Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In this study, certain aspects of the religious attitudes of students were examined in order to ascertain the nature and importance of student religiosity at this University. Changes in religious beliefs and practices were also looked at, as were relationships between the various dimensions of religion and selected background variables. A survey of this nature, as far as is known, has not previously been carried out in a New Zealand University, and only a few such studies have been conducted in Australia and Britain. Most such surveys are North American in origin. The comparability of data gathered in different cultural contexts is limited, because different atmospheres prevail at the Universities and because different concepts are used to measure religiosity. These concepts may also have different meanings in different countries. For this reason only an analysis of religion at a New Zealand University can fully portray, in an authentic manner, the extent and nature of religious feeling amongst New Zealand students. Only a properly conducted research study can establish the validity of speculative claims, such as that atheism, and at the least, lack of any religious belief, is widespread within the Universities. Religion is an important area of analysis in that it may be a means of transmitting values which give meaning to a persons life, and which can affect areas of belief and behaviour other than the purely religious. The most profound questions of a persons life may be conceived in terms of religious symbols, and the values which are formed have been found to persist long after students leave University. Nelson, (1956) for example, found that attitudes held in college persisted for at least fourteen years. The area which religion covers is diverse, and it is often difficult to draw the line between religion and other belief systems which are only marginally religious. Because of this diversity many “hidden religions” (Yinger 1970) are overlooked, and too often only the more traditional religions are examined. Yinger goes as far as thinking of nearly everyone as being religious in that nearly everyone has some ultimate concern in life. The following section, (Part I), looks in more detail at the various definitions and dimensions of religion.