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A Scientific Approach to Religious Development: Proposals and a Case Illustration

Susan Kwilecki
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Vol. 27, No. 3 (Sep., 1988), pp. 307-325
DOI: 10.2307/1387372
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1387372
Page Count: 19
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A Scientific Approach to Religious Development: Proposals and a Case Illustration
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Abstract

Some treatments of religious development promote ideals more than they describe actual courses of personal religion. Criticizing two well-known theories, this paper offers a conceptual framework for investigating spiritual evolution scientifically. Based on developmental psychology, the theories in question place everyone, regardless of culture or personality, on a single evolutionary path. By contrast, I argue that the diversity and cultural relativity of personal spiritual striving calls for a pluralistic approach, one recognizing many forms of developed religion. Elaborating, I propose a culturally-neutral definition of religious development and an idiographic method and theoretical style. A case study of a rural black Pentecostal preacher illustrates.

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