Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Reanalysis within a Christian Ideological Surround: Relationships of Intrinsic Religious Orientation with Fundamentalism and Right-Wing Authoritarianism

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Reanalysis within a Christian Ideological Surround: Relationships of Intrinsic Religious Orientation with Fundamentalism and Right-Wing Authoritarianism

Article excerpt

This study examined whether ideology influenced the correlations of the Intrinsic Religious Orientation Scale with Religious Fundamentalism and Right-Wing Authoritarianism. A sample of 407 undergraduates responded to these instruments along with measures of Christian Fundamentalist Beliefs, Intolerance of Ambiguity, and religious extrinsicness. Empirical procedures were used to translate Religious Fundamentalism into a more adaptive Biblical Foundationalism. Formal evaluations of the Right-Wing Authoritarianism Scale uncovered some ideologically pro-religious items, but an even larger number of ambiguous and anti-religious statements. Partial correlations controlling for Religious Fundamentalism documented the basically adaptive potentials of a biblical intrinsicness. The Intrinsic association with authoritarianism was attributable to the ambiguous and anti-religious ideological content of the Right-Wing Authoritarianism Scale. Ideological factors, therefore, did seem to underlie empirical suggestions that traditional Christian commitments necessarily reflect a narrow-minded authoritarian fundamentalism.


In recent years, a systematic program of research has led to the development of an ideological surround model of the psychology of religion (Watson, 1993, 1994). This model asserts that all research in the psychology of religion operates within a surround of ideological influences. "Ideology" in this instance refers to a somewhat non-empirical, normative, and sociological system of belief (MacIntyre, 1978, pp. 5-6). Most contemporary psychologists, for example, adopt a naturalistic ideological perspective. Innumerable scientific observations support naturalism, but the ultimate truth of the position currently lies beyond definitive empirical proof, making it somewhat non-empirical. Naturalism, nevertheless, has normative implications in that it differentiates between "good" and "bad" forms of belief. Causal explanations in terms of reductive materialistic processes tend to be "good." Beliefs in supernatural causes like God and Satan are "bad." At a sociological level, even an implicit commitment to this ideology unites a researcher with a large community of like-minded scholars.

A Christian research program would, of course, be every bit as sociological, normative, and somewhat non-empirical as a naturalistic or any other approach to the psychology of religion. Within a pluralistic cultural environment, no wholly objective, non-ideological foundation can ever be identified for conducting research into religion. This problem in no way justifies a nihilistic skepticism about empiricism. The ideological surround model argues instead that an empirical sensitivity to ideology is crucial in defending the "objectivity" of research. This would not be an "unbiased" objectivity. All research is conditioned by ideology and thus biased to some degree. The achievement of a "balanced" objectivity would be the goal. Evidence produced within social scientific ideological surrounds should be critiqued using evidence produced within religious ideological surrounds and rice versa. Movements back and forth between perspectives would yield a more balanced understanding of the psychological consequences of religion (Watson, 1993, p. 17).

Within a rational-emotive therapeutic framework, for instance, religion supposedly promotes the development of pathogenic irrational beliefs (Ellis, 1980), and at least some measures of these presumed irrationalities do correlate positively with religious commitments (e.g., Watson, Folbrecht, Morris, & Hood, 1990; Watson, Morris, Hood, & Folbrecht, 1990). Special

procedures, nevertheless, make it possible for individuals to indicate how rational-emotive belief measures should be scored as irrational relative to their own religious convictions. These religiously redefined irrationalities not only correlate negatively with sincere religious commitments, but they also can serve as more valid predictors of psychological dysfunction than the original rationalemotive constructs (Watson, Morris, & Hood, 1988, 1993, 1994; Watson, Milliron, Morris, & Hood, 1994). …

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