Religion and the Individual

Notes on Effects on religious belief, developmental theories of religion and psychological takes on religious belief

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  • Created on: 03-06-12 15:52
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Religion and the Individual
Effects on Religious Belief and Experience
The effect of personality
= Research has been inconclusive, but suggests that some personalities are more prone to being
religious than others
= Pratt 1924 found that personalities likely to be drawn to religion are those dominated by feelings
of guilt, shame, self-doubt and unworthiness
= Allport 1950 concluded that there are two types of religious personality:
- Intrinsic: religion is real and belief is taken seriously
- Extrinsic: religion is a means to an end eg finding friends in a religious community
= Ullman 1982 suggested many converts to NRM's have personalities affected by unhappy
childhoods which are displayed by signs of anger, fear, depression and low self-esteem. These
people report feeling safe and secure in the religious group but many converts leave soon after.
= Argyle 2006 `The general finding here is that religion is not much related to the general personality
variables known to psychologists'
The effect of Gender
= Tamminen 1994 found Christian women tend to feel closer to God than men. This may be explained
by their view of God as loving, comforting and forgiving whereas men see God as powerful, planning
and controlling
= Erikson 1958 stated men see God in the world as outgoing and active whereas women see him as
= Reich 1997: women value the social aspect of religion more than men
= Loewenthal 2000:
-Jewish and Muslim men are more religiously active than women
- Christian and Hindu women are more religiously active than men
- Jewish and Muslim women generally attend a place of worship less frequently
than men. Are not required to pray with a congregation and so may not attend the synagogue
often. Muslim women are prevented from entering the mosque during menstruation
- In Christianity women are involved in higher levels of religious involvement,
prayer and experience
- Men's roles in Judaism and Islam are seen as much more prestigious whereas
women are expected to spend more time in the home
- Factors such as personality, social customs, employment issues and status may
explain why women are slightly more active in the Christian and Hindu traditions
- Female clergy tend to be older and many have had jobs and families
beforehand, unlike their male counterparts.
= Overall, although in specific religious traditions there may be a marked difference between the
religiosity of men and women, there is no overwhelming evidence to suggest that one gender is
more or less religious than the other.
The effect of Age
= In all communities, religious beliefs and practices are passed on to children through social learning,
religious education at home and community and in some cases religious schools.
= The youngest age group tend to accept the religious beliefs of their family and community without

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Greatest religious influence is parents for a number of reasons:
- Close personal relationship
- Proximity
- Imitation of parents
- Enforced behavioural code
- General religious lifestyle
= Argyle 2006: religious participation is high up to age 14 then declines, most drop out of religion by
15-16 years.…read more

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Mother Teresa and Ghandi.
Goldman: Readiness for Religion
= Readiness for Religion: a basis for developmental religious education 1965: considered how far a
child's environment could be enriched so as to enable them to grow into more mature ways of
religious thought. His aim was to determine at what age human beings are really ready for religion
1. Very Young Children
- Young children are capable of only very limited religious understanding.…read more

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= Characterises healthy-mindedness as joy, optimism and an inability to feel evil
= There are two types:
- Voluntary: Always seeing the good in something. Reality is always seen as good and the bad is
ignored or excluded
- Involuntary: Feeling happy and positive about things without any pre-thought or intellectual
evaluation of the circumstances. Everything is experienced as good in itself, not by refusing to
acknowledge the bad.…read more

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Abraham Maslow ­ Self-actualisation and the peak experience
= Self-actualisation is the desire in all human beings to fulfil their potential.…read more

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Peter Berger: The Sacred Canopy
= `The Sacred Canopy 1987' Berger looked at the sociology of religion and claims that humans
fashion the world by their own activity
= Main argument is that humans have very weak natural instincts and so are constantly forces to
choose how they behave and interact with the world
= This is called `externalising' and every time we make new choices we change the circumstances and
our relationship with the world.…read more


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