This wisdom or ideology is, according to Smith, presented in the form of (1) religious ethics (e.g., avoid crimes against humanity), (2) virtues (e.g., humility, charity, and veracity), and (3) vision (i.e., a sense of belonging to the whole of the human race, a sense of a grand design that is bigger than the human mind can comprehend, and a sense of the mysteries that no human mind can resolve). Cognitive capabilities and characteristics of ego identity and physical maturation that develop throughout the life span all dynamically interact with each other and with the ideology promoted by one's religion differentially across time. How does the interaction between individual and religious ideological characteristics influence development? While James and Kwilecki provide many descriptive cases of individual developmental trajectories of change as a function of the interaction between person characteristics and religious ideology, King describes group differences among adolescents who self-identify themselves as religiously active versus those who do not so self-identify. Religiously active adolescents report a higher level of shared beliefs, values, and goals with their parents, peers, and other adults than adolescents who are not religiously active. King explains that religiously active youth are embedded in a religious community of relationships that offer them a consistent ideological framework. A social context of peers, family, and other adults is, then, another environmental influence on developing religiosity. Similar to King's analysis, and as also described by Erikson, religious traditions place devotees into a specific religious social context-a family of adherents from the past, present, and future. Participation in religious tradition therefore unites the individual with a history of past believers, embedding the individual in the ethics, values, and vision (i.e., ideology) of a historically established religious family. Identifying with history provides the opportunity to transcend the present and feel connected to and dependent upon the past, present, and future. In addition, religious institutions provide the rare opportunity for adherents to be in an intergenerational environment wherein members have multiple opportunities to witness the ideology of the religion being activated. Bandura's social cognitive theory on religious development explains well the impact of spiritual models on religious development and, in this way, is useful to theory construction of a developmental systems view of religious development.
In terms of the role of the spiritual context, King explains that religious traditions and ritual offer the individual intentional doorways for developing a connection or relationship with the divine. Participation in religious ritual, as Erikson described, enables the individual to feel a part of a historical religious family, a feeling that summons a heightened consciousness of others (that) often triggers an understanding of self that is intertwined and somehow responsible to the other. James's perspective adds to this discussion that there are three things that represent religious experience in "most books on religion," and these three things certainly provide experiential opportunities for relationships with the divine to develop. These experiences include sacrifice, confession, and prayer. Ritual and experience embedded within religious tradition embed the individual and group of adherents in a context of spirituality.
What, in terms of unique variance, do these contexts, when dynamically interacting with core processes of human development, add to religious development? The answer lies partly in the inherently relational nature of these specific contexts with developing characteristics of the individual. What is unique about these religious contexts is the multiplicative influences of a specific ideology and worldview that intentionally promotes a religion's ethics, values, and vision: the social context of past and present religious adherents-the intergenerational family of religious devotees-and the opportunity to have the specific religious ideology and family couched in a spiritual framework, which provides the individual with both a developing relationship and understanding of the divine and a growing understanding of the self in relation to other, providing the individual with a sense of purpose and meaning that transcends his or her immediate concerns.
In a developmental systems view, the differences or changes in religiosity between individuals and within individuals (i.e., in terms of the qualitative and quantitative changes in religiosity that occur throughout one's lifetime) are, in part, dependent upon the interactive influence of individual variables and variables of the context such as the particular church, synagogue, or temple with which the individual identifies, the amount of participation by the individual in religious services and tradition, age and cognitive and psychological competencies, the religiousness of one's parents and peers, and so on.
For example, different religious institutions can provide youth with different beliefs, values, and worldviews-impressions and understandings that impact a young person's identity development differently across the individual's life span. This potential impact of religious institution on identity development is true not only in terms of different religious denominations (e.g., Mormon vs. Muslim) but also in terms of different institutions within the same faith (e.g., two different mosques within the same town). As another example, level of religious participation has been found to affect identity development. King found that youth who are active participants in their religion have a higher sense of a shared worldview as well as shared values and goals with their parents, peers, and other adults than youth who are not religiously active.
These examples make evident the fact that there is an indefinite number of individual and contextual contexts that affect religiousness. Taken together (and when placed within a developmental systems perspective), these core processes and unique characteristics provide a more comprehensive definition and explanation of the religious development process than has been previously offered. As such, for those interested in understanding religious and spiritual development and/or for those invested in promoting healthy religiosity and spirituality within themselves and/or others, developmental systems theory provides a useful framework that explains why, across the human life span, the unique relation between one's contexts and individual characteristics are important to consider.