Religiosity: Definition & Measures

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  • 0:01 Defining Religiosity
  • 1:22 Measuring Religiosity
  • 3:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David White
In this lesson, you'll learn what defines religiosity, gain insight into some of the ways that it's measured, and explore some of the ways that studies of religiosity can or have been used.

Defining Religiosity

Whether you are a person with strong religious convictions or not, at one point or another you've probably given some thought to the role that religion plays in your community. In the American South or Midwest, for example, religion and religious institutions have a strong influence on broad areas of public life, like the shaping of public policy, as well as more personal elements, like community connections. Regardless of where you stand on the spectrum of religion, the concept plays a very important role in society, and for nearly a century it has been a strong area of interest for sociologists.

In sociology, religiosity is a term used to describe the extent to which religion influences societies and intersects with other areas of public life. It defines the role that religion plays in society, including the extent of people's beliefs, commitments, and levels of engagement with their particular religion. Although it's a rather broad term that can be applied in different contexts, religiosity is generally related to how much a particular religious doctrine is internalized (belief systems, identity, etc.) and is less related to the actual practice of religion, like going to church.

It's important to point out that studies of religiosity are not generally used to find out whether a person is or isn't religious; rather, they are used to determine the extent of their beliefs and the ways in which they influence their behaviors.

Measuring Religiosity

Given the important role that religion plays in societies, sociologists have spent considerable time researching the significance of religious belief in the shaping of cultures. In most cases, these studies include a general survey of community members, asking a number of questions about their level of involvement with religious beliefs.

Depending on how the survey is framed, the overall goal could be to measure a person's individual religious salience, which is a term used to describe how religious or spiritual a person believes themselves to be. A person's religious salience is important because it can have a tremendous influence on other areas of life, such as their political beliefs, their willingness to accept those who are different from them, or the types of careers that they pursue.

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