Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New theory suggests people are attracted to religion for 16 reasons

27.05.2004


People are not drawn to religion just because of a fear of death or any other single reason, according to a new comprehensive, psychological theory of religion.



There are actually 16 basic human psychological needs that motivate people to seek meaning through religion, said Steven Reiss, author of the new theory and professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University.

These basic human needs – which include honor, idealism, curiosity and acceptance – can explain why certain people are attracted to religion, why God images express psychologically opposite qualities, and the relationship between personality and religious experiences.


Previous psychologists tried to explain religion in terms of just one or two overarching psychological needs. The most common reason they cite is that people embrace religion because of a fear of death, as expressed in the saying ‘there are no atheists in foxholes,” Reiss said.

“But religion is multi-faceted – it can’t be reduced to just one or two desires.”

Reiss described his new theory – which he said may be the most comprehensive psychological theory of religion since Freud’s work more than a century ago -- in the June issue of Zygon, a journal devoted to issues of science and religion.

“I don’t think there has been a comprehensive theory of religion that was scientifically testable,” he said.

The theory is based on his overall theory of human motivation, which he calls sensitivity theory. Sensitivity theory is explained in his 2000 book Who Am I? The 16 Basic Desires that Motivate Our Action and Define Our Personalities (Tarcher Putnam).

Reiss said that each of the 16 basic desires outlined in the book influence the psychological appeal of religious behavior. The desires are power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical exercise, and tranquility.

In fact, Reiss has already done some initial research that suggests the desire for independence is a key psychological desire that separates religious and non-religious people. In a study published in 2000, Reiss found that religious people (the study included mostly Christians) expressed a strong desire for interdependence with others. Those who were not religious, however, showed a stronger need to be self-reliant and independent.

The study also showed that religious people valued honor more than non-religious people, which Reiss said suggests many people embrace religion to show loyalty to parents and ancestors.

In the Zygon paper, Reiss explains that every religious person balances their 16 basic human needs to fit their own personality.

“They embrace those aspects of religious imagery that express their strongest psychological needs and deepest personal values.”

One example is the desire for curiosity, Reiss said. Religious intellectuals, who are high in curiosity, value a God who is knowable through reason, while doers, who have weak curiosity, may value a God that is knowable only through revelation.

“People who have a strong need for order should enjoy ritualized religious experiences, whereas those with a weak need for order may prefer more spontaneous expression of faith,” he said.

“The prophecy that the weak will inherit the earth should appeal especially to people with a weak need for status, whereas the teaching that everybody is equal before God should appeal especially to people with a strong need for idealism.”

If religion and personality are linked, religion must provide a range of images and symbols sufficiently diverse to appeal to all the different kinds of personalities in the human population, Reiss says. Religious imagery potentially accommodates everybody because in many instances the images and symbols are psychological opposites.

“How we value and balance the 16 psychological needs is what makes us an individual, and for every individual there are appealing religious images,” he said.

“The values that guide a personality with a strong need for vindication are expressed by a God of wrath, or a war God, while the values that guide a personality with a weak need for vindication are expressed by a God of forgiveness.”

“The values that guide a personality with a strong need to socialize are expressed by religious fellowship and festivals, while the values that guide a personality with a weak need to socialize are expressed by religious asceticism.”

The need for acceptance makes meaningful images of God as a savior, while its opposite inspires the concept of original sin, according to Reiss. The need to eat motives some people to value abstinence and others to value sustenance.

“Because this theory can be tested scientifically, we can learn its strengths and weaknesses, and gradually improve it,” Reiss said. “Eventually, we may understand better the psychological basis of religion.”

Reiss emphasized that the theory addresses the psychology of religious experiences and has no implications for the validity or invalidity of religious beliefs.


Contact: Steven Reiss, (614) 292-2390; Reiss.7@osu.edu
Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457; Grabmeier.1@osu.edu

Jeff Grabmeier | Ohio State University
Further information:
http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/religdes.htm

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold

26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Switchable DNA mini-machines store information

26.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>