Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This dissertation serves the purpose of contributing to the sociological understanding of religion by applying the identity theory of religion to religious denominations. Hans Mol's integration/differentiation dialectic serves as a heuristic device to examine reasons for college students' decisions to leave or remain in their familial denominations. Individuals form an identification with a religious denomination. The factors that influence the identity building process are mostly connected with the meaning and belonging dimensions of religion. The factors that diminish or inhibit the identity building process are associated with individualism, increased intellectual sophistication, autonomy, religious pluralism and secularization.
In order to test the theory with empirical evidence, a questionnaire was administered to 600 college students at State University College at Buffalo. Factor analysis divided some of the questions into clusters of meaning and belonging statements. Students were grouped into categories of committed, participating, nominal and separated members of their denominations. The committed members (those who pray and attend church frequently, and say that belief in God and religion plays a dominant part in their lives) responded more favorably to the meaning over the belonging questions. Students in the nominal membership category were more likely to respond favorably to the belonging questions, than to the meaning questions.
Part of the thesis analyzed the holding power of religious denominationson college students. The results of the questionnaire indicated that the most significant variable was the character of the denomination itself, followed by the amount of religious education, sex and age. The Catholic denomination, the cohesion of which is nurtured by weekly public worship and the parochial school system was the most significant variable in determining the degree of commitment as well as the holding power for Catholic students. The other demographic variables of years in college, residence, nationality, parents t educational background, occupation or family inoome were not significant.
Finally, students at Buffalo State reflect the optimism of Mol in that religious denominations, like religion itself. will continue to exist in American society. Although the students distinguished between their belief in God and their loyalty to a denomination, the holding power of the denominations is high, which indicates that they continue to act out their religious beliefs with a support group of like minded individuals called a denomination.
Ferguson, Marianne, "The Religious Identity of College Students and the Holding Power of Church Denominations" (1980). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4642.
McMaster University Library