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Deutsch Intern
    Chair of Religious Education

    Attitudes towards Religious Differences

    A quantitative-empirical research of interreligiousness and its correlates

    Andrea Betz, Research Assistant

    Theoretical background

    In a society shaped by plurality encounters with religious differences are inevitable. People of different religious affiliations meet at school, at work, and during their time off, either face by face or through various media. In all cases misunderstandings and conflicts may arise because of differing religious views. But those interactions also allow the chance of examining one’s own religious traditions and beliefs through the eyes of others, who might regard them as strange or even questionable. Interreligious learning wants to provide students with those capabilities enabling them to deal with religious differences productively, i.e. they should be encouraged to contemplate their own as well as unfamiliar views more profoundly.

    Essentially interreligious learning should enable the students to benefit from a change of perspective (e.g. van der Ven/Ziebertz 1995), additional concepts are: tolerance of ambiguity, communication skills, and the ability to live with different opinions (Streib 2005).

    Those don’t only refer to coping with different religions but describe common personality characteristics. Quite a lot of studies show that religiosity, personality traits and attitudes towards all kinds of unfamiliar groups are, indeed, related. An essential element of this research is that the disposition to engage in the depreciation or the appreciation of members of a special group is “linked to the general dynamic of the cognition of a person tending to be prejudiced” (Allport 1954, p. 170). The question is therefore whether this relation is also relevant for the handling of religious differences, i.e. whether the rather general assumption also applies to the interaction with religious differences. More precisely, it is the focus of this study how much the way to handle information about someone’s environment affects his or her relation towards foreign religions.

    The study wants to define the concept of inter-religiousness in such a way that it can be measured empirically. Then the relation of inter-religiousness with various concepts of religiosity and personality research will be investigated. The aim is to provide detailed knowledge about what forms of religiosity and belief are connected with different ways of dealing with religious differences. Then the effect of individual personality traits on this relationship will be researched. This will give us a detailed insight on how attitudes towards religious differences are influenced by other traits.

    Research questions

    Inter-religiousness is understood as a set of attitudes regarding religious differences (ERD = Einstellungen zu religiöser Differenz). The following questions will therefore be discussed in this study:

    1)    How are affective, cognitive and behavioral attitudes related with religious differences?

    2)    How are ERD and various aspects of religiosity connected?

    3)    How are ERD and selected traits of personality related?

    4)    What are the mutual reactions between the various traits of religiosity and personality regarding their effect on ERD?

    5)     What are the effects of demographic background variables on the investigated context?

    Method and Sample:
    The research questions are answered with the help of a quantitatively oriented empirical survey with an explorative focus. A pre-test with ca. 120 participants was conducted in January 2012 to figure out whether the items for the newly developed ERD-scale are sufficient.

    The main survey took place in October 2012 among prospective teachers for various schools in Bavaria.