The Religious Orientation and In­volvement Inventory identifies four dimen­sions of religiosity: doctrinal orthodoxy, devotionalism, associational involvement, and communal involvement. The first two di­mensions are considered measures of religious orientation, whereas the latter two di­mensions are measures of religious involve­ment.


 This study is based on data gathered in 1958 from residents of Detroit, Michigan. Historically, it is important be­ cause it was one of the early attempts to specify a multidimensional approach to reli­giosity. Lenski created his measures in light of a definition of religion that involved reli­gious beliefs (orthodoxy), religious prac­tices (devotionalism) and involvement in socioreligious groups (associational and communal involvement). He defined the four dimensions as follows:

  • Doctrinal orthodoxy: The degree to which a person accepts the presented doctrines of his or her church; an intellectual assent; a passive, intellectual dimension.
  • Devotionalism: That orientation that em­phasizes the importance of private or personal communion with God; pietism; fre­quency of prayer and seeking God’s will. An active, behavioral, dimension.
  • Associational involvement: The degree of involvement in the formal, corporate reli­gious structures of one’s faith; measured by frequency of attendance at worship services and other formal activities.
  • Communal involvement: The degree to which one’s primary social relationships are limited to persons of one’s own reli­gious group; indicated by religious endogamy and friends or relatives who share common religious identity.

The purposes of Lenski’s research were directed toward intergroup comparisons among Protestants, Catholics, and Jews in Detroit. Lenski believed that the multidi­mensional measures he created were suited to a variety of religious groups. Hence, the dimensions of religiosity were adapted to fit all three groups (e.g., word changes in some questions from church to syna­gogue, etc.). Significant components of this research were designed to test contem­porary applications of Max Weber’s theo­ries about the connections between religion and economics. In addition, Lenski exam­ined how the “religious factor” as measured by these four dimensions related to politics, education, family life, and science. In a subsequent study, Lenski examined some of the differences among clergy drawn from the three major religious groups.

Practical Considerations:

 This collection of measures is a multidimensional approach to measuring religiosity. Lenski uses a total of 14 different questions to cover the four di­mensions. Since each question takes less than a minute to answer, the whole group of questions can be administered in approxi­mately 10 minutes. This makes these mea­ sures attractive for use in longer interviews or questionnaires. However, later ap­proaches to a multidimensional measure of religiosity are more elaborate and offer greater precision. The decision one would have to make, therefore, is whether Lenski’s more limited approach is adequate for the researcher’s purposes.


 The original study by Lenski is based upon 656 completed in­ terviews (87% of the initial sample of 750). Lenski appeared successful in gathering a representative sample of the population of Detroit. Someone using his measures could find comparative data presented in study. However, the date of that study (late 1950s) may make such comparative data less useful for contemporary researchers.

Lenski (1961, appendix l) estimated that sampling errors range from four percentage points to about eight percentage points for the bulk of the study. Statistical data from smaller subgroups (e.g., Jews) are more likely to have somewhat higher sampling error levels.


No information on reliability was given.


 Lenski did not conduct any rigor­ous procedures to check the validity of these measures. The scale has high face validity. In addition, Lenski reported other compara­ble studies that have discovered similar pat­ terns. For example, he noted that, in the area of religion and economics, his data are con­sistent with that of Mack, Murphy, and Yellin (1956).

The research on which these measures are based is part of a larger cluster of re­ search studies called the Detroit Area Study (Freedman, 1953). These studies were begun in the 1950s in conjunction with the Department of Sociology of the University of Michigan. Lenski’s study was a part of this work and he reports many comparisons between his findings and other studies in this series.

Religious Orientation and Involvement

Types of Involvement

  1. Associational

    1. About how often, if ever, have you attended religious services in the last year?
      1. Once a week or more
      2. Two or three times a month
      3. Once a month
      4. A few times a year or less
      5. Never
    2. Do you take part in any of the activities or organizations of your church (synagogue, temple) other than attending services? Yes No

      (if yes)

      How often have you done these things in the last year? (Use same response categories as for l above.)

      Scoring: Lenski labeled “actively involved” all those who attended worship services every week, plus those who attended services two or three times a month and also some church re­ lated group at least once a month. All the others he called “marginal members.”

  2. Communal

l. What is (was) your husband’s (wife’s) religious preference?                             _

      1. Of those relatives you really feel close to, what proportion are (same religion as re­ spondent)?
        1. All of them
        2. Nearly all of them
        3. More than half of them
        4. Less than half of them
        5. None of them
      2. Thinking of your closest friends, what proportion are (same religion as respondent)?

(Use same response categories as for previous question.)

Scoring: High communal involvement was inferred for all those who were married to some­ one of the same socioreligious group, and who also reported that all or nearly all of their close friends were of the same group. Low communal involvement was attributed to all the others.

Types of Religious Orientation

  1. Doctrinal Orthodoxy

    l. Do you believe there is a God, or not? Yes No

    1. Do you think God is like a Heavenly Father who watches over you, or do you have

      some other belief?     Yes Some other belief

    2. Do you believe that God answers people’s prayers, or not? Yes No
    3. Do you believe in a life after death, or not? Yes No

      If so, do you also believe that in the next life some people will be punished and others

      rewarded by God, or not?      Yes No

    4. Do you believe that, when they are able, God expects people to worship Him in their churches and synagogues every week, or not? Yes No
    5. Do you believe that Jesus was God’s only son sent into the world by God to save sin­ ful men, or do you believe that he was simply a very good man and teacher, or do you have some other belief? Yes No

    Scoring: (It should be noted that Jews were not classified according to this scale.) Christians were classified as unorthodox unless they held all six beliefs.

  2. Devotionalism

l. How often do you pray?                                         _

2. When you have decisions to make in your everyday life, do you ask yourself what God would want you to do? (Often, sometimes, or never)

ScoringRespondents were ranked high in devotionalism if (a) they reported praying more than once a day, plus asking what God would have them do either often or sometimes; or if

(b) they reported praying once a day, but often asked what God would have them do.


Lenski, G. (1961). The religious factor. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Recent Research:

 Although subsequent studies used many of the same measures created by Lenski, they tend to be revised and modified (in some cases, entirely new scales were developed).

Delong, G., Faulkner, J., & Warland, R. (1976). Dimensions of religiosity reconsidered: Evidence from a cross-cultural study. Social Forces, 54, 866-889.

Glock, C., & Stark, R. (1966). Christian beliefs and anti-semitism. New York: Harper & Row.

King, M., & Hunt, R. (1969). Measuring the re­ligious variable: Replication. Journal for the Scien­tific Study of Religion, 11, 240-251.

Winter, G. (1962). Methodological reflection on “the religious factor.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 2, 53-63.


Freedman, R. (1953). The Detroit area study: A training and research laboratory in the community. American Journal of Sociology, 59, 30-33.

Mack, R., Murphy, R., Yell in, S. (1956). The Protestant ethic, level of aspiration, and social mo­ bility. American Sociological Review, 21, 295-300.