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Stages of Religious Development Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 1 December 2016

Stages of Religious Development

School Psychologist James Fowler determined six stages of faith or religious development. The following describes each of them. Stage 1: Intuitive-Projective (ages 3-7). Fantasy-filled belief imitates powerful adults in the child’s life, influenced by the moods, actions, and stories in the nuclear family to provide imagination, but without logic. The child is indoctrinated with local customs and taboos within the nuclear family and community and fact and fiction are seen as the same. Stage 2: Mythic-Literal (middle/later childhood).

A child internalizes stories, beliefs, and customs of the community with a literal interpretation to be used as moral attitudes and rules about right and wrong. This is a linear, concrete belief/reasoning that evokes narrative, drama, and storytelling, belief in justice and quid pro quo reciprocity, anthropomorphism of puzzling powers; and a lack of critical evaluation, but strong legalism. Stage 3: Synthetic-Conventional (“Tweens” and Early Adolescence). An individual experiences the classroom, work, peers/non-peers, diversity in the streets, media, and religion.

Power seemingly comes from the top, down and conformity is compelling. Stage 4: Individuative-Reflective (Adolescence – Early Adult). The individual wrestles with self-identity and ponders his/her own responsibility for choices. An existential reasoning element overwrites mythology in the quest for “Truth” while considering that there may exist no absolutes. Critical thinking, evaluation, and problem solving skills take shape to solve differences between personal identity and ideology (worldview).

71203856 James Fowler’s Stages of Religious Development 2 Stage 5: Conjunctive Faith (Middle Adult). Here, one must consider and accept paradoxes and opposing views through adaptation and integration of information within and without. One examines one’s accepted myths, ideals, and prejudices about social class, religion, ethnicity, and other demographics. One accepts the failures of one’s belief system or becomes a withdrawn cynic that cannot function.

Stage 6: Enlightenment or Universalizing Faith (Middle or Late Adult). This stage is rarely accomplished, but embraces a sense of being one with the universe and all things. One’s individual existence loses importance, as does making a living, etc. Conflicts no longer confuse this person. Examples are the concept of the ancient guru on the mountaintop, Pope John Paul II, and Mahatma Ghandi.


Santrock, J. W. (2007) Adolescence. Twelfth edition. (pp. 264 – 265). New York: McGraw-Hill.

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