Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Ellen Page-Robin

Second Advisor

Dr. Dan Thompson

Third Advisor

Dr. Herbert Smith

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Donald Bouma


The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship of religious belief and religious orientation to death perspectives. The population was the clergy of three denominations: Conservative Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Southern Baptist. Virtually no research has been completed which explores these issues among this occupational group.

Research on religious orientation and death perspectives has been fraught with methodological difficulties. The major problem has been the unidimensional conceptualization of the variables. Multidimensional scales were used in this study to avoid that problem. These scales (refined by Spilka) were subjected to factor analyses which resulted in the formulation of new religious-orientation and death-perspective scales. These new scales were used for the data analyses.

This exploratory study was guided by three research questions: (1) Will denominational affiliation be associated with death perspectives? (2) Will religious orientation act as an intervening variable between denominational affiliation and death perspectives? and (3) Will age, education, marital status, and length of time in the clergy be associated with any other factors in the study?

Ninety-nine clergy surveyed by mailed questionnaires provided the data for answering the research questions: Question One, significant differences existed between denominational groups on three of eight death factors (death as "Reward," "Uncertainty," and "Leaving Family"); Question Two, religious orientation acted as an intervening variable between denominational affiliation and death perspectives; Question Three, level of education and number of years in the clergy were significantly related to certain death perspectives (death as "Reward," and "Natural Harmony"), and level of education was associated with one religious-orientation factor ("Utilitarian").

To summarize, denominational affiliation and religious orientation are related to certain death perspectives among the clergy. There are still more similarities than differences among the groups, but the differences are significant and may result in differences in the professional functioning of the clergy of the different denominational groups. More research is needed to augment the limited knowledge which exists regarding these issues.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Sociology Commons