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 Fowler's Stages of "Faith"

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Aaron
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PostSubject: Fowler's Stages of "Faith"   Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:13 am

Here's another developmental model by James Fowler. He calls his Stages of "Faith". I'm not crazy about the word faith myself, I think spirituality sounds better, but it is a pretty good model.

Quote :
James Fowler proposes six stages of faith that relate closely to Kohlberg’s moral developmental stages and that include, as well, "cognitive, affective and behavioral elements of religious development at different life stages" (Kelly, 1995, p. 71).

In the first three stages of faith development, individuals in one way or another rely on some authority outside themselves for spiritual beliefs.

Young children, during the first stage of faith (intuitive-projective), follow the beliefs of their parents. They tend to imagine or fantasize angels or other religious figures in stories as characters in fairy tales.

In the second stage of faith (mythical-literal), children tend to respond to religious stories and rituals literally, rather than symbolically As individuals move through adolescence to young adulthood, their beliefs continue to be based on authority focused outside themselves.

In this third stage of faith (synthetic-conventional), individuals tend to have conformist acceptance of a belief with little self-reflection on examination of these beliefs. Most people remain at this level (Fowler, 1981; Kelly, 1995).

Those individuals who move to the fourth stage of faith (individuative-reflective) begin a radical shift from dependence on others’ spiritual beliefs to development of their own. Fowler (1981) says, "For a genuine move to stage 4 to occur there must be an interruption of reliance on external sources of authority ... There must be ... a relocation of authority within the self" (p. 179). Individuals are no longer defined by the groups to which they belong. Instead, they choose beliefs, values, and relationships important to their self-fulfillment.

In the fifth stage of faith (conjunctive), persons still rely on their own views but move from self preoccupation or from dependence on fixed truths to acceptance of others’ points of view they tend to be more tolerant and begin to consider serving others.

Individuals who move to the sixth and last stage of faith (universalizing) are rare. As older adults, they begin to search for universal values, such as unconditional love and justice. Self-preservation becomes irrelevant. Mother Theresa and Mahatma Gandhi are examples of people in this form of spiritual development (Fowler, 1981).

I bolded in the fourth stage because IMO this is the stage in which we see deist thinking.

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PostSubject: Re: Fowler's Stages of "Faith"   Sun Nov 11, 2007 8:02 pm

This is a related model called Bellah's Five Stages of Religious Evolution.

Quote :
A well-known theory of religious development was proposed by Robert Bellah (1964) in which he defined an axial point of religious evolution. Bellah describes 5 stages:

1. Primitive Religion (i.e. Native American & aboriginal)
This stage contrasts with others in that it isn't "world rejecting" and mythical characteristics are related to characteristics found in the experienced world. Thunder, for instance, would be the expression of a deity's anger. Whereas later stages utilize sacrifice, the Primitive Stage is characterized by identification, participation, and acting out. Rituals involve reactualization where events aren't simply portrayed but made to happen again. The Hopi or Zuni mask ceremonies are good examples of this. The person in the mask becomes the mythical being.

2. Archaic Religion (i.e. ancient Greece; early Judaic)
This involves gods, priests and sacrifices. The distinction between men and gods is defined and demarcated. The world is not rejected, but there is likely to be a concept of hierarchical cosmology where every being has its place in the hierarchy. Fluidity of the religion exists, where individuals exercise some creativity in their worship, but the presence of priests will limit it. Different cults come into being during this stage and certain priests are attached to cult centers such as the Oracle of Delphi in Greece. Greece provides a good example of an archaic religion since there is clear record of the temenos that physically existed between the sanctuary (the sacred) and everything outside the sanctuary (the profane/secular).

Egyptian and early Judaic cults also show these characteristics with hierarchical gods and demarcation of the sacred versus the secular. Growing populations in each of these societies also gave rise to new cults as priestly-classes and ruling-classes variously merged and emerged.

3. Historical Religion (i.e. Roman Catholicism)
This marks an "axial age," which, to Bellah, is the point at which the world's great religions emerged along with philosophy and science. The world is rejected both morally and philosophically and writing is now present. A dualism emerges with a concept of a supernatural world as well as an earthly world. Salvation becomes a paramount purpose of religion and old myths are put aside as the participants are taught to believe in monotheism. The human moral condition is now perceived as much worse than by primitive and archaic stages (pre-axial). Consequently, humans can only participate in the "ultimate reality" by seeking salvation.

In this stage, a four-class system emerges
1. Political/Military Elite
2. Cultural/Religious Elite
3. Peasantry (farmers)
4. Merchants and Artisans

Struggles begin to exist between political rulers and the religious elite, such as the King versus the Pope in pre-Anglican Britain.

4. Early Modern Religion (i.e. Protestantism)
This is best exemplified by the Protestant Reformation. World rejection continues as does the dualism of heaven and earth. An unmediated relationship between humanity and God is now taught and religious doctrine is no longer kept as privilege to just the religious elite but made available to all. God is now accessible to the peasantry and merchant classes. Emphasis is placed on "faith" and total dedication of oneself in all areas of life. The distinction between "elect" and the "non-elect" is substituted for the distinction that existed between ascetics like monks and the "mass of believers" as with the Historical Stage. In the Calvinist cult, for instance, the elect equates to those chosen by God for salvation. The non-elect are all others; the non-chosen.

5. Modern Religion
Not world-rejecting and has diminished interest in creeds or "right" doctrines. There exists an increased emphasis on the individual and the idea of moral deprivation is not taught. Bellah finds difficulty pinning this new religious movement down and admits to as much, though he cites the growing tendencies (even in the 1950s and 60s) of people to find new forms of enlightenment and that...

    "...for many churchgoers the obligation of doctrinal orthodoxy sits lightly indeed, and the idea that all creedal statements must receive a personal reinterpretation is widely accepted. The dualistic worldview certainly persists in the minds of many of the devout, but just as surely many others have developed elaborate and often pseudoscientific rationalizations to bring their faith in its experienced validity into some kind of cognitive harmony with the 20th century world."


Of course, Bellah's Five Stages theory doesn't imply that the previous stages disappear, but it gives an interesting point of reference that we might apply to the anthropological perspective that Horton provides with regard to society and complexity.

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PostSubject: Re: Fowler's Stages of "Faith"   Sun Nov 11, 2007 9:08 pm

Interesting!
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PostSubject: Re: Fowler's Stages of "Faith"   Tue Mar 10, 2009 12:43 am

I'm reading his book at the moment and it's very interesting.

I don't know where I fit in. I certainly don't identify with anything below stage four. I've been trying to remember what stages I was in at what ages - I don't know. Like I said in my intro, I rejected Christian myth by early elementary school.

It's so hard to remember how I used to think accurately - some thoughts stand out clear the way they were when I thought them, but most of it is just a haze that I catch myself interpreting through my present perceptions.

I wish I had the stuff I wrote for the guidance counselor in sessions after Daddy died. There is this passage in my second grade journal:

"You know I wish I could make a speech about how people use their mouths for a force against goodness. They don't care about the words they're saying and they keep on using their mouths for a force against goodness. I wish the world was a nicer place to live. When I grow up I'm going across the world making the same speech making the world a nicer place to live."

Overall it's quite concrete.

One thing I noticed about the description of stage three in the book - he states that people in stage three sometimes make "Some of my best friends are x." statements. In my circles, most people say that's a sure sign of prejudice and it's often used to mockingly point out bigotry. I am beginning to think that maybe it's more a sign of ignorance - apparently people in stage three aren't really aware of socioeconomic groups and conflicts.

I have to admit that before learning about all of this I thought that humans in general started at stage four. So I judged everyone with the idea that they had decided on their beliefs for themselves and knew about the world and knew the effects that their beliefs and actions had on other people. I don't know - maybe I was at stage three and independence of thought was the river that I swam in.

It's hard for me to understand some of the book because I never grew up in a religious faith and I'm not really conditioned to see anything useful in the word God. My experience of that word has been, well - to tell the truth I've mostly seen the word in ridiculous religion tracts that I find at the houses I take pictures of for work and in posts in the religion/theology forum at another site. From context clues it seems to either mean "Dude who agrees with me on everything and will send you to hell if you disagree with me." or "Random word I use to describe whatever I don't comprehend, which is a lot because I have the basic knowledge and worldview of a third grader."

Bear with me, I'm still trying to puzzle out this whole thing.

Also, another thing I don't get - the explanation of stage six directly contradicts itself in one paragraph. He talks about how people at stage six can fellowship with anyone in the previous stages, but then he says "These are the people who are often killed by the people they are trying to change."

This whole acceptance of everyone else thing is something I really struggle with in all of these developmental theories, because I think "So, hmm, someone at your higher levels would have just sat around in Nazi Germany, thinking it was all good and that the Nazis just had a different belief system and that others should just accept it?"

Yes, I know that bringing up the Nazis is a faux pas on the intarwebz, but I spent much of my youth researching the Holocaust and the Nazis so it's what I know.

Bed time, more later.
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PostSubject: Re: Fowler's Stages of "Faith"   Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:16 am

I don't know if you've read anything about Spiral Dynamics but this may offer you another perspective.

http://www.spiraldynamics.org/faq_index.htm

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PostSubject: Re: Fowler's Stages of "Faith"   Tue Mar 10, 2009 12:57 pm

Here's some copypasta of a post I wrote on a political forum, in a thread about how Christians felt offended by the atheists on the forum.

Reading James Fowler's book The Stages of Faith is really helping me.
Here's a link.

http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/fowler.htm

For instance, I also never understood why people identified with their beliefs so much that they took criticism of those beliefs personally. I compared it to how I react when people criticize my beliefs. Like, hmm - I like the idea of democratic socialism. When someone criticizes it, I don't go all "Oh noes how can you insult and belittle me like that?!" I can get emotional and upset depending on the language and ideas used in criticizing it, but I don't take it personally and I can't imagine why I would take it personally. Random posters on a message board online aren't even really aware that I exist and certainly don't know anything about me.

Apparently some people take it personally because they're still in a cognitive/ego stage where they can't really think about their beliefs as something outside of themselves. They don't have an identity that's separate from their social group identity. And their social group identity includes beliefs - and they did not independently choose those beliefs, which is the hardest bit for me to understand. I tend to see people as responsible for their own beliefs and actions that are the result of those beliefs. In Fowler's theory, they'd be in stage 3 - which is where a lot of people stop developing and stay for their whole lives.

So I think it's a conflict between cognitive structures of identity. Those of us who locate our identity in a set of beliefs and views that we have taken responsibility for tend to not understand those who locate their identity in participating in a social group with shared and unquestioned beliefs. We see them as a threat to our freedom and autonomy and individuality, and they see us as a threat to their ego and worldview, both of which are based in their social identity.

Also, Fowler says that people in stage 3 aren't really aware of the power structure in society between different groups and they'll quite innocently say "Some of my best friends are x." and won't know how prejudiced they sound. They see society in terms of people that they interact with face to face (or keyboard to keyboard) and so don't really understand the meaning behind the graphic showing that they are a majority and have the power and that it's silly for them to say they're oppressed.

Exposure to different viewpoints is one of the major driving forces behind growing out of stage 3, and not everyone is ready to grow. I want to say that if you're not ready it's your responsibility to use the hide thread and ignore poster features to protect yourself from different viewpoints, but like I said stage three people have trouble taking responsibility.

Oh, and although I'm sure I'll get accused of being elitist and saying that some people are better than others - it's not people's fault if they're in stage 3. Hell, it's where most people have stopped and spent their lives in the last several centuries. It's what works for them in their life and it suits their external circumstances.

But things are changing. Like Fowler wrote the book back when I was a baby, and he says that most people who move to stage 4 do it when they go to college or move somewhere else or join the military - essentially, when they are exposed to views other than those of their socioeconomic group.

Most people I know my age and younger are at least stage four now and I think it's because for many Americans, you no longer have to leave home to be exposed to different views. *pets her cable modem*

I have noticed a sort of generation gap on here, and maybe that's part of it too - people who didn't grow up with the net and who spent most of their lives surrounded by people who looked like them and thought like them experience a culture shock when they get online. And Fowler says that when that happens later in life, it's more of a struggle and causes more stress than when it's in your late teens/early twenties.

I highly recommend the book - it's much better and more in-depth than internet sites that just list the basics of his idea.

End of copypasta - I have to go back to work now and will write more later.
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PostSubject: Re: Fowler's Stages of "Faith"   Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:17 pm

Quote :
It's hard for me to understand some of the book because I never grew up in a religious faith and I'm not really conditioned to see anything useful in the word God.
Quote :
For instance, I also never understood why people identified with their beliefs so much that they took criticism of those beliefs personally.

I think the first quote explains the second. If you have never been a person of Faith, you will never understand the grave import and acute urgency that some Christians invest in their precious, revealed "Truth". Many Christians learn early-on to literally fear the wrath of God. As children they may recite the little "God is Love" rhymes. But as they approach the adolescent age of responsibility for their own souls, the fear of God is instilled in them by means of "fire & brimstone" preaching. The truth is that God will burn your *ss, if you don't love Him. So be afraid, be very afraid.

I think it's understandable that someone who believes in the extreme contrast between eternal gratification in Heaven, and eternal torture in Hell would regard repercussions of a wrong decision with deadly seriousness---even insane horror. Hence, those who are terrorized by their deity, may in turn try to terrorize unbelievers. If you belittle their deepest fears, don't be surprised if they take it personally.

They are not kidding around with Faith. It's not a flexible, evolving system of tentative beliefs. Faith is an all or nothing, take-it-or-leave-it brass ring of eternal life or endless death. If your savior is also your executioner, there is no middle ground for compromise or rational discussion. If you push a true believer up against the wall of his faith, you will get the response of a wounded animal.

There are some Christians who are not afraid of their God, because they don't really believe what the Bible says about Him. They are the ones who can take constructive criticism about their beliefs. But then, they are probably closer to being Deists than Dogmatists.

Now you've been warned. If you poke a believer in the faith, be prepared for a counter-punch in the knows. Wink
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