Table of Contents
The Certainty in Religious Belief Scale was designed to measure a tendency toward certainty with regard to religious belief. Religious beliefs and attitudes, like all beliefs or attitudes, can be held with surety and passion or can be tentative and superficial. Although the certainty of belief is important, it represents only one aspect of religiousness.
The scale includes 40 items, 25 of which are religious. The other items are either nonreligious factual statements, political viewpoints, or philosophical statements that have little or no relation to religion. Because many of these other statements reflect the culture and time period in which the scale was written (e.g., “The total national debt of Great Britain is more than a thousand million pounds.”), it is recommended that the nonreligious items be dropped from the scale. Hence, what is re produced in this volume are only the 25 religious items. It should be noted that Thou less’s intent was to measure the degree of certainty held with religious versus nonreligious beliefs, and hence he included both types of belief in his measure. With the particular items used, Thouless found that religious beliefs maintained greater certainty.
The respondents are asked to indicate the degree of certainty with which they believe or disbelieve statements on a 7-point Likert type scale ranging from “complete certainty” that the item is true (+3) to “complete certainty” that the item is false (-3). Ratings of 2 indicate a strong conviction, but not amounting to certainty, that the item is true (+2) or false (-2). Ratings of 1 (posi tive or negative) indicate greater tentative ness about the truthfulness or falseness of the item, and a rating of O demonstrates total uncertainty. The average degree of certainty was determined by summing the scores on the items (disregarding signs) and dividing by the number of items. The possible range was therefore O to 3. Thus, this scale measures neither belief content nor di rection, but the degree of certainty with which a religious belief is held.
This brief, self administered scale requires no special considerations for administration.
Thouless’s original sample consisted of 138 students at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, during the early 1930s. The students were a “heterogeneous collection of subjects of various occupations and of both sexes and of all ages from twenty upwards” (p. 17). The mean degree of certainty of the religious items was 2.13 with a standard deviation of .32.
No measure of the scale’s reliability was reported.
No direct measure of the scale’s validity was reported. Thouless did report a number of research findings that provided, at best, mixed support for the validity of the scale. Thouless had available intelligence scores from a portion of his sample. Contrary to his expectations, he found no considerable decrease (in fact, a slight increase) in the tendency to certainty among those who scored higher on the intelligence tests.
Thouless also devised a measure of orthodoxy among the scale’s items and found that certitude among the unorthodox was just as strong as among the orthodox. Thou less discovered no gender differences in the tendency to certainty. These findings may shed light on the scale but should not be interpreted as conclusive tests of validity.
Thouless, R. (1935). The tendency to certainty in religious belief. British Journal of Psychology. 26, 16-31.
Brown, L. B. (1962). A study of religious belief. British Journal of Psychology, 53(3), 259-272.
The ‘Beliefs’ Test
Please rate each item below using the following rating scale:
- +3 – I am completely certain that this statement is true.
- +2 – I am almost certain that this statement is true.
- +1 – I think that this statement is true, but I am not at all certain.
- 0 – I am completely uncertain about this statement.
- -1 – I think this statement is false, but I am not at all certain.
- -2 – I am almost certain that this statement is false.
- -3 – I am completely certain that this statement is false.
- I. There is a personal God.
- Jesus Christ was God the Son.
- There are spiritual realities of some kind.
- The world was created by God.
- There is a personal Devil.
- Matter is the sole reality.
- There is a God who is all-powerful.
- There is a God who is altogether good.
- There are such spiritual beings as angels.
- Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and afterwards emerged alive.
- Man has been evolved from lower forms of life.
- There is an impersonal God.
- Evil is a reality.
- The spirits of human beings continue to exist after the death of their bodies.
- Religion is the opium of the people.
- There is no God (personal or impersonal).
- Attendance at church is a better way of spending Sunday than taking a walk in the country.
- Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible.
- Christianity is a better religion than Buddhism.
- The Bible is literally true in all its parts.
- Man is, in some degree, responsible for his actions.
- There is a Hell in which the wicked will be everlastingly punished.
- The spirits of persons who have died can sometimes communicate with the living.
- Right will triumph.
- Belief in evolution is compatible with belief in a Creator.
Thou less, R. (1935). The tendency to certainty in religious belief. British Journal of Psychology, 26, 16–31.
Copyright © 1935. The British Psychological Society.