Values and Religion

A social psychological view of the connection between religion and values is offered in the recent article by Miriam Pepper, Tim Jackson and David Uzzell, ‘A Study of Multidimensional Religion Constructs and Values in the United Kingdom’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 49, No. 1, March 2010, pp. 127-46.

The data derive from a general public sample and a churchgoer sample from two relatively affluent English towns. For the former, 2,000 questionnaires were hand-delivered to households in six diverse localities in Woking in March-April 2006, of which 260 were completed (13% response).

For the churchgoer sample 704 questionnaires were given out at 13 churches in Guildford in March-June 2006, of which 272 were returned (39% response). The churchgoer sample was older and more highly educated than the general sample.

The article attempts a systematic examination of the relationships between religiousness, conceptualization of God and value priorities. The values stem from Shalom Schwartz’s theoretical work: universalism, benevolence, conformity-tradition, security, power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation and self-direction.

The four religious indicators employed were: self-assessed religiosity, self-assessed spirituality, religious affiliation and attendance at a place of worship. In the general sample 23% of respondents had no religion and 53% never attended religious services. Conceptualization of God was measured on a five-point scale of agreement with 20 adjectives to describe God.

The quantitative aspects of the work are mainly presented through correlations with tests for statistical significance. The conclusions are summarized in the abstract thus:

‘Religiousness aligns most strongly along the conservation/openness to change value dimension, and spirituality is rotated further toward self-transcendence values. Findings suggest a shift among the religious away from an emphasis on security.

God concepts are uniquely related to some value types. Particularly among the churchgoers, for whom God concepts may be especially formative, characteristics attributed to God are reflected in value priorities. These findings support the theoretical assertion that conceptualization of God is a foundational religious belief implicated in more specific values, attitudes and beliefs.’  

For those of us whose religion and values diet has hitherto derived from the World Values Surveys, this new research can be quite difficult to digest!

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