RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM SCALE

Variable:

Although titled "Religious Funda­mentalism Scale (RFS)," this instrument ac­tually measures beliefs shared by both funda­mentalists and nonfundamentalists. Martin and Westie (1959) concluded that the scale assesses "the fundamentalistic, doctrinaire, and conservative outlook" and state that it "is essentially a religious conservatism scale, stressing dogma and supernaturalism" (p. 525).

Robinson and Shaver (1973) and Hill (1995), however, suggest that the scale mea­ sures "orthodoxy." Since six of the nine scale items are derived from the Apostle's Creed, the label of fundamentalism may not be ap­ propriate. Further, eight of the nine items ask about beliefs, and only one measures an atti­tude. The scale clearly does not assess behav­iors, experiences, orientations, or any of the broader social factors that researchers have attempted to associate with fundamentalism, such as social concern, tolerance, or opti­mism.

Therefore, while people who identify themselves as Christian fundamentalists would certainly score highly on this scale, so might people who insist that they are not fundamentalists (e.g. other evangelicals, members of mainline denominations, and Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox be­lievers.)

Description:

Martin and Westie (1959) hy­pothesized that religious fundamentalism and six other personal and social characteris­tics would be related to the personality vari­able of tolerance, which they assessed using Westie's (1953) Summated Differences Scales. To test their hypotheses, the authors constructed a number of scales "by the tech­nique of internal consistency" (p. 523). No explicit theoretical construct is presented, but the authors admit to being particularly influenced by research reported in The Au­thoritarian Personality (Adorno, Frenkel­ Brunswik, Levinson, & Sanford, 1950).

The scale consists of nine statements. Re­spondents circle letters on a 5-point Likert scale to indicate how strongly they agree or disagree with each statement. Scoring is re­ versed for items 2, 3, 5 and 7.

Practical considerations:

A straightforward paper-and-pencil instrument, this scale is easy to administer and may be completed in less than five minutes. It may be adminis­tered either individually or in a group. Re­ searchers using this scale should consider adding some simple instructions as none are provided with the scale.

The authors suggest using +2 for "strongly agree," +1 for "agree," and so on, through -2 for "strongly disagree." This scoring format yields positive scores for people high in fundamentalism and negative scores for people low in fundamentalism.

Norms/Standardization:

Normative data is provided for two samples, from all-Cau­casian city blocks in Indianapolis in the late 1950s. The samples included 41 people who were classified as "tolerant" by the Sum­ mated Differences Scales, and 59 who were judged to be "prejudiced." The sample is small and unrepresentative.

Reliability:

No reliability assessment was reported. Therefore, prior to employing this scale, researchers should determine its relia­bility for the current population.

Validity:

The authors did not attempt to val­idate the scale. In their study, they found it discriminated between tolerant and preju­diced respondents at the .001 level. How­ ever, a reanalysis of their reported data (homogeneity of variance test) shows that the two groups differed in the distribution of the scores to such a degree that the valid­ity of the reported difference is question­ able. For example, 6 (14.6%) of the 41 tol­erant people scored as high on the fundamentalism index as the highest of the prejudiced respondents. In addition, the distribution of fundamentalism scores for the tolerant subjects was so negatively skewed that the lower mean for the group was due to the extremely low scores of fewer than 10 individuals. The remaining 31 tolerant participants had scores that matched the prejudiced people almost per­fectly. For the tolerant group, the fundamental­ ism score did correlate significantly (at the .05 level) with authoritarianism (.56), child rearing attitudes (.48), nationalism (.41), intolerance of ambiguity (.32), and superstition-pseudoscience (.31). However, no variables correlated significantly with fundamentalism for the prejudiced group.

The scale may be a useful measure of Christian orthodox belief, although it would be improved by the removal of its single attitude item (number 8). As it stands, the scale has limited value for re­ search in the scientific study of religion. If used, it must be carefully interpreted. How­ ever, it has strong historical value, and may be an appropriate base on which to con­ struct a good measure of orthodox Christian belief.

Fundamentalism Scale

  1. SA A u D SD The Bible is the inspired word of God.
  2. SA A u D SD The religious idea of heaven is not much more than superstition.
  3. SA A u D SD Christ was a mortal, historical person, but not a supernatural or di- vine being.
  4. SA A u D SD Christ is a divine being, the Son of God.
  5. SA A u D SD The stories in the Bible about Christ healing sick and lame persons by His touch are fictitious and mythical.
  6. SA A u D SD Someday Christ will return.
  7. SA A u D SD The idea of life after death is simply a myth.
  8. SA A u D SD If more of the people in this country would tum to Christ we would have a lot less crime and corruption.
  9. SA A u D SD Since Christ brought the dead to life, He gave eternal life to all who have faith.

Note: Items I, 4, 6, 8, and 9 are "positive" for scoring purposes, whereas 2, 3, 5, and 7 are "negative"

items. Suggested scoring procedure: +2, +I, 0, -1, -2.

Location:

Robinson, J. P., & Shaver, P. R. (1973). Mea­ sures of social psychological attitudes. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.

Subsequent Research:

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

Leitner, L. M., & Cado, S. (1982). Personal con­ structs and homosexual stress. Journal of Personal­ ity and Social Psychology, 43, 869-872.

References

Adorno, T. W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D., & Sanford, N. (1950). The authoritarian per­sonality. New York: Harper.

Ammerman, N. T. (1982). Operationalizing evangelicalism: An amendment. Sociological Analysis, 43, 170-172.

Hill, P. C. (1995). Fundamentalism and Chris­tianity: A psychological perspective. Paper pre­ sented in the symposium Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism at the 103rd meeting of the Amer­ ican Psychological Association, New York City.

Martin, J. G., & Westie, F. R. (1959). The toler­ ant personality. American Sociological Review, 24, 521-528.

Robinson, J. P., & Shaver, P. R. (1973). Mea­ sures of social psychological attitudes. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.

Sethi, S., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1993). Opti­mism and fundamentalism. Psychological Science, 4, 256-259.

Westie, F. R. (1953). A technique for the mea­surement of race attitudes. American Sociological Review, 18, 73-78.