Religiosity In Rural England : The Examination Of Towler's Conventional Religious Types

Short, Christopher John (1996). Religiosity In Rural England : The Examination Of Towler's Conventional Religious Types. MPhil thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f5ea

Abstract

In 1984 Towler published The Need for Certainty, which sets out five ideal-types of conventional religiosity; exemplarism, conversionism, theism, gnosticism and traditionalism. This thesis aims to examine the nature of 'religious belief, as defined by Towler, in a sample of rural parishioners interviewed during the Rural Church Project (1988-91). Towler's work originated from letters written to John Robinson, then Bishop of Woolwich, when he published Honest to God. Consequently, his work is empirical but qualitative rather than quantitative. A weakness he recognises by indicating that he has only revealed the spectrum of religious belief rather than examining it. The Social Science Citation Index shows Towler's work to have been widely reviewed but sparingly cited between 1984-95. This thesis seeks to be strong where Towler's work is weak by using a quantitative and representative sample. The data is divided into religious belief sub-samples using 12 statements from which respondents selected one as being closest to their own religious outlook. The five subsamples which correspond with Towler's religious types represent 44% of the whole sample. Each sub-sample is assessed against religious characteristics which Towler attributes to that type; in conversionism and traditionalism the compatibility is good, there are similarities with theism and gnosticism but little common ground for exemplarism. The sociography of each sub-sample is developed and a similar picture of compatibility appears. The remainder of the sample chose two statements. This thesis suggests these two sub-samples, shown to be religiously and sociographically distinct, constitute conventional religious types which did not appear in Towler's data. The first involves those who are still 'searching for the Truth', they are perhaps similar to Hedonism as defined by Wilson (1985) . The second group are religiously uncertain and detached but not irreligious, perhaps representing agnostics.

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