Cognitive Developmental Analysis of Apostasy from Religious Fundamentalism

Raoul Adam (2007). Cognitive Developmental Analysis of Apostasy from Religious Fundamentalism PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Raoul Adam
Thesis Title Cognitive Developmental Analysis of Apostasy from Religious Fundamentalism
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2007-09
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Language eng
Subjects 440000 Philosophy and Religion
Abstract/Summary This thesis presents a broad exploratory analysis of apostasy from religious fundamentalism in light of cognitive developmental theory. Reciprocally, the thesis provides a critique of cognitive developmental theory in light of its application to apostasy from fundamentalism. Autobiographical narratives of approximately 200 apostates from Christian and Muslim fundamentalisms are used to represent the experience of apostasy. Three related and representative cognitive developmental theories are used to inform the analysis of these apostate narratives. These theories include James Fowler’s Stages of Faith (FDT) (1981); Fritz Oser and Paul Gmünder’s Stages of Religious Judgment (RJT) (1991); and Helmut Reich’s Levels of Relational and Contextual Reasoning (RCR) (2002). These three representative theories are used to generate cognitive developmental hypotheses for the experiences of apostates from fundamentalisms. There are three primary hypotheses guiding the research: (i) Fundamentalist contents predispose a particular form of cognitive operations. (ii) Fundamentalist contents suspend equilibration between accommodation and assimilation. And (iii), some forms of apostasy from fundamentalism are the product of a sociocognitive conflict. These hypotheses are addressed through four research questions: (i) How do fundamentalist cultures sponsor or arrest cognitive development? (ii) What are the developmental characteristics of apostates’ experiences? (iii) What are the implications of cognitive development for apostasy and fundamentalism? And (iv), what are the implications of apostasy from fundamentalism for theories of cognitive development? The thesis utilises a paradigm of critical realism and a theory of interactionism. Critical realism assumes the existence of an objective reality, while acknowledging its exclusively subjective mediation. The interactionist approach acknowledges the potential influences of genetic predisposition, social-environmental context, and individual agency affecting cognitive development and apostasy from fundamentalism. A dual methodological approach is used to collect and analyse data relevant to the hypothesis. Data collection involves two phases: (i) Collection of existing unstructured apostate narratives. And (ii), collection of semi-structured apostate responses. The first phase narratives are collected using online databases, published anthologies, and solicited scripts. The second phase responses are collected using a semi-structured survey. The dual methodological analysis combines coded content analysis and narrative analysis. Coding is informed by the three developmental theories. The qualitative thesis findings may be summarised in two parts. The first pertains to apostasy from fundamentalism; the second pertains to cognitive developmental theory. Of the former, the research found: (i) Cognitive development represents a significant and even primary influence in some forms of apostasy from fundamentalism. And (ii), some forms of fundamentalism sponsor stage specific structures. Reflecting on cognitive theories of religious development, the research found: (i) Sociocultural, affective, and noncognitive physical influences may directly and indirectly facilitate or inhibit cognitive development. (ii) Specific stages and structures of cognitive development may be culturally embedded. (iii) Cognitive development may be compartmentalised. (iv) Cognitive development may regress or fracture when faced with transitional crises and environmental changes. (v) There are diverse trajectories of religious development. And (vi), fractured development at one stage may perpetuate fractured development in the next stage. Finally, the thesis discusses implications of these findings for contemporary dialogue on religious development. These collective findings provide support for a religious styles model (i.e. Streib’s Religious Styles Perspective, 2001) that integrates a cognitive stream based on Fowler’s faith development into a more multiperspective understanding of religious development. Such a model would account more adequately for the diverse influences interacting to produce different trajectories of religious development.
Keyword Apostasy
Cognitive Development
Religious Development

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Created: Thu, 28 Feb 2008, 13:43:23 EST by Noela Stallard on behalf of Library - Information Access Service