NONDOCTRINAL RELIGION SCALES

Variable:

The Nondoctrinal Religion Scales are designed to measure cross-cultural, non­ doctrinal aspects of religion regarding ulti­ mate concerns of universal human interest, such as questions of meaninglessness, suf­fering, and injustice. The 1969 scale con­tains 7 items; the 1977 scale contains 20 items.

The nondoctrinal religious measure cre­ated by Yinger (1969) was rooted in an as­ sumption that interest in existential questions is a structural foundation for much belief and behavior that is not traditionally defined as "religious," as well as for all religious belief and behavior. Yinger (1969, p. 90) described these as the "ephemeral, the emergent, the poorly institutionalized expressions of ulti­ mate concern." Although he cites the writ­ ings of Clifford Geertz as an influence on his thinking, Yinger unfortunately was rather vague in both papers concerning the basis on which he created and selected his particular questions, or how "years of research" (Yinger, I 977, p. 68) led him to hypothesize suffering, meaning, and injustice to be hu­manity's most essential issues.

Description:

The 1969 scale consists of seven statements to be rated on a Likert­ type scale with respect to agreement-dis­ agreement. For each question he identified certain responses (either agreement or dis­ agreement, depending on the wording of the item) as "religious" responses. Yinger (1969) did not advocate summing the items to form a scale (although subsequent re­ searchers attempted to do so; see "Reliabil­ ity" and "Validity" below) but simply pre­ sented tabular data for each question separately.

In addition, Yinger (1969) asked respon­dents to write answers to four open-ended questions regarding their idea of the "most important issue" for humanity, the responses to which he classified "informally" into such categories as major social issues (e.g., peace, poverty); interpersonal relations; individual creativity and happiness; and meaning, pur­ pose, and relationship of humans to God. Be­ cause these items do not represent a "scale" per se, we do not include them here.

Yinger's approach to the subject in 1977 included soliciting more respondents and sampling from a variety of cultures by translating the scale into several other lan­guages (including Japanese, Korean, and Thai). The 20-item measure presented in 1977 was designed specifically to measure respondents' concerns about (1) worldwide human suffering, (2) injustice, and (3) meaninglessness. In addition, he included separate sets of items concerned respec­tively with (4) "religion generally" and (5) politics. Respondents rated their agreement with each statement on a 5-point scale. However, .despite his conceptual grouping of the items into these five categories, Yinger again analyzed the data separately by item instead of summing items to create composite scale scores. In his large sample of international students he examined the degree to which responses to individual questions varied as a function of national citizenship, religious identity, and sex.

Practical Considerations: Both the 7-item 1969 scale and the 20-item 1977 scale are easy to administer. Each item is rated on a 5 point Likert-type scale ranging from fully agree to fully disagree. Yinger (1969, p. 93) emphasized that respondents "were given a minimum of instructions" and that the term "religion" was avoided in the introduction to the scale in order to minimize potential biases on the part of responses. As Yinger did not discuss any procedures for combin­ ing items into total or subscale scores, no further scoring is necessary.

Preparation of this review was facilitated by a Charles Center Research Fellowship to Caro Courtenay and a Summer Re­ search Grant to Lee Kirkpatrick from the College of William & Mary.

On the 1969 scale Yinger scored "dis­ agree" responses on items I, 3, and 5, as well as "agree" responses on the remaining items, as "religious" responses. He did not explicitly classify items on the 1977 scale as "religious" or "nonreligious."

On the I977 scale, items 1-4 (as listed in the appendix) compose the meaninglessness cluster, items 5-8 compose the suffering cluster, items 9-12 compose the injustice cluster, items 13-18 compose the religion cluster, and items 19 and 20 compose the politics cluster.

Norms/Standardization:

Yinger (1969) pre­ sented frequencies of responses to each of the seven items separately for two samples: a "pretest" sample of 96 students from an unspecified college and a larger sample of I ,325 students drawn from IO different col­ leges. In total, 69% of all responses were classified as "religious" when scored in the manner described above.

The 1977 analysis was based primarily on responses from 751 college students from Korea, Japan, Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia, although some analyses included 124 additional respondents from II dif­ferent countries and/or (b) 151 U.S. students from an unspecified earlier sample. Samples were drawn from a variety of academic courses, but some courses were overrepre­sented and the data from the non-American students were obtained while they were in residence at an American research center, so in several ways the samples cannot be gener­alized to any well-defined population. Again, simple raw frequencies were presented for each of the questions separately.

Reliability:

Because Yinger never suggested that the seven items on the 1969 scale should be summed to create a single or total scale, he did not report any measure of in­ ternal consistency reliability. However, Nelsen, Everett, Mader, and Hamby (1976) examined the items from this perspective and reported poor internal consistency: an alpha coefficient of only .34 and interitem correlations ranging from .19 to .28. Their factor analysis suggested the presence of two factors, which they referred to as "acceptance of belief and order" and "accep­tance of the value of suffering." However, the internal consistency reliabilities of these scales were also poor (alphas= .45 and .37, respectively). Roof, Hadaway, Hewitt, McGaw, and Morse (1977) replicated the finding of poor internal consistency for the 7-item scale, and found three factors in a factor analysis ("value of religious efforts," "value of difficult experience," and "the basic human condition").

In short, there seems to be little basis for summing the 1969 items into total or sub­ scale scores, although it should be noted that both the Nelsen et al. (1976) and Roof et al. (1977) studies employed relatively small samples for psychometric purposes (ns = 217 and 113, respectively). No other measures of reliability of the scale have been reported, and no reliability data of any kind have been published for the 1977 scale.

Validity:

The factor analyses reported by Nelsen et al. (1976) and Roof et al. (1977) suggest that the 1969 items are multidimensional and do not well represent a unitary dimension of any kind; however, there is lit­ tle agreement between these two sets of re­sults in terms of what the scales do measure. In both cases, however, the authors con­ cluded that the "nondoctrinal" measures were significantly correlated with tradi­tional religiosity (e.g., orthodoxy, prayer, and "self-rated religiosity"), and therefore questioned the degree to which Yinger's measures tap anything distinct from more conventional definitions of religiousness.

Based on a factor analysis of the 1977 scale, Brown (1981) raised several ques­ tions about the factor structure and validity of the items. However, these results are of little value given his very small sample (n = 80) and inclusion of nine additional funda­ mentalism items in the analysis.

Nondoctrinal Religion

Please use the following scale to indicate the extent to which you agree with each item below.

l = fully agree

2 = partly agree

3 = uncertain

4 = partly disagree

5 = fully disagree

Items from Yinger ( 1969)

  1. Efforts to deal with the human situation by religious means, whatever the content of the beliefs and practices, seem to me to be misplaced, a waste of time and resources. (higher score is religious response)
  2. Suffering, injustice, and finally death are the lot of man; but they need not be negative experiences; their significance and effects can be shaped by our beliefs. (lower score is religious response)
  3. In face of the almost continuous conflict and violence in life, I cannot see how men are going to learn to live in mutual respect and peace with one another. (higher score is reli­gious response)
  4. There are many aspects of the beliefs and practices of the world's religions with which I do not agree; nevertheless, I consider them to be valuable efforts to deal with man's sit­uation. (lower score is religious response)
  5. Somehow, I cannot get very interested in the talk about "the basic human condition" and "man's ultimate problems." (higher score is religious response)
  6. Man's most difficult and destructive experiences are often the source of increased un­derstanding and powers of endurance. (lower score is religious response)
  7. Despite the often chaotic conditions of human life, I believe that there is order and pat­ tern to existence that someday we'll come to understand. (lower score is religious re­sponse)

Items from Yinger ( 1977)

  1. I. I am not very interested in discussion of the question of the meaning or meaninglessness of life.
  2. Despite the often chaotic conditions of human life, I believe there is an order to exis­ tence that someday we will come to understand.
  3. I often wonder what life is all about.
  4. Although mankind understands the world around him better, the basic meaning of life is beyond our understanding.
  5. In recent generations, there has been a significant reduction in the amount of human suf­fering.
  6. It is a mistake to believe that the reduction of suffering on earth is the critically impor­tant question for mankind.
  7. The types of human suffering may have changed, and continue to change, but mankind is not likely to reduce the extent of suffering.
  8. In recent generations, suffering has increased in the world.
  9. The types of injustice may have changed, and may continue to change, but mankind is not likely to reduce the extent of injustice.
  10. In recent generations injustice has increased in the world.
  11. In recent generations there has been a significant reduction in the amount of injustice in human life.
  12. It is a mistake to believe that the reduction of injustice on earth is the critically important question for mankind.
  13. Mankind's most difficult and destructive experiences are often the source of increased understanding and powers of endurance.
  14. In the long run, undeserving persons seem to be the ones who win the most advantages.
  15. In the face of the almost continuous conflict and violence in life, I cannot see how men are going to learn to live in mutual respect and peace with one another.
  16. Suffering, injustice, and finally death need not be negative experiences; their signifi­ cance can be shaped by our religious beliefs.
  17. Efforts to deal with man's most difficult problems by religious means seems to me to be a waste of time and resources.
  18. There are many aspects of the beliefs and practices of the world's religions with which I might not agree; nevertheless, I consider them to be valuable efforts to deal with man's most important questions.
  19. Efforts to deal with man's most difficult problems by political means seem to me to be a waste of time and resources.
  20. In the long run, mankind will be able to reduce injustice and suffering by wise political action.

Location:

Yinger, J. M. (1969). A structural examination of religion. Journal for the Scientific Study of Reli­gion, 8, 88-99.

Yinger, J. M. (1977). A comparative study of the substructures of religion. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 16, 67-86.

Subsequent Research:

Brown, L. B. (1981). Another test of Yinger's measure of nondoctrinal religion. The Journal of Psychology, 107, 3-5.

References

Nelsen, H. M., Everett, R. F., Mader, P. D., & Hamby, W. C. (1976). A test of Yinger's measure of nondoctrinal religion: Implications for invisible re­ligion as a belief system. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 15, 263-267.

Roof, W. C., Hadaway, C. K., Hewitt, D., & Morse, R. (1977). Yinger's measure of non-doctrinal religion: A Northeastern test. Jour­ nal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 19, 403-408.

Yinger, J. M. (1977). A comparative study of the substructures of religion. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 16, 67-86. Copyright© 1977 Journal for the Scientific of Religion. Reprinted with permission.