Preferred Name

Timothy Wayne Brearly

ORCID

http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6320-0654

Date of Award

Summer 2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Department of Graduate Psychology

Advisor(s)

Craig N. Shealy

Abstract

Religious certitude is often associated with conflict between individuals and groups, though the nature of this relationship is still not clear. To further clarify these dynamics, the historical psychology of religion is reviewed and contrasted with current perspectives from social psychology and neuroscience, with an eye towards better understanding the variance within religious expressions and their associated relationships with intergroup conflict. It is hypothesized that religious certainty is related to a difficulty in engaging with contradictory religious perspectives, and that the pull towards certainty is tied to an individual’s unique psychological structure, much of which is developed through the interaction of formative variables over the lifespan.

Utilizing data (N=2331) collected during the Forum BEVI Project, a multi-institution, multi-year project coordinated by the Forum on Education Abroad and the International Beliefs and Values Institute, statistical analyses consisting of ANOVAs, regression analyses, and structural equation modeling are used to explore these ideas. Results suggest that a propensity to identify with religious certitude is predictive of one’s beliefs in a number of other areas. Further, individuals who report distressing early life events associated with unmet developmental needs may tend towards belief certainty. However, structural equation modeling highlights the complexity of this relationship, suggesting the importance of accounting for individual differences. Finally, analyses indicate that the variance in levels of certainty within religious groups is greater than the variance between these groups. It is therefore concluded that accounting for levels of religious certainty is more helpful than emphasizing particular religious traditions when seeking to understand intergroup conflict.

These findings suggest the value of fostering an agnostic theory of knowledge, and a continuum of belief is proposed to illustrate this concept in relation to religious belief. Towards this end, interventions meant to facilitate intergroup dialogue and understanding while respecting individual theological traditions are highlighted.

 
 

To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.