Belief in God, Belief in Science

Exploring the Psychological Correlates of Scientific Fundamentalism as Implicit Religion


  • Leslie J. Francis University of Warwick
  • Jeff Astley University of Warwick
  • Ursula McKenna University of Warwick



implicit religion, belief in science, psychology of religion, scientific fundamentalism, self-esteem, empathy


Bailey’s notion of implicit religion suggests that in contemporary societies the functions served by formal or explicit religions may be assumed by other systems of beliefs. The present paper tests this thesis in respect of the effect of an exaggerated, uncritical, and unqualified belief in the inerrancy of science, which we label “scientific fundamentalism,” among a sample of 11,809 thirteen- to fifteen-year-old students drawn from the four nations of the UK. Previously established research has shown that, after controlling for personal and psychological factors, explicit religion has a positive effect on both self-esteem and empathy. These established findings have been confirmed in the present study employing the Astley- Francis Scale of Attitude toward Theistic Faith as a measure of explicit religion. Moreover, the new data also demonstrate that scientific fundamentalism conceptualised as implicit religion has a positive effect on both self-esteem and empathy, although this effect is somewhat smaller. These new data provide some support for Bailey’s conceptualisation of implicit religion by indicating that scientific fundamentalism is functioning in relation to self-esteem and empathy in a similar way as explicit religion.

Author Biographies

Leslie J. Francis, University of Warwick

Leslie J. Francis, Professor of Religious Education and Director of Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit (WRERU), UK.

Jeff Astley, University of Warwick

Jeff Astley is an honorary lecturer in the University of Durham since 1981, Honorary Professorial Fellow in Practical Theology and Christian Education since 1997, and Honorary Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion since 2012. He currently also holds a part-time post at the University of Warwick, as Alister Hardy Professor of Religious and Spiritual Experience

Ursula McKenna, University of Warwick

Ursula McKenna, Research Fellow, Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit (WRERU), UK.


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How to Cite

Francis, L. J., Astley, J., & McKenna, U. (2019). Belief in God, Belief in Science: Exploring the Psychological Correlates of Scientific Fundamentalism as Implicit Religion. Implicit Religion, 21(4), 383–412.




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