Universität Bielefeld

© Simon A. Eugster

Religious Schema Scale Development

History and Conceptualization

The development of the Religious Schema Scale (RSS) is a result from our engagement with James Fowler's faith development theory and its revision in a model of religious styles and religious schemata. What is a religious schema?
While religious styles generally correspond to the structural descriptions of Fowler´s faith stages (as detailed in the Manual), a religious schema is defined as the attitudinal response to an experience – in case of the RSS, an experience of encounter with another, a strange religion. In the current version of the RSS, three religious schemata have been included, as detailed in section Operationalization below. The RSS was constructed based on the data of the Bielefeld based cross-cultural study on Deconversion (Streib et. al., 2009). Streib, Hood and Klein (2010) present the Scale, its development and initial validation.

Operationalization for Empirical Research

The Religious Schema Scale consists of three subscales measuring different cognitive schemata:

  • A first schema, which measures the authoritative and exclusivist interpretation of one´s own religious tradition, has been operationalized in the subscale truth of texts and teachings (ttt) . A sample item is „What the texts and stories of my religion tell me is absolutely true and must not be changed.“
  • A second schema expressing a reflective, fair and tolerant perspective in regard to differing worldviews is operationalized in the subscale fairness, tolerance and rational choice (ftr) . A sample item is „Regardless of how people appear to each other, we are all human.“
  • The third subscale highlights the appreciation of strangeness and difference as possibility for creativity, wisdom and new insights. Hence, this subscale assesses a schema corresponding to the concept of xenosophia, and therefore is named xenosophia/inter-religious dialog (xenos) . A sample item is „We can learn from each other what ultimate truth each religion contains.“
  • Each subscale of the RSS consists of five Items. All 15 items are rated on 5-point Likert scales ranging from 1 = „strongly disagree“ to 5 = „strongly agree.“ The RSS in full length is available not only in English and German, but we also have (back-translation controlled) translations in other languages.

    Research examples and results

    The RSS has been included in almost all of our completed and current empirical studies: in our Study on Deconversion (in which the RSS has been developed), in our study „Youth & Religion“ and about violence, mediation and religion in adolescents, in the Bielefeld-based Cross-Cultural Study on Spirituality, in the research on Xenosophia and Religion in Germany, and in our current longitudinal research on religious development. Selected empirical results are the following:

    • From our study on „Youth & Religion“, we have evidence about the explanatory power of the RSS for inter-religious prejudice: The RSS subscale ttt relates to and predicts anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic prejudice, while ftr and xenos relate to and predict disagreement with inter-religious prejudice (Streib & Klein, 2014).
    • In our recently completed study on Xenosophia and Religion in Germany, structural equation models indicated the effect of the three religious schemata of the RSS on xenological and inter-religious attitudes (Streib & Klein, 2018, Chapters 6 and 7).

    Streib, H., Hood, R. W., & Klein, C. (2010). The Religious Schema Scale: Construction and Initial Validation of a Quantitative Measure for Religious Styles. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 20, 151-172. doi:10.1080/10508619.2010.481223 (pdf)