness to God, not to meet personal or social needs. Institutional involvement, in sum, serves to anchor a personal faith that in some respects feels precarious.

23 Minor Prototypes from the Unitarian-Universalist Group

24 Extrinsically Religious Persons of this prototype grew up in a religious household, but today they report little knowledge of religious scriptures, seldom attend services, and do not contribute time or money to religious organizations or causes. They believe in God but do not think of themselves as particularly religious, although they do take delight in mystery and paradox and view symmetry, harmony, and balance as reflections of ultimate truth. Feeling exceptionally at home in the universe, they are, among the prototypes, least likely to view the world as a vale of suffering and tears, perhaps explaining why they are so little invested in relieving the suffering of others or in making the world a better place to live. While viewing the world as William James’s “healthy-minded” type does, they deviate from this type in feeling burdened by guilt and a sense of inadequacy. Too busy to think about spiritual matters, they do become more religious in a crisis; and when they pray, they do so mainly for solace or protection at the hands of a protective, parent-like god. Impervious as they are to suffering in the world, they are untroubled by the problem of theodicy. Death they face with courage and equanimity.

25 Theistic Seeker Persons of this prototype resemble more than any of the others the Traditionally Theistic type that emerged in the original participant group. They believe in God, and they consider that certain religious propositions may be true, that religious scriptures retain their significance today, that certain beliefs are essential for salvation, and that church attendance is an essential expression of faith. While they did not grow up in a religious household, they are responsive to religious sanctuaries or shrines and are moved and deeply sustained by music, art, or poetry. Yet they report no clear sense of the divine and no experiences of sudden illumination. In spite of their professed deep interest in religious or spiritual matters, they deny that being religious or spiritual is at the core of their identity. Suffering from religious doubts as well as guilt for not living up to religious ideals, they long as no other prototype does for a deeper, more confident faith, for an intensified experience of the divine, to whom they turn with joy and thanksgiving. Reflecting this longing is their disposition to move from one religious group to another in search of a spiritual home. Like the Extrinsically Religious, they do not see the world as vale of suffering, but they are far more disposed to reach out to those in need.

26 Change Seeker Persons of this prototype are sweepingly disdainful of the religious traditions and their teachings, and they consider religious institutions to be hypocritical. Nevertheless they are not entirely unreceptive to spiritual tradition, for they do engage in private spiritual practices. They are also theists, and more than any other prototype, they conceive of the divine in feminine terms and as available for personal relationship. At the same time, they find themselves regularly subject to doubt. Like most of the other prototypes, they are dedicated to making the world a better place to live. But more than any of the others, they embrace a spiritual outlook that actively seeks to change societal structures and values. If ultimate reality is fundamentally feminine for them, so also is it reflected in symmetry, harmony, and balance.

27 Ethical Doubter Struggling with doubt and somewhat reluctant to share it with others, persons of this prototype find that what they can most confidently affirm is individual freedom as well as a core or moral and ethical values. They are actively involved in some religious institution, to which they contribute substantially, and they embrace the view that the religious traditions possess a common core of insight and values. But otherwise they reject most traditional religious views and practices and consider hypocrisy to be common in religious circles.

28 New Age Persons of this prototype embrace a variety of views associated with the Eastern traditions, including a belief in reincarnation, a sense of a transcendent or inner luminous element within themselves, and the conviction that ultimate reality is reflection in symmetry, harmony, and balance. Nature is also prominent in their spiritual outlook, for they seek a spiritual path that is in harmony with the earth and, more than any of the other prototypes, they are inclined to follow certain dietary practices, most likely vegetarianism. They are also disposed to conceive of the transcendent in feminine terms. They feel deeply at home in the universe and a sense of peace in the face of life difficulties. Yet they see the world as a place of suffering, and they seek, accordingly, to make the world a better place to live—this in accord with a well-defined set of moral principles.


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