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 Sibling differences: Later-borns choose less prestigious programs at university
14.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung

nachricht Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ
09.11.2017 | Vanderbilt University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests

14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

New type of smart windows use liquid to switch from clear to reflective

14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility

14.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>