Motivation and emotion/Book/2013/Religiosity and emotion

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Emotion and religiosity:
How does religiosity affect emotional well-being?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Religiosity is the act of believing or having faith in a religion, which may be broadly defined as the belief in a deity, a supreme being of theological nature. Religion is a controversial topic avoided in most conversation, those people who are deep in religion and follow religious rituals are the main focus in this chapter focusing on how religiosity effects emotional well-being. As religion is a complex and controversial topic it is difficult to study, especially due to the demanded for "respect" of religion not to be questioned. Many researches note the contradictory and equivocal nature of past and present research on religion, this may be due to a bias in the interpretation of results and the design of the studies themselves (Florack, Gail, and Guirguis-Younger, 2009; Burkinshaw, Lewis, & Maltby, 2000). Despite the controversy surrounding religion and science, due to religions social and legal impact, it should be a focus of study and not ignored. In God We Trust, This famous american quote plastered on all their currency is an example of the effect religion can have on society, another example are the countries Governed by laws based off religion. Though the effect religion has on individual psychology should be of great interest especially given the social debates in the media surrounding peoples rights and moral values. This article hopes to highlight some ways in which religion of all sorts can affect emotional well being by discussing the ways in which religion can provide emotional support and distress. The study of religion appears to be equivocal with multiple contradicting studies, especially studies of religion and depression. Religion is seen to aid in emotional distress when used as a coping strategy, though when religion is seen to be questioned or under threat it can elicit negative emotions like anger fear and sadness. this chapter will hopefully provide you with an overview of many ways in which religion may effect emotional wellbeing and a better understanding of the complexity of religion and emotion.

Prayer and emotion[edit | edit source]

Prayer is commonly used to manage emotions for the religious, Sharp (2010) agues that prayer works in five possible ways. These are: Providing people with an outlet for emotion through venting to god; positive reflection toward oneself to raise self-esteem; changing the way the situation is understood to be less threatening; A means to put aside the worries for periods of time (similar to meditation); and emotion management model. He proposes research should focus on how imagined individuals manage emotion as a control to better test how prayer to a god effects emotion. Though this control may only succeed in displaying the difference believing the 'other' you are praying/speaking to has the ability to change the situation or is just a shoulder. One way to test this could be to look at the difference between talking to a counsellor, writing in a diary and praying to an omnipotent being believed to have the power to intervene. To amplify the point a sample of 125 responses by muslims living in the US (convenience sampling) to a survey on depression believed that reciting the koran would relieve mental distress (Haroun, 2011). It is believed the strong traditions in social, family and religious value systems play a large role in their seeking prayer to heal the body and mind instead of medical professionals. It may seem evident that given the choice between an imagined other, who has no power over the situation, and a trained professional the decision may be more likely to lead to the professional. In many ways the five factors Sharp (2010) suggests would have an effect, though leeway in this model should be made for the authority of the imagined being/God.

Religiosity and coping strategies[edit | edit source]

RCOPE was designed to assess the full range of religious coping measures, the RCOPE was tested on a sizeable number of students dealing with significant stressful life events and was retested on hospitalised elderly patients (Pargament, Koenig, & and Perez, 2000). Two coping methods were discovered negative and positive; Negative coping consists of spiritual struggle, and positive reflecting secure spirituality (Pargament, Feuille & Burdzy, 2011). A shortened version of the lengthy RCOPE was designed called the Brief RCOPE and is more often utilised in the measurement of religious coping then the full RCOPE test (Pargament, Feuille, & Burdzy, 2011). Pargarment, Feuille, and Burdxy (2011) explain religious coping studies in the past assessed religiousness using frequencies of attendance and participation in religious rituals, or religious attitudes including intrinsic and extrinsic. Noting the problems with these methods of religious assessment RCOPE was designed specifically to assess the way in which people understand and respond to life stressors (Pargament, Feuille, & Burdzy, 2011). Pargament, Feuille, & Burdzy, (2011) defines religious coping as peoples attempts to deal and comprehend stressful life events in ways related to their theology.

A study by Charbonneau, Florack, Gail, and Guirguis-Younger (2009) looked at the use of religion as a coping method for women with breast cancer. Charbonneau, et al. (2009) note that due to research leading to an increase in lives saved from breast cancer, the focus of research should start to look at other implications to psychological health, emotion and distress. They looked at how religion used as a coping method for women with breast cancer effects emotional well bing and distress over three stages of breast cancer; diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Only a portion of RCOPE was used, to be sensitive to the needs of the women after diagnosis, 160 women participated with the majority being married christians. More breast Cancer patients use positive over negative coping methods then those women diagnosed with benign breast cancer, over all the study supported use of religious coping to aid in psychological adjustment across diagnosis, treatment and recovery (Charbonneau, et al. 2009). Charbonneau, et al. (2009) also found that women participated in religious coping strategies for support to greater extent around time of diagnosis and surgery. This may be due to the lack of power on their part to effect the outcome, or the greater stress and emotional torment of the situation.

When faced with stressful situations people often retreat to their systems of belief to help them cope (Anisman, Matherson, & Ysseldyk 2011). Anisman, Matherson, & Ysseldyk (2011) discuss intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity,

  1. Intrinsic being internal spiritual development
  2. Extrinsic being personal and social beliefs

Anisman, Matherson, & Ysseldyk (2011) point out the current social trends questioning faith and religion in media. Religion is no stranger to questioning even though for quite some time it has been socially tabooed to question religion. Anisman, Matherson, & Ysseldyk (2011) look at how the religious respond to this identity threat and how the type of threat may effect the emotional response which may arise. They point out many studies support religion to help control emotions and increase emotional well-being when presented with traumatic and stressful situations, though they point out this may be different when their religion is up for question.

Following social identity theory, where the perceived threat of one's group being undermined or marginalised elicits an identity threat, Anisman, Matherson, & Ysseldyk (2011) talk about the emotions which may be induced from identity threat, in particular anger (when they feel they can cope with the threat) fear (if threat is imminent) and sadness (perceived threat is seen as hopeless to overcome). They conducted a study measuring coping methods and emotion response; looking in particular at religious orientation and appraisal coping methods to determine emotional response to a perceived threat to their religion (Anisman, Matherson, & Ysseldyk 2011). Anisman, Matherson, and Ysseldyk (2011) used 63 people from multiple religions who were given a fictitious two page article which depicted christians, muslims and protestants in an unfavourable light among canadians with the threat of legal action to cut funding to religious groups and then asked to fill in a questionnaire. Controls were conducted to ensure the study was testing reaction to a threat. They found intrinsic religious orientation to have both sadness and anger following threat whilst extrinsic showed anger following threat.

Basic emotions and religion[edit | edit source]

Anger[edit | edit source]

Can religion offer a better answer than science, April 2013

According to Fuller (2006) Charles Darwin initiated the scientific study of emotion, Darwin’s theory states human emotions serve an adaptive function to further survival. In his article he discusses religion and wonder, how it is that people created religion to satisfy the unknown. Darwin's theory has struck a nerve for many religious groups, and in some cases has been seen as the enemy or anti faith, encouraging anti-theism (Brown, 2013). Many studies have shown that struggles with religion can result in emotional unrest, poor physical health and even higher mortality rates (Exline, Grubbs, & Kaplan, 2012). While examining the question do people believe it is morally acceptable to question the existence of god, Exline et, al. (2012) also looked at how questioning religion effects anger and how moral questioning may predict emotion. As God may be seen as the highest authority and in most cases benevolent and omnipotent they, ask would it ever be acceptable to show discourse towards such a being? (Exline, Grubbs, & Kaplan, 2012). Exline et, al. (2012) predicted depth of belief in religion would effect the tolerance of protest toward god; the greater the anger toward god the greater the acceptance of protest. Their study comprised of 471 adults from an online sample and 358 students from undergraduate psychology at university self report measures. Their study consisted of 358 participants who all reported some belief in god. They found low religiosity and projection of an angry god to be more tolerant of protest toward god.

Depression[edit | edit source]

Many studies on religion focus on major depression. Balbuena, Baetz, & Bowen, (2013) focus their study on how religion may have a protective effect against depression. They state that many studies on religion and depression which show religion to have no effect or negative effect normally have a specific focus. They state that extrinsic religious orientation to be correlated with higher levels of depression (Balbuena, Baetz, & Bowen, 2013).

Other research contradicts Balbuena, Baetz, & Bowen, (2013) research, Geerlings, et al., (2013) also tackles the subject of religion and depression. Geerlings, et al., (2013) state previous studies have shown week associations between religion, emotional wellbeing and psychological health, they specifically state that religious studies have mostly been conducted in the united states and thus can not represent a large religiously diverse sample. they used a longitudinal study utilising seven countries, conducted over 6-12 months. They produced and distributed a Questionnaire to asses religiosity and depression the number of responses was 8,318. Religion was assessed using a standardised questionnaire and depression was assessed according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Text Revision Four (DSM-TRIV) criteria. Geerlings, et al., (2013) found religious belief and strength of religious belief to be associated with depression. they reported finding 10.3% of religious participants and 10.7% of those who listed themselves as spiritual had an episode of depression in the tested time where as only 7% of the secular group had depression within the same time frame. This study suggests religion may be bad for our emotional wellbeing, though they also state there was significant difference among location as well. They found the greater the belief in religion, the higher the chance of people having episodes of depression (Geerlings, et al., 2013). For many this finding is surprising, though when looking at the rates of depression among those members of religion who have conflicts between religion and self beyond their control, these types of findings are more predictable.

Dealing with the trauma produced by religion, April 2013

This study looks at homosexuals who believe in god and religion (for Most) based off their upbringing in the church, and how their conflict with religion and self, especially during adolescence, effects their emotional health (Carpineto et, al. 2009). Carpineto et, al. (2009) discuss how YMSM, retain the more supportive and nurturing aspects of religion to integrate their sexual and religious identities for a functional support system. Religion in the lives of YMSM is conflicting, in this time of young adulthood (18-25) people are forming a sense of identity. For YMSM this has greater challenges, for many the question of who they can be open with about their sexuality and suffering from discrimination (Carpineto et, al. 2009). An example is a national survey which showed religion had a positive correlation with heterosexual adolescents having less and substance use and abuse, while for homosexuals there was no impact, the implication here being homosexuals may be more emotionally unstable due to the lack of support (Carpineto et, al. 2009).

Religion may contribute to identity dissonance between sexual desires and religious expectations (Carpineto et, al. 2009). From Carpineto et, al. (2009) survey and interviews 33 participants reported being raised in a religion which could be classified as Christian. The pentecostal and evangelical christians reported hearing the most anti homosexual messages in church, the example given as "gay is bad" "you will burn" (Carpineto et, al. 2009). Those in the catholic faith heard fewer direct messages, they spoke of sex in general as a guilt thing, not specifically aimed at homosexuals (Carpineto, 2009). Regardless of religion in general the response was similar, the preaching of homosexuality as a sin in doctrine created emotional distress for YMSM, a place they normally retreated to for support and guidance was condemning them for something they felt they couldn't control (Carpineto et, al. 2009). This study is just one example of how religions morals, and values cause dissonance within people when faced with decisions they cannot control. reports of depression, suicidal thoughts and other emotional unrest were apparent among YMSM (Carpineto, 2009).

Happiness[edit | edit source]

Tooth (2002) writes in his book review of, ‘the psychology of happiness’ written by Michael Argyle, religion has a positive effect on emotion and happiness. Though this seems to come from the community environment and social support gained from being apart of a religion (Tooth, 2002). Burkinshaw, Lewis, and Maltby (2000) conducted a replica study using the Oxford happiness Inventory and the francis scale of attitude toward Christianity to examine the link between religion and happiness. This study is to help settle the conflicting results between French and Joseph (1999) and Lewis et. Al. (1997) in a similar study. French and Joseph comprised of 360 participants while Lewis had 212, both studies used undergraduates and similar equipment and measures. Burkinshaw, et al., (2000) had a sample size of 134 comprised of Anglican priests and members of the church of England. They used self report measures in the form of likert scales to measure attitudes toward religion and happiness. Their outcome was much the same as the original study, conducted by Lewis and Cruise in 1997, which shows religion to have no significant effect on happiness. They note the discrepancy between the two studies should be addressed further given the similar method and equipment used. Lewis and Cruise (2007) state that among the literature on happiness and religion studies using the oxford happiness report have shown religion to be positively correlated to happiness whilst studies using the happiness scale show no significance between religion and happiness. They argue this depicts a weakness in the current literature, and further research is needed to find a better standardised method for the assessment of religion and happiness (Lewis & Cruise, 2007).

Summary and conclusion[edit | edit source]

Summary[edit | edit source]

For religious people, prayer helps to regulate emotion, (Sharp, 2010) though among fundamentalists prayer can be favoured over seeking professional help for emotional distress (Haroun, 2011). Religion has shown to be a successful coping method when faced with stressful life situations for members of theology (Anisman, Matherson, & Ysseldyk, 2011; Charbonnaeu et, al. 2009). though can lead to anger and sadness when faced with an identity threat toward the religious group (Anisman, Matherson, & Ysseldyk, 2011). Furthermore anger was associated with strength of belief and tolerance of questioning God, though over all questioning God and and anger toward God was more acceptable provided there was no intent of leaving the church or faith (Exline, Grubbs, & Kaplan, 2002). Finally depression and happiness proved to be a complicated, religion has been linked to depression in positive and negative ways, with much contradicting research (Balbuena, Baetz, & Bowen, 2013); Geerlings, et al., 2013). Similarly religion has been reported to have positive effects on happiness or no effect, despite the contradicting information for depression and happiness it is clear, those with an internal conflict with religion are prone to negative emotions (Tooth, 2002).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

From this article we can deduce religion is shown to be an excellent social support network with positive effect on emotion (Anisman, Matherson, & Ysseldyk, 2011; Charbonnaeu et, al. 2009). Though can induce negative emotions when under threat, which is of increasing concern with the raise of the secular and atheist communities openly challenging religious belief (Brown, 2013). lessons can be learnt from the study of emotion and religion to produce methods aiming to help religious people cope with identity threat. A special note should be made to the study of internal conflict and religion for Gay lesbian and transgender, as their conflict is far more complex and concerning and special consideration to these groups when conducting research into emotion and religion (Carpineto et, al. 2009). These points should not discourage people from religion, as religion has been shown to aid in coping with stressful life events, also the choice of religion is an important one (Anisman, Matherson, & Ysseldyk, 2011; Charbonnaeu et, al. 2009). Many people are born into a religion, though for those religions which show increased adaptability appear to have less conflict (Carpineto, 2009). Religion has a good place in society as a social support network though is open to the individual interpretation, which will help reduce conflict, especially when situations seem out of the control of the individual and otherwise hopeless (Anisman, Matherson, & Ysseldyk, 2011; Sharp, 2010; Charbonnaeu et, al. 2009).

Continued reading[edit | edit source]

For Interested persons

Religion Creation and Science: Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham

Atheist Experience: Atheist show from Austin Texas

References[edit | edit source]

Anisman, H., Matherson, K., & Ysseldyk, R. (2011). Coping With Identity Threat: The role of religious Orientation and Implications for emotions and Action Intensions. Psychology of religion and Spirituality , 3 (2), 132-148.

Atheists Take the Treasury to Court to Remove “In God We Trust” From All Currency. (2013, March). Mr.Conservative.

Balbuena, L., Baetz, M., & Bowen, R. (2013). religious Attendance Spirituality, and major depression in canada: A 14-year follow-up study. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry , 58 (4), 225-232.

Brown, N. (2013). The New Atheist, Debate. The Australian Catholic Record , 90 (2).

Burkinshaw, S., Lewis, C., & Maltby, J. (2000). Religion and Happiness: Still no association. Journal of Beliefs and Values: Studieas in religion and education , 21 (2), 233-236.

Carpineto, J. I. (2009). "God made me gay for a reason": Young men who have sex with men's resiliency in resolving internalised homophobia from religious sources. Journal of Adolescent Research , 24, 601.

Charbonneau, C., Florack, P., Guirguis-Younger, M., & Gall, T. (2009). The trajectory of religious coping across time in response to the diagnosis of breast cancer. Psychology Oncology , 18, 1165-1178.

Disorder, G. (2013, April). Dealing with the trauma produced by religion. 5 Other Biblical Definitions of Marriage.

Esposito, L. (2010, April). Can Religion Offer a Better Answer than Science. Come Reason's Apologetics Notes . LENNY ESPOSITO AT.

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Geerlings, M., Torres-Gonzalez, F., Leurent, B., King, M., Bellon-Saameno, J., Leurent, B., et al. (2013). Spiritual and religious beliefs as risk factors for the onset of major depression: an international cohort study. Psychological Medicine , 43 (10), 2109-2120.

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McMichael, C. (2002). 'Everywhere is Allah's Place': Islam and the everyday life of Somali women in Melbourne, Australia. journal of refugee studies , 15 (2), 171-188.

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Pargament, K., Koenig, H., & and Perez, L. (2000). the many methods of religious coping: Development and initial validation of the RCOPE. Journal of Clinical Psychology , 56 (4), 519-543.

Sharp, S. (2010). How does prayer help manage emotions? Social Psychology Quarterly , 73 (4), 417-437.

Tooth, R. (2002, March 3). The centre for independent studies. Retrieved October 20, 2013, from

White, L. A. (1926). An anthropological approach to the emotional factors of religion. Journal of Philosophy , 23, 546-554.