By Dipl.-Psych. Dipl.-Theol., Constantin Klein
Theological Department, University of Bielefeld, Germany
Post Conference Ressources
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Audio Q&A – listen here
The aim of this paper is to introduce a new measure for research in religion, spirituality, and mental and physical health: The scale ‘Existential Consciousness’ measures interest in four basal existential questions which can be related to religious or spiritual orientations, but do not necessarily have to. The scale was developed in a research project studying traditional and alternative beliefs within the religious-ideological field of post-socialist East Germany – which is, similar to the Nordic countries, one of the most areligious parts of the world (Schmidt & Wohlrab-Sahr, 2003). Thus, only a minority of the population holds traditional religious beliefs, but only a small percentage of the population holds alternative spiritual beliefs, too. The vast majority of the population is areligious, although only few people are atheists in an ideological sense.
To measure individual worldviews in such a cultural context, the scale ‘Existential Consciousness’ contains four items measuring interest in existential questions related to the sphere of transcendence (Is there any God or higher power? What happens after one’s death? – Theology and Eschatology in traditional theological terms; Cronbach’s α = .75) and four items related to the sphere of immanence (Where does man come from, and what is his essence? What is the correct ethical behaviour? – Anthropology and Moral Theology/Ethics in theological terms; α = .80; total scale α = .82). The scale is a valid instrument to measure worldviews differentially which can be shown empirically – via ANOVAs and discriminant analyses – in terms of ideological attributes like pluralism, exclusivism, reflexivity, and salience of religiosity (all of these measures are based on the Religion Monitor of the Bertelsmann Foundation, 2007; 2009), and in terms of four different types of well-being: psychological (Dupuy, 1998), physical (Kolip & Schmidt, 1999; ), existential and religious well-being (Paloutzian & Ellison, 1982; 1991). The analyses were calculated based on data from a sample of N = 957 persons who belonged to and were engaged in several religious, spiritual or ideological groups (Roman-Catholics, mainline Protestants, evangelicals, western Buddhists, transpersonal psychologists, and active atheists). The scale provides an opportunity to study a broad variety of religious and non-religious beliefs within health research while avoiding the religion – spirituality antagonism.