Religious orientation theory has played a central but somewhat controversial role within the individual differences tradition of the empirical psychology of religion. The controversy was well captured by the subtitle of the paper by Kirkpatrick and Hood [1
] who asked whether religious orientation theory was “the boon or bane of contemporary psychology of religion”. Essentially the problems raised by religious orientation theory are within the domains of conceptualisation, operationalisation and application.
Conceptually religious orientation theory has its origins in two somewhat different areas of discourse. The original work by Allport, as captured by Allport [2
] and Allport and Ross [3
], was concerned to differentiate between two different forms of religious motivation as displayed by individuals who engaged in religious practices such as church attendance and personal prayer. From a perspective of psychological discourse Allport recognises that some were intrinsically motivated (engaged in religion for religion’s sake), and others were extrinsically motivated (engaged in religion for the sake of other objectives). The confusion comes about, however, when Allport also speaks of intrinsic religion as more mature religion. The second stage of the work by Batson, as captured by Batson and Ventis [4
], Batson and Schoenrade [5
] and Batson, Schoenrade, and Ventis [7
] is grounded in a perspective influenced by a form of theological discourse concerned to discuss the nature of mature religion. The consequence of merging these two somewhat different discourses is the current conceptualisation of religious orientation theory embracing three religious orientations: intrinsic orientation, extrinsic orientation, and quest orientation. While functionally useful these three orientations considered together generate neither a coherent nor inclusive account of the potential within the construct of religious orientation itself.
In terms of application, the current notion of religious orientation as embracing three orientations (intrinsic, extrinsic and quest) makes sense only as a way of nuancing the religious motivation of individuals who by other criteria are deemed to be religious. In other words, the measurement of religious orientation only strictly applies among individuals who practise religion, especially in the terms of public worship attendance. A number of current empirical studies employing measures of religious orientation are, nonetheless, conducted among diverse populations, embracing both those who practise religion and those who do not practise religion.
It is the use of measures of religious orientation among non-religious or religiously mixed groups that render answers to some of the items in the existing measures meaningless. For example, in terms of the extrinsic orientation, how do non-churchgoers respond to the item “One reason for me going to church is that it helps to establish me in the community?” Churchgoers and non-churchgoers would mean different things by responding negatively to the intrinsic item, “I would allow almost nothing to prevent me from going to church on Sundays”. Churchgoers and non-churchgoers would mean different things by responding negatively to the quest item, “I am constantly questioning my religious beliefs”. Empirical evidence for the different performance of the three religious orientation measures among religious groups and non-religious groups is evidenced by the different patterns of correlations between these variables that emerge in the two contexts of religious and non-religious participants (see Francis [8
]). For example, among religious groups there is generally a negative correlation between intrinsic religious orientation and extrinsic religious orientation. This makes sense if the two orientations are assessing opposing motivations among the religiously engaged. Among non-religious groups there is generally a positive correlation between intrinsic religious orientation and extrinsic religious orientation. This too makes sense if the two orientations are assessing general levels of dissent from a religious world view.
In terms of operationalisation, several different attempts have been made to devise measures of the three orientations defined as intrinsic religious orientation, extrinsic religious orientation, and quest religious orientation. The best established of these instruments are those designed by the research groups originally responsible for the conceptualisation of the constructs.
First, in terms of the distinction between intrinsic religious orientation and extrinsic religious orientation, Allport and Ross [3
] offered the following definitions. Here is their description of the extrinsic orientation.
Persons with this orientation are disposed to use religion for their own ends. Persons with this orientation may find religion useful in a variety of ways—to provide security and solace, sociability and distraction, status and self-justification. The embraced creed is lightly held or else selectively shaped to fit more primary needs.
Here is their description of the intrinsic orientation.
Persons with this orientation find their master motive in religion. Other needs, strong as they may be, are regarded as of less ultimate significance, and they are, so far as possible, brought into harmony with the religious beliefs and prescriptions. Having embraced a creed the individual endeavours to internalize it and follow it fully. It is in this sense that he lives his religion.
Allport and Ross [3
] proposed two scales to measure their dimensions of intrinsic and extrinsic orientation. The intrinsic measure contained nine items, the first two of which were: “It is important for me to spend periods of time in private religious thought and meditation”; “If not prevented by unavoidable circumstances, I attend church”. The extrinsic measure contained eleven items, the first two of which were: “Although I believe in my religion, I feel there are many more important things in my life”; “It doesn’t matter so much what I believe so long as I lead a moral life”.
Second, the quest religious orientation gave recognition to a form of religiosity which embraces characteristics of complexity, doubt, tentativeness, and honesty in facing existential questions. Batson and Ventis ([4
], p. 150) provided the following description of the quest orientation.
An individual who approaches religion in this way recognises that he or she does not know, and probably never will know, the final truth about such matters. But still the questions are deemed important, and however tentative and subject to change, answers are sought. There may not be a clear belief in a transcendent reality, but there is a transcendent, religious dimension to the individual’s life.
Batson and Ventis ([4
], p. 145) also provided a six-item instrument to measure the quest orientation, which they originally identified by the name “interactional scale”. Two items were: “It might be said that I value my religious doubts and uncertainties”; “Questions are far more central to my religious experience than are answers”. Subsequently Batson and Schoenrade [5
] developed a longer twelve-item quest scale, which dropped one item from the original six-item scale (My religious development has emerged out of my growing sense of personal identity) and introduced a further seven new items.
After reviewing the problems identified in the literature with the measures proposed by Allport and Ross [3
], Batson and Ventis [4
] and Batson and Shoenrade [5
], Francis [8
] proposed the development of the New Indices of Religious Orientation (NIRO). Francis’ objective was to develop scales of equal length to measure the three constructs and to give equal weight to the three conceptual components identified within each construct. Batson and Schoenrade [6
] defined the three components of quest orientation as: readiness to face existential questions without reducing their complexity; self-criticism and perception of religious doubt as positive; openness to change. The three conceptual components of extrinsic orientation are: compartmentalisation, or the separation of religion from the rest of life; social support, or the use of religion to achieve social ends; personal support, or the use of religion to gain personal comfort. The three conceptual components of intrinsic orientation are: integration, or the close relationship between religion and the rest of life; public religion, or the importance given to church for religious ends; personal religion, or the importance given to personal prayer and reading for religious ends.
This clear conceptual framework provided an opportunity to assess the original items for relevance, for face validity, and for economy of expression, and then to draft a battery of new items. The new items have been drafted to distinguish different religious orientations among religious people whose religiosity has been shaped by institutionalised Christianity. It is recognised that the scales are less appropriate among people who are themselves not religious, or among people whose religiosity has been shaped by non-Christian traditions.
Following this initial publication by Francis [8
], the New Indices of Religious Orientation have been applied and tested in a number of studies including Francis [9
], Francis, Jewell, and Robbins [10
], Francis, Robbins, and Murray [11
], Ross and Francis [12
], Williams [13
], Kamble, Lewis, and Cruise [14
], Walker [15
], and Francis and Williams [17
This paper set out to propose and to test a modification of the New Indices of Religious Orientation as originally proposed by Francis [8
] in ways that would both protect the structure and clarity of the parent instrument and also make the concepts more accessible to young religiously engaged adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 years. This objective was set out in three stages.
Stage one involved the careful critique by the research team of the 27 items of the original formulation of the New Indices of Religious Orientation, leading to simplification of the language as far as possible without disturbing the intention of the original items. These revised items have been presented in Table 1
in which the nine items within each of the three religious orientation scales (intrinsic religious orientation, extrinsic religious orientation, and quest religious orientation) have been grouped within the three components that define that orientation. All 27 items received a high level of completion by the 521 participants indicating that the terminology had achieved an appropriate level of accessibility.
Stage two involved exploring the internal consistency reliability of the three nine-item scales in terms of the alpha coefficient [18
] and the correlations between the individual items and the sum of the other eight items within the nine-item scale. These data, also presented in Table 1
, demonstrate that all three scales achieved a satisfactory level of internal consistency reliability. At the same time, further refinement of the measure of extrinsic religious orientation could enhance the internal consistency reliability of this measure.
Stage three involved exploring the construct validity of the three measures in terms first of exploring the association between scale scores and different levels of personal religious engagement. These data are presented in Table 2
, Table 3
and Table 4
in terms of frequency of church attendance, frequency of personal prayer and frequency of Bible reading respectively. The data confirm the hypothesised higher levels of intrinsic religious orientation and lower levels of extrinsic religious orientation among those more religiously engaged, in terms of weekly church attendance, daily prayer, and daily Bible reading. The hypothesised lack of differences in quest religious orientation scores according to levels of religious engagement (among those nonetheless religiously engaged) was supported in terms of different levels of personal prayer and different levels of Bible reading, but not in terms of different levels of church attendance. The majority of the participants who attended church weekly (N
= 429) recorded significantly lower levels of quest religious orientation compared with the minority of the participants who attended church less than weekly (N
= 72). This finding may be related to the kind of religious teaching promoted within the church tradition from which the participants were drawn and in which questioning of the religious tradition may be less encouraged. The present study now deserves replication among young people engaged with a liberal church tradition in order to test this interpretation.
The second way in which the construct validity of the three measures was explored concerned examining the intercorrelations of the three measures among subgroups of the participants differentiated in terms of frequency of religious practice: frequency of church attendance, frequency of personal prayer, and frequency of Bible reading. These data, presented in Table 5
, confirm the hypothesised negative correlation between intrinsic religious orientation and extrinsic religious orientation among those highly engaged in religious practice and a positive correlation between intrinsic religious orientation and extrinsic religious orientation among those less highly engaged in religious practice.
Both strategies for testing the construct validity of the New Indices of Religious Orientation Revised supported the construct validity of the three scales of intrinsic religious orientation, extrinsic religious orientation and quest religious orientation.
A further finding from the correlation matrix displaying the pattern of relations between the three measures of religious orientation according to different levels of religious engagement deserves further scrutiny. This concerns the consistent positive association between extrinsic religious orientation and quest religious orientation across different levels of religious engagement. All the correlation coefficient indicates is that these two variables co-vary in step: as extrinsic religious orientation increases, so quest religious orientation increases. What the correlation coefficient does not indicate is the direction of causality. Different hypotheses could be constructed to offer different causal accounts. If quest religious orientation were to be the independent variable, an hypothesised causal link might look like this in connection with the doctrinal climate of Baptist churches. As young people become more aware of tensions and contradictions within the Christian tradition, if the church to which they belong does not encourage full acceptance and explorations of such issues, their growing quest for religious orientation may force them more to the margins of the life of their local church. In this sense they sustain contact now more for extrinsic than for intrinsic motivational factors. If extrinsic religious orientation were to be the independent variable, an hypothesised causal link might look like this in connection with the doctrinal climate of the Baptist churches. As young people become more aware of the inadequate response offered to the proclamation of the Christian Gospel by an extrinsic religious orientation, their uncertainties and doubts about the Christian message diminish and they also withdraw from espousing a quest religious orientation. Adjudication between these two conflicting hypotheses would involve replication of this study among young people involved in a more liberal church tradition.
In summary, this study has supported the development and testing of the New Indices of Religious Orientation Revised (NIROR) among a sample of over 500 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 years participating in a youth mission and service event organised by the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches in Eastern Canada. Since the notion of religious orientation concerns the different motivations within the religiously engaged individuals, this is an appropriate sample with which to have worked. The data have supported the internal consistency reliability and construct validity of the three measures of intrinsic religious orientation, extrinsic religious orientation, and quest religious orientation. The clear limitation of the study concerns the focus on one specific group of churches that follow a clear doctrinal position. Further replication of this empirical investigation would now be desirable among a significantly different group of religiously engaged young people.