Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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In social scientific use, a generic term for religious commitment ("religiousness") as potentially measurable along more than a single dimension.

Two related, but separable, problems for the study of religion concern definition. One is that of the subject matter itself—that is, the "definition-of-religion" problematic. The other is to determine what it "means" to describe someone as "religious." The latter manifests itself particularly in questions of measurement.

At least from the work of Joseph Fichter (e.g., 1954) forward, there has been general agreement among social scientists that religious involvement and/or commitment varies among people who may nevertheless denominate themselves identically, hence that a simple denominational measure (e.g., "Baptist," "Catholic," "Jew") is extremely weak as an indicator of involvement/commitment. In fact, a denominational measure actually may obfuscate the effect of religious involvement/commitment upon other aspects of a person's life-world. (For example, the position of a highly involved Baptist with regard to premarital sexual relations actually may be more like that of a highly involved Catholic than a minimally involved Baptist; hence to inquire about denominational affiliation on the one hand and relate it to premarital sex on the other may lead to mistaken conclusions about the relationship between religiosity and sexuality.)

The most extensive elaboration of the religiosity problematic occurred under the leadership of Charles Glock (see, esp., Glock and Stark 1965: chap. 2), although the beginnings of this approach should probably be traced to Yoshio Fukuyama (1961). Glock and his colleagues developed and tested what became known as the "5-D" approach to religiosity. This was a multidimensional approach to religious involvement/commitment encompassing five areas: (1) ritual activities (including, but not only, "church" attendance); (2) ideology or adherence to the principal beliefs of the religion; (3) experience or the "feeling" aspect of religion; (4) the intellectual side of religion, which involved religious "knowledge" and was frequently measured by such activities as reading religious publications (including, but not only, sacred texts); (5) the consequential dimension, which attempted to measure the "effect" of an individual's religion in its other dimensions upon his or her "life" (see Faulkner and DeJong 1966). According to the 5-D thesis, these five dimensions could be related, but they also could vary at least semi-independently. (For example, a person might believe [ideological dimension] the core doctrines of the Baptist faith but not attend church [ritual] very often—or vice versa. A person might believe [ideology] the Bible to be "inerrant" but not actually ever read the Bible [intellectual]—or vice versa.)

The dimensions-of-religiosity approach fit particularly well with a functionalist view of religion, inasmuch as it suggested that religion fulfills different functional "needs" for different people; this also correlated with a deprivation theory of religion, which suggested that people "turned" to the "supernatural" comforts and/or challenges of religion to meet needs that they did not find being adequately met in the natural realm. Critics, on the other hand, noted a strongly American Protestant bias. For example, Roman Catholic ideology stresses Mass attendance; to be a Jew is not to "believe" anything in the ideological sense but to be observant of the law; and so on. A death blow of sorts was dealt to the multi dimensionality thesis in an article by Richard Clayton, "5-D or 1?" (1971), where he used a factor analytic approach to demonstrate that a belief factor underlies all the others; this approach to belief, however, broadens the concept to include beliefs about what Glock would later (1988) term "the ways the world works" rather than simply religious dogma itself. No theory yet accounts for how individuals develop different belief systems about the ways the world works, some of which appear to "demand" supernatural referents, while others do not—nor why some supernaturalistic belief systems demand public expression ("going to church"), while others do not.

Currently, social scientists are in general agreement that religious commitment varies across all religions, and that religious commitment may manifest itself in different ways within the same religious tradition. Good research attempts to "triangulate" belief, practice, and self-perception in determining the relative effect of "religiosity" on behavioral and attitudinal measures.

See also Commitment

William H. Swatos, Jr .


R. R. Clayton, "5-D or 1?" Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 10(1971):37-40

G. Davie, "Believing Without Belonging," Social Compass 37(1990):455-469

J. Faulkner and G. DeJong, "Religiosity in 5-D," Social Forces 45(1966): 246-255

J. H. Fichter, Social Relations in the Urban Parish (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954)

Y. Fukuyama, "The Major Dimensions of Church Membership," Review of Religious Research 2(1961):154-161

C. Y. Glock, "The Ways the World Works," Sociological Analysis 49(1988):93-103

C. Y. Glock and R. Stark, Religion and Society in Tension (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1965)

A. J. Weigert and D. L. Thomas, "Religiosity in 5-D," Social Forces 48(1969):260-263.

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