The RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM SCALE is designed to measure a "fundamentalist" way of holding and ex­ pressing one's religious beliefs. It is best to let the authors say, in their own words, what "fundamentalism" is intended to mean: "The belief that there is one set of religious teachings that clearly contains the fundamental, basic, intrinsic, essential, inerrant truth about humanity and deity; that this essential truth is fundamentally opposed by forces of evil which must be vigorously fought; that this truth must be followed today according to the fundamental, unchangeable practices of the past; and that those who believe and follow these fundamental teachings have a special relationship with the deity" (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992, p. 118).


The important feature of the Religious Fundamentalism (RF) Scale is that its items are free of doctrinal content. Past scales designed to measure fundamen­talism included lists of doctrinal statements with which the adherent could express greater or lesser degrees of belief. Such measures confounded the content of one's beliefs with the mental process by which those beliefs are held. The RF Scale allows us to get beyond this problem because its items contain statements that can apply to many religions. Thus the RF Scale can mea­ sure the degree to which someone is reli­gious in a fundamentalistic sense, whether the person is a Christian, Muslim, Jew, or other. The measure opens the door for a whole new line of research.

The measure is theoretically and empiri­cally related to other constructs in ways that make sense. It is associated with overall right-wing authoritarianism and with each of its three components--conventionalism, submission to authority, and authoritarian aggression-and with Altemeyer's (1996) Dogmatism Scale. The measure is also cor­ related with degree of Christian orthodoxy, which suggests that some people who hold specific and traditional beliefs also hold them in a rigid way. It is clear, however, that there are also exceptions to these trends and the RF Scale taps an important, separate dimension (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992).

The RF Scale comprises 20 items. Half of the items are worded in the con-trait di­ rection in order to control for a response-set bias. Each item is scored on a 9-point Likert scale for which the answer options range from "-4" to "+4" for the "very strongly disagree" and the "very strongly agree" an­swers, respectively. A neutral answer option of "O" is allowed. In order to eliminate neg­ative numbers and obtain the final score, which is the sum of the scores for the 20 items, the scores are reversed for the con­ trait items and a constant of five is then added to the raw scores. Total scores may range from a low of 20 to a high of 180, with a theoretical midpoint of 100.

Practical Considerations:

The RF Scale takes approximately IO minutes to complete. No special training is required to administer the scale, and the scores are readily inter­pretable. Because the scale is nonsectarian, it is neutral with respect to specific doctrinal orientations and may be used within a variety of religious and academic contexts.


The initial samples on which test item selection and assessment of the scale's statistical properties were based included 463 students from Wilfred Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, and 235 students from the University of Mani­toba. Nearly all participants had been raised in Christian faiths. Additional data came from the parents (247 mothers and 244 fa­thers) of introductory psychology students at Manitoba. For the parent study, the over­ all mean RF score was 84.6, with a standard deviation of 33.0.

Altemeyer and Hunsberger (1992) pub­lished means and standard deviations of RF scores for the following groups of parents (sample sizes range from 20 to 158): those whose religion is "none" (M = 54.2, SD = 21.l), Catholic (M = 92.1, SD= 25.6), An­glican (M = 73.0, SD = 22.8), fundamental­ist Protestant (M = 130.6, SD = 22.0), Lutheran (M = 89.1, SD= 23.7), Mennonite (M = 121.7, SD= 34.6), United Church (M = 69.8, SD= 19.6), Christian (M = 89.1, SD = 40.6), and a small sample (6) of Jews (M = 70.3, SD = 23.1). Although the parents of university students do not exactly represent the population at large, the initial data were well based on a heterogeneous sample of re­ligious groups in Canada, no doubt with similarities to those in the rest of North America. Additional data have been pub­lished for samples of 23 Hindus (M = 84.5, SD = 31.5), 21 Muslims (M = 112.3, SD = 40.3), and 32 Jews (M = 48.3, SD =21.l) living in Toronto (Hunsberger, 1996).


The interitem correlations from the student samples ranged from .41 to .48; the indices of internal consistency reliability ranged from .93 to .95. For the parent sam­ple, the mean interitem correlation was .37, and the index of internal consistency was .92. Comparable statistics were obtained from the Toronto samples of Hindus, Mus­lims, and Jews (Hunsberger, 1996). These statistics indicate that the RF Scale has high internal consistency reliability across vari­ous religious samples.


Examination of the content of the items suggests that the questions on the scale represent the aspects of belief that are imbed­ded in the authors' conceptual definition of fundamentalism. Moreover, the RF Scale has been found to correlate with other measures in ways that would be expected based on the construct that it is intended to measure. For example, in various samples RF has corre­lated between .66 and .75 with the Right­ Wing Authoritarianism Scale (Altemeyer, 1988). It has also been found to correlate from .60 to .75 with the Christian Orthodoxy Scale (Fullerton & Hunsberger, 1982), .57 t with the Dogmatism Scale, .30 with a measure of prejudice, .41 with an anti homosexuality scale, and -.79 with a balanced measure of religion as a quest. Furthermore, a group of 20 fundamentalist Protestants had a mean score of 130.6, significantly higher than several other religious groups (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992). Exploring the robustness of the RF Scale by testing it with non-Christ­ian religious people, Hunsberger (1996) re­ ports correlations of .42 to .65 between RF and anti homosexual attitudes for Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Overall, al­ though the scale is fairly new and the data­ base is still being assembled, the available data point strongly to the scale's validity.

Religious Fundamentalism Scale

This survey includes a number of statements about general religious opinions. You will prob­ ably find that you agree with some of the statements and disagree with others, to varying ex­ tents. Please indicate your reaction to each of the statements by marking your opinion to the left of each statement, according to the following scale:

Mark a -

  • 4 if you very strongly disagree with the statement.
  • 3 if you strongly disagree with the statement.
  • 2 if you moderately disagree with the statement.
  • 1 if you slightly disagree with the statement.

Mark a

  • + 1 if you slightly agree with the statement.
  • + 2 if you moderately agree with the statement.
  • + 3 if you strongly agree with the statement.
  • + 4 if you very strongly agree with the statement.

If you feel exactly and precisely neutral about a statement, mark a "O" next to it.

  1. God has given mankind a complete, unfailing guide to happiness and salvation, which must be totally followed.
  2. All of the religions in the world have flaws and wrong teachings.*
  3. Of all the people on this earth, one group has a special relationship with God because it believes the most in his revealed truths and tries the hardest to follow his laws.
  4. The long-established traditions in religion show the best way to honour and serve God, and should never be compromised.
  5. Religion must admit all its past failings and adapt to modern life if it is to benefit hu­ manity.*
  6. When you get right down to it, there are only two kinds of people in the world: the Righteous, who will be rewarded by God and the rest, who will not.
  7. Different religions and philosophies• have different versions of the truth and may be equally right in their own way.*
  8. The basic cause of evil in this world is Satan, who is still constantly and ferociously fighting against God.
  9. It is more important to be a good person than to believe in God and the right religion.*
  10. No one religion is especially close to God, nor does God favor any particular group of believers.*
  11. God will punish most severely those who abandon his true religion.
  12. No single book of religious writings contains all the important truths about life.*
  13. It is silly to think people can be divided into "the Good" and "the Evil." Everyone does some good, and some bad, things.*
  14. God's true followers must remember that he requires them to constantly fight Satan and Satan's allies on this earth.
  15. Parents should encourage their children to study all religions without bias, then make up their own minds about what to believe.*
  16. There is a religion on this earth that teaches, without error, God's truth.
  17. "Satan" is just the name people give to their own bad impulses. There really is no such thing as a diabolical "Prince of Darkness" who tempts us.*
  18. Whenever science and sacred scripture conflict, science must be wrong.
  19. There is no body of teachings, or set of scriptures, which is completely without error.*
  20. To lead the best, most meaningful life, one must belong to the one, true religion.

Note: The higher the score, the more fundamentalist the response. * = con-trait item, for which the --4 to

+4 scoring key is reversed.


Altemeyer, B., & Hunsberger, B. (1992). Au­ thoritarianism, religious fundamentalism, quest, and prejudice. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 2, I 13-133.

Subsequent Research:

Genia, V. (1996). I, E, quest, and fundamental­ ism as predictors of psychological and spiritual well-being. Journal for the Scientific Study of Reli­gion, 35, 56-64.

Hunsberger, B. (1996). Religious fundamental­ ism, right-wing authoritarianism and hostility to­ ward homosexuals in non-Christian religious groups. The International Journal for the Psychol­ ogy of Religion, 6, 39-49

Hunsberger, B., Pancer, M. S., Pratt, M., & Al­ isat, S. (1996). The transition to university: Is reli­ gion related to adjustment? In M. Lynn & D. Moberg (Eds.), Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion (Vol. 7, pp. 181-199). Greenwich, CT: JAi Press.

Hunsberger, B., Pratt, M., & Pancer, S. M. (1994). Religious fundamentalism and integrative complexity of thought: A relationship for existential content only? Journal for the Scientific Study of Re­ligion, 33, 335-346.

Pancer, S. M., Jackson, L. M., Hunsberger, B., Pratt, M. W., & Lea, J. (1995). Religious orthodoxy and the complexity of thought about religious and nonreligious issues. Journal of Personality, 63, 213-232.


Altemeyer, B. (1988). Enemies of freedom: Un­derstanding right-wing authoritarianism. San Fran­ cisco: Jossey-Bass.

Altemeyer, B. (1996). The authoritarian specter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Fullerton, J. T., & Hunsberger, B. (1982). A uni­ dimensional measure of Christian orthodoxy. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 21, 317-326.