Sunday, October 27, 2013

Forgive us: A Sunday Short

Forgive us for
   the ways we have wronged you,
just as we also forgive
     those who have wronged us.

                                            Matthew 6:12 CEB

One of the things I love about the weekends is the time to take a walk. The cross in the picture is at the Wesleyan church I often pass on my walk to another nearby church. It is fitting that there are seats surrounding the cross. We can sit together at the foot of the cross.

The Lord’s prayer is not personal. It is a community prayer. It is a disciple’s prayer. The prayer is about US and WE and what WE have done. WE have wronged. And WE must also forgive.

I am reminded that we live and work in community. When relationships are broken by savage words and deeds, forgiveness is the way to repair the damage. We are in this life project together. Our forgiveness is bound up with God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness works as a whole package. Forgiveness is not just about God and me or me and those I encounter. Forgiveness connects me with God and others. Forgiveness is about us. Forgiveness is an expression of love. Faith is about relationships.

I was not hopeless, though I'd been lost

Now, I felt I was found when He looked at me
With His forgiving eyes

Charlotte Church Sings the Lord's Prayer  YouTube

For other forgiveness posts see September 26 and June 24 on 2013.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Religious Conversions


Imagine working for a private security firm. You get a call to head off to a local park where there’s a protest. You’re armed and ready to take ‘em out. POW! Out of nowhere a truck slams into your SUV. The airbag busts you in the face. You fumble, slump in your seat, and discover you’re blind. Your plans have changed. You hear a voice. ZAPPED! You mumble, “omg.” And SHE says, “Yeah? I am here. So what are you up to?” And just like that your whole life has changed. 

The prototype for conversion studies had been the conversion of the apostle Paul who was struck by God on his way to persecute Christians (Acts 9). The sudden and dramatic change of life was studied by psychologists like William James who interviewed converts following the American revival meetings in the late 1800s.

In preparing a lesson related to religious conversions (Chapter 8, Hood, Hill, & Spilka, 2010) I find the field is still long on ideas but short on an empirically based model that offers significant explanatory power. The fact is of course, people do convert to religious faiths. And others deconvert. Still others report a spiritual transformation. Literally billions of humans hold some sort of religious faith.

  So what happens when people convert?

The old conversion, "Saul-Paul-model" looked like this
1. The process was emotional
2. The convert is a passive agent
3. The conversion results in a dramatic transformation
4. Behavior change follows belief change
5. Conversion occurs once and is permanent
6. Conversion occurs during adolescence
7. Conversion occurs suddenly

But many grow up in religious homes. And they report a gradual process of change.
1. It may be more rational than emotional
2. The convert may be actively seeking
3. There is a sense of self-realization
4. Belief change may follow behavior change
5. The changes may not be permanent but recur
6. The transformation begins in early adulthood and continues
7. No one experience is prototypical.



From Paul to Saul*

People drop out—lose their faith. But the data are limited. Heinz Streib’s Bielefeld Deconversion Project is housed at the University of Bielefeld in Germany. Some findings suggest four types of deconversion narratives (read more on their website).

1. Pursuit of autonomy: Younger persons leaving behind the tradition in which they were raised to find religious self-determination or a secular path.

2. “Barred from Paradise:”  a process of leaving a group to which they converted as a younger person when they became disillusioned e.g., feeling disappointed or deceived.

3. Finding a new frame of reference: an experience like conversion but in this case, they may leave a faith group that does not meet their needs for a highly structured group like a fundamentalist group.

4. Life-Long Quests: Those seeking truth and meaning later in life after having tried one or more traditions. They are usually looking for a group with lower tension and a more liberal atmosphere.


Last year, James Bielo published an article titled, Belief, Deconversion, and Authenticity among U.S. Emerging Evangelicals in Ethos, (the Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology).

 He discusses the common tendency to view religious groups- especially American Christian groups—in terms of their belief systems. He reviews some of the debate among his colleagues about ways to replace the focus on the traditional idea of belief as key in understanding Christian groups. He admits to difficulty
identifying emergent evangelicals since there are no easy ways to count them. Many remain within existing congregations, whilst others have formed house churches.

Bielo sets the cultural context of the late 1990s American relgiouscape. People like Rick Warren are rising to prominence. And the first Leadership summit is held at Willow Creek Community Church (1995). The Promise Keepers meet on the Washington Mall in October 1997.

In contrast to these evangelical events, a variety of leaders emerge in the form of authors of thought-provoking texts.

George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal AgeThomas Oden, After Modernity…What? Agenda for TheologyNancy Murphy, Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological AgendaPeter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God… and more like Brian McLaren, Donald Miller

            Bielo cites other leaders and the rise of a discontent with the doctrinal foci of traditional Christian groups, which seemed more and more irrelevant to contemporary life—or perhaps even destructive. Lesslie Newbigin, a British Anglican Priest opined that the West’s rejection of Christianity was not just a move toward secularism but rather toward paganism that resists the gospel.

            Enter Bielo as a researcher. He collects data within a few American cultures and offers us some conclusions along with two case examples. He uses the term, “Emerging Deconversions” to describe what I would call a transformation. Nevertheless, Bielo describes the consistent process of emerging evangelicals as people who “create distance from their former selves.” He finds they seek a faith characterized by deep and personal relationships and an authenticity that’s missing in their former tradition.

            I found Bielo’s reference to four points from John Barbour helpful at least as hypotheses for analyzing Deconversion narratives (think, testimonies):

1. Doubt or denial that the former belief system is true
2. Moral criticism of the former approach to life
3. Emotional upheaval
4. Rejection of the former Christian community


            After all this input I’m wondering if the ideas of conversion and deconversion are just different names for the same process of transitioning from one group to another. Or, perhaps it is part of that life-long quest as noted above in the Bielefeld project. Here’s what I mean, if you converted to Christianity then you likely converted from some previous way of life or belief set—no matter how fragmentary it was and no matter if the conversion was sudden or gradual. Then, if you became disenchanted with several key aspects of the Christian group you were in, you may have gradually explored other alternatives or suddenly found a new way of life. Either way, you orient yourself (I got orient from Bielo) by protest against the old way and invest in the new way. For the emergent evangelicals, the new way is not defined by belief systems but rather by a way of authentically relating to others in Christian community.

            Referring back to a former post on fundamentalism, one way to view the conversion-deconversion process for those changing from one form of Christianity to another might be to consider the fundamentalists and closely related evangelicals in terms of their text focus. Conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists might be viewed as text-belief content-behavior focused Christians and those in the emerging evangelical movement as text-belief principle-relationship focused Christians.

            Spiritual or religious conversions, deconversions, and transformations will probably continue as long as humans exist. The emerging church movement may fizzle or influence existing groups in some yet unknown but lasting way. It’s too early to tell. And all this analysis probably won’t mean much to believers who are quite happy worshiping God and sharing life with family and friends in their church community. Then there are the other Christians, mostly young (see my post on Millennials)...

   Those Christians who have become dissatisfied with Christian groups that seem

      more about political power than humble service

more about hate than love

            more about doctrine than life

                        more about position papers than care

                                    more about soul counts than relationships

For more Psychology of Religion, Like my page on FaceBook

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As usual, I welcome constructive comments.

*From Paul to Saul- great quip by Andrew Parks

Bielo, J. S. (2010). Belief, deconversion, and authenticity among U. S. emerging evangelicals. Ethos, (40), 258-276.
Hood, R.W., Jr., Hill, P.C., & Spilka, B. (2009). The psychology of religion: An empirical approach (4th ed). New York: Guilford.
Hood, R.W., Jr., Hill, P.C., & Williamson, W.P. (2005). The psychology of religious fundamentalism. New York: Guilford

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Divorce, Remarriage & Tension


Alyce Conlon is divorced from her husband. And she has filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). According to the story reported by Sarah Pulliam Bailey of Religious News Service, the suit alleges the firing was because of her divorce. But two male colleagues kept their jobs as they went through divorce and remarriage. Pulliam documents the requirements of IVCF policy pertaining to Separation and Divorce. Two verses illustrate Old and New Testament statements about divorce, Malachi 2:16 and Matthew 19:9.


Fred Clark weighed in on the news story with a post titled, The ugly little game of white evangelical divorce. Fred opines this case is about gender discrimination. Acknowledging that each case is different, Fred offers another opinion: “In the white evangelical church, there are good divorces and bad divorces.” The crucial issue becomes the answer to the question, who is at fault? So, what’s the ugly little game? It’s the game of making it clear who is at fault and who is innocent. Fred also points to comments by IVCF related to impact on funding and donors. Fred sums up his commentary with reference to the verses quoted.


Western societies with a history of some form of Christianity allow divorce and remarriage such that some end up having multiple legal marriages in a lifetime—a form of polygamy, some say. The laws that govern marriage and divorce generally establish the belief and behavior norms. The nation is the host culture in which a religion operates. Christian churches experience a degree of tension in handling something many find distasteful—the end of a marital relationship—especially in cases when the couple had declared their commitment to each other before God and a local congregation.


It’s the tension that caught my attention in the story by Sarah and the ideas posted by Fred. And I thought about the Finke and Stark theory (e.g., 2001), which depicts various forms of distinctiveness of a religious group compared to the beliefs and behaviors of the host culture. As noted in my posts about marriage and reconstruction (July 19, July 25) , Western cultures have moved far from the official Christian church teachings about marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
            The tension can be depicted on a continuum from ultraliberal to ultrastrict in terms of any belief-behavior norm. In this theory, ultraliberal positions are close to the host culture and members experience little tension. But the ultrastrict congregations experience the greatest tension—at least on a particular issue.
So what does the divorce issue look like? Well, I don’t think it is just divorce but rather the package of divorce-remarriage that concerns evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. Decades ago, divorce was uncommon especially in Christian faith communities. If  people were divorced, they were to remain in that post-divorce state. People who had been divorced were not eligible to become church leaders as prescribed by the scriptures. But times have changed—in the culture and within Christian traditions.
 Depending on the selected biblical texts and the interpretation of those texts, Christians have different options.

Lowest tension

Highest tension

Divorce- ok
Remarriage- ok
Divorce- ok
Remarriage- some ok
Divorce- some ok
No remarriage
No divorce
No remarriage

There are some caveats.
Despite official doctrinal positions, individual congregations may be less willing to insist on right belief and right conduct than other congregations.
And, some traditions allow marriages that meet certain criteria to be annulled.
When members have violated official teaching, Christians offer forgiveness and reconciliation. People can be restored.
On the downside, some people within any group will look down upon those who have been divorced and those who have remarried.

So, the matter of divorce-remarriage remains a complex matter of concern for the leaders in Christian faith traditions and for their congregants. This is especially true for those who identify as fundamentalist or evangelical within a host culture like the United States, which has moved at some distance on a number of belief and behavioral norms in the past several decades.

I wonder if there would have been a story in the early days of InterVarsity.

Without people who divorced and remarried, there wouldn't be many folks in church.


            I have not forgotten about the issue of gender discrimination. I think Fred has a good point here. Churches do indeed vary on what women can and cannot do. The presence of a double-standard is not hard to find even when official policy says otherwise. Perhaps you can plot the role of women as a point of tension too. Clearly, the official US societal position on gender is one of equality. But gender equality is not the case in many world religions, including many Christian faith traditions.

For more on fundamentalists see my 4 October 2013  post.
For more on the psychology of religion see news stories on my Facebook page.

Sources and Information

Some views on divorce and remarriage
Assemblies of God Divorce and Remarriage
Also see TIME magazine's article An Evangelical Rethink on Divorce?

A few other Church websites

American Baptist Churches USA
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Greek Orthodox
Seventh-Day Adventist Church
United Presbyterian Church USA
Feel free to post links to the official website of your religious tradition

Constructive comments welcome

Finke, R., & Stark, R. (2001). The new holy clubs: Testing church-to-sect propositions. Sociology of Religion, 62, 175-189. Link to Roger Finke’s page.

Another report on the Alyce Conlon story by Katherine Weber.

Sunday, October 13, 2013



As I watched the retelling of the story of Malala Yousafzai on ABCs 20/20, I felt bombarded by conflicting feelings of compassion, admiration, and anger. Fragments of thoughts quickly flowed along the lines of “How could anyone murder a little girl just because she wanted to go to school!”

Cover Girl
Malala is the current poster girl—a covered, cover girl— a living peace memorial representing the repression of girls and women everywhere. 

We in the West are used to the in-your-face uncovered, bare-bodied, how-dare-you tread on me outrage of Western women. But Malala evokes a different response. She’s the child who deserves to be protected. She’s the modest teen who covers. She’s the forgiving one who seeks no revenge.

Malala is a girl with faith in God. Malala offers a message of love, peace, and forgiveness.
“Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohamed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.” (Malala at the UN.)
Malala on Fundamentalists
Malala is a religious girl shot by those with different religious beliefs-- “radical fundamentalist men,” reports Diane Sawyer of ABC.
  • "I think that death didn't want to kill me."
  • "And God was with me. And the people prayed for me."

Malala is a Muslim girl who offers a different face of Islam. Again, from her UN Speech:
"They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would send girls to the hell just because of going to school. The terrorists are misusing the name of Islam and Pashtun society for their own personal benefits."

Fundamentalists and women
When hearing stories about fundamentalists, it becomes easy to turn and look at other fundamentalists. Those more familiar to us.  Christian fundamentalists informed by biblical texts believe women should be under the authority of a man. After all, Eve--not Adam-- was deceived (1 Timothy 2:11-15). Women may teach children and other women but not men. Women can have supportive roles in ministry, but not leadership roles. Women may not wear men’s clothes. And so forth. 

Some Christian fundamentalists are known for their social protests and their efforts to create laws that limit the freedom of others. The vocal fundamentalists draw media attention. They insult contemporary sensibilities. They appear intolerant at best. Some see fundamentalism as a disease to be diagnosed and cured.

But there’s a difference. Many Christian fundamentalists live peacefully with their neighbors. They offer help in time of need. They seek freedom from laws that impose limits on their ability to live according to their conscience. They want their people covered. And clothed in righteousness. But not in the blood of their fellow citizens. Being a Christian fundamentalist is unpopular nowadays. Even Christian Evangelicals avoid the fundamentalist moniker as if seeking a liberal distance in order to avoid social condemnation.

Granted, I know Christian fundamentalists who spew venom against President Obama, gleefully toss racial epithets, and boisterously bash gays. “Up-in-arms” is almost literal as radical fundamentalists stockpile guns n’ ammo.

But there are others. Millions of peaceful, kind-hearted, hard-working, family-friendly people just trying to negotiate a path through a quagmire of cultural ooze that threatens all they hold dear.
Stereotypes are handy ways to evaluate and quickly respond to threats.
But there’s a downside to stereotyping.
We can miss the many Christian fundamentalists who make good neighbors.
And Christians can be blind to Muslims like Malala Yousafazai, 
the face of a Muslim girl who loves peace, 
and practices forgiveness
 instead of revenge.

Some more links
A review of her book, I am Malala, from the Washington Post
For more on fundamentalists see my 4 October 2013  post.
For more on the psychology of religion see news stories on my Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Solemn Sodom words

The Burning of Sodom by Corot

Lessons from Sodom

“I am gay.” An anonymous professor expressed the difficulty he experienced as a gay man working at an American Christian University in an Inside Higher Education essay.

I and several friends received a link to the essay in an email. One friend asked the sender to cease using the word sodomite to refer to gay men because it is offensive. The sender asked: “If this term is hateful or bigoted then I can assume that when it is used in God's word, it is considered as hateful or bigoted?”

Who is a Sodomite?

Just wondering… I turned to an American dictionary to check on current usage. Sure enough, sodomite is still a word used in the traditional way: “a person who has anal sex with another person: someone who practices sodomy” (Retrieved October 9, 2013

The Sad Sodom Story

Genesis 19 records the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Two angels visited Lot in Sodom to warn him of the pending destruction. Showing hospitality he offered his home.  But the men of the city came to the house and demanded sex with his guests. Lot protested and offered two virgin daughters instead. Lot and his family were saved by the angels and the city was destroyed.

What’s sex got to do with Sodom?

Of course the story included a demand for sex. But what’s the point of the story? Was Sodom destroyed for the voiced intent to have sex with Lot's guests?

God considered the city wicked and already planned to destroy the city before the angels visited it (Genesis 13:13 and 18:20).

Isaiah Chapter 1 condemns Judah for sins like those of Sodom but does not mention same-sex activity.

Jeremiah 23:14 condemns the prophets of Jerusalem for sins like those of Sodom but does not mention same-sex activity.

 Ezekiel explains the sin of Sodom as a failure of hospitality (Ezekiel 16:49-50).

Matthew 10: 5-15. Jesus uses Sodom as an example of punishment to those who do not welcome his disciples.

2 Peter 2:6-9.  Readers are warned to avoid the sins of Sodom, which included sexual sins and other acts.

Jude (6-7) warns of punishment by reference to the angels and Sodom and sins of immorality and going after strange or different flesh. Knust (2011) takes this to be a reference to Genesis 6:1-4-- the story about the sons of God having sex with the daughters of men-- the mixing of humans and angels.
How Many Sodomites were Homosexual?

God only knows! The Genesis text identifies those present at Lot’s house as all the men of the town. In the U.S. population, about 4-5% identify as LGBT. Of that a smaller percentage would be gay or bisexual. Though arguably not definitive, it seems unlikely the entire village was occupied by gay men.And why would gay men want to have sex with women?  See Pew research for some data and discussion of measurement difficulties.  Bob Seidenstickeralso covers the point about percentages.


That’s my reaction! Good Lord! 

This Sodom story is about rape!

Can you imagine that scene at Lot’s house? He tries to fend off gangsters who threaten him so they can rape his guests?

But it’s worse. 

What loving father would offer his daughters to rapists?

Ok. So maybe I’m reading in some contemporary feelings and ideas about morality. So be it. Isn’t it even a little bit plausible that the story aims to provoke disgust in the reader? Sure the Sodom story is about sex but as most clinicians will tell you rape isn’t just about sex—it’s also about violence, control, and exploitation. And rape is disgusting.


As I wrote last week about fundamentalists and their approach to texts, I understand the desire of Christians to be faithful to scripture. Yet I get concerned when people get lost in a forest of words and miss the pain and suffering of real people—ancient or contemporary.

Times have changed. A more flexible group of Christian Evangelicals has emerged—those who respect the biblical texts but don’t ignore science and reason. Still others look for ethical principles that transcend ancient tribal cultures.

Some embrace a loving God and seek ways to love others. And some will choose their words carefully so they can show hospitality rather than rejection. Kindness rather than hatred.

It doesn’t mean there are no rules. It means the Sabbath was made for man. And woman. Rest becomes a principle. And being guided by love, compassion, humility, gratitude, and other virtues allows people to embrace those in pain and stand against those who would exploit, damage, and harm the neighbors in one’s life.


The beliefs of translators influence their choice or words. You will find sodomites in the King James Bible. The selection of adequate American words for ancient Hebrew words is not an easy task. For more about word choices for Sodom and sodomites see Coogan (2010)


For more on rape and sexual assault, which harms so many women and men see MedlinePlus.

Anti-sodomy laws in the USA. The US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a sodomy law in Georgia in a 1986 ruling, Bowers v. Hardwick.  In Lawrence v. Texas, (2003) the U S Supreme court found a Texas anti-sodomy law unconstitutional.

There’s a similar story to the Sodom story found in Judges 19 often referred to as a Levite and His Concubine.

Coogan, M. (2010). God & Sex. NY: Twelve. Click for a Time Magazine interview with Michael Coogan.

Knust, J. W. (2011). Unprotected texts. NY: HarperOne. Website for Jennifer Knust.

Read more about sexuality, morality, and Christian cultures in A House Divided available from the publisher PICKWICK and other stores e.g.,  AMAZON


Corrections and constructive comments welcome.

Friday, October 4, 2013



Recently I overheard four faculty members from a conservative American Christian school discussing creationism and the age of the earth. One person was impressed with the presentation at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. "I teach the Bible," she said. As I listened to them talk I assumed they took a literal view of scripture, held ultra conservative social values, and were quick to support military solutions when national interests were threatened. Was I right?

American fundamentalism has been associated with the beliefs of Protestant Christians who reacted against social trends toward higher biblical criticism and evolution. The fundamentalist leaders developed a list of fundamental truths: 1. Authority of the Bible; 2. Virgin birth of Jesus; 3. Substitutionary atonement for sin; 4. Resurrection of Jesus; 5. Miracles; 6. Millennialism.

Behavioral scientists began looking for ways to broaden the concept of fundamentalism beyond lists of orthodox beliefs. Researchers focused on findings of militancy (e.g., Marty and Appleby) and authoritarianism in their samples (e.g., Altemyer and Hunsberger). Others focused on a literal interpretation of scriptures. Psychologists also looked at intelligence and personality traits.

In 2005, psychological scientists, Ralph Hood, Peter Hill, and Paul Williamson, observed that some religious groups were not militant unless faced with a threat. And that even then, some groups like the Amish, remained nonviolent. They also reported research that did not support authoritarianism. In fact, personality factors seemed weak at best. Their idea:

Fundamentalism can be explained by the principle of intratextuality.


The principle of intratextuality states that fundamentalists derive truth from God via their sacred text and they rely solely upon various parts of the text to interpret other parts of the text. For example, Christian fundamentalists who want to understand Gods plan for marriage will rely solely on the books of the Protestant Bible. To understand a passage about marriage in one book within the Bible, they will examine other portions of the Bible for teachings about marriage. In contrast, nonfundamentalists search for truth using an intertextual method. Nonfundamentalists will consider the sacred text in light of science, history, archeology, anthropology, and scholarly research. Nonfundamentalists respect the sacred text and still consider it privileged and even crucial to consult before reaching a conclusion about a moral approach or stance toward some social policy. In Christianity, the view people take toward the Bible distinguishes a Fundamentalist from an Evangelical or a Progressive.


The principle of intratextuality could be a bit misleading if one forgets the big picture. The big picture is how sincere believers view the world-- Worldview in the parlance of contemporary Christian writers. For the fundamentalist, the sacred text provides the one comprehensive source of meaning and the framework for viewing life.


Initially, Williamson and others (2010) considered six dimensions of intratextuality. They developed a measurement scale, and based on cross-cultural research, they found five items useful in identifying five dimensions Five perspectives on the sacred text. The principle of intratextuality is not just about Christianity. The items were written in such a way as to apply to other world religions. Here are the five dimensions.
  1. Divine: The sacred text is a revelation from God (or of divine origin) to humans. Regardless of the involvement of people in the writing of the text, God (or a deity) is the author.
  2. Inerrant: The sacred text does not contain errors, inconsistencies, or contradictions. The text is objectively true.
  3. Privileged: The sacred text of the fundamentalist group is not just another sacred writing. It is the truth. Fundamentalists may show respect to people from other religions and their sacred writings but they do not consider other texts to be on the same level as their own text.
  4. Authoritative:  The sacred text is the final authority. If a conflict in belief arises, the sacred text wins.
  5. Unchanging: The sacred text is unchangeable and true for eternity. The truths are absolutes. The truths can be depended on to understand the world and as a guide for life.


So, what is true about fundamentalists --those who score high on the 5-factors of intratextuality?
  • Fundamentalists are active in worship and other faith-based activities.
  • Fundamentalists are unlikely to question their religious experiences or truths.
  • Fundamentalists are not prone to doubt.
  • High fundamentalism is linked to a tendency to avoid complex and critical thinkingespecially about religious beliefs and values.
  • High fundamentalism is linked to high scores on Agreeableness, one of the Big 5 personality traits. And fundamentalists seem to have a variety of Big 5 personality traits.
  • High fundamentalism scorers are high in Traditionalism but not Transformation. Traditionalism is a combination of the Big 5 personality traits of Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Emotional Stability. Transformation is a combination of the Big 5 traits of Surgency/extraversion and Intellect/Imagery.
  • Under some conditions, people who score high on fundamentalism also score high on aggression. My take is the nature of any perceived threat may be critical here.


With any research comes words of caution. A few studies do not offer certainty or proof.


The idea of appreciating the importance of a groups sacred text shows respect for the faithful and their views. Humans seek to connect the dots of their existence. Sacred texts offer a way to understand the meaning of life. Those who accept a common understanding may naturally be highly agreeable within that community.

So, was I right? Did my stereotypes hold true about the creationists? Well, the way they spoke about creation was consistent with a fundamentalist perspective. They seemed to be intelligent people that just rejected the current scientific worldview. I did not perceive any hostility. Nothing else hinted of radical militarism. So who knows about other beliefs they may hold. Best to ask, I think.

For more on the psychology of religion get news feeds by liking my page on Facebook

Altemeyer, B., & Hunsberger, B. (2005). Fundamentalism and authoritarianism. In R.F. Paloutzian, & C.L. Park (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality (pp. 378393). New York: Guilford Press.
Hood, R.W., Jr., Hill, P.C., & Spilka, B. (2009). The psychology of religion: An empirical approach (4th ed). New York: Guilford.

Hood, R.W., Jr., Hill, P.C., & Williamson, W.P. (2005). The psychology of religious fundamentalism. New York: Guilford

Marsden, G.M. (1980). Fundamentalism and American culture: The shaping of twentieth century
Evangelicalism 18701925. New York: Oxford University Press.
Marty, M.E., & Appleby, R.S. (Eds.). (19911995). The fundamentalism project (Vols 15). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Williamson, W.P., Hood, R. W. Jr., Ahmad, A., Sadiq, M., Y Hill, P.C. (2010). The intratextual fundamentalism scale: cross-cultural application, validity evidence, and relationship with religious orientation and the Big 5 factor markers. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 13, 721-747.