The psychology behind religious belief

October 5, 2015 by Jeff Grabmeier

Throughout history, scholars and researchers have tried to identify the one key reason that people are attracted to religion.

Some have said seek to cope with a fear of death, others call it the basis for morality, and various other theories abound.

But in a new book, a psychologist who has studied human motivation for more than 20 years suggests that all these theories are too narrow. Religion, he says, attracts followers because it satisfies all of the 16 basic desires that humans share.

"It's not just about fear of death. Religion couldn't achieve mass acceptance if it only fulfilled one or two basic desires," said Steven Reiss, a professor emeritus of psychology at The Ohio State University and author of The 16 Strivings for God (Mercer University Press, 2016).

"People are attracted to religion because it provides believers the opportunity to satisfy all their basic desires over and over again. You can't boil religion down to one essence."

Reiss's theory of what attracts people to religion is based on his research in the 1990s on motivation. He and his colleagues surveyed thousands of people and asked them to rate the degree to which they embraced hundreds of different possible goals.

In the end, the researchers identified 16 basic desires that we all share: acceptance, curiosity, eating, family, honor, idealism, independence, order, physical activity, power, romance, saving, social contact, status, tranquility and vengeance.

Reiss then developed a questionnaire, called the Reiss Motivation Profile, that measures how much people value each of these 16 goals. More than 100,000 people have now completed the questionnaire. The research is described in Reiss's book Who Am I? The 16 Basic Desires that Motivate our Action and Define Our Personalities.

"We all share the same 16 goals, but what makes us different is how much we value each one," Reiss said.

"How much an individual values each of those 16 desires corresponds closely to what he or she likes and dislikes about religion."

A key point is that each of the 16 desires motivates personality opposites and those opposites all have to find a home in a successful religion, Reiss said.

For example, there is the desire for . "Religion has to appeal to both introverts and extroverts," Reiss said. For extroverts, religion offers festivals and teaches that God blesses fellowship. For introverts, religion encourages meditation and private retreats and teaches that God blesses solitude.

Religion even finds ways to deal with the desire for vengeance, Reiss said. While some religions preach of a God of peace and encourage followers to "turn the other cheek," there is also the other side: the wrath of God and holy wars.

"Religion attracts all kinds, including peacemakers and those who want a vengeful God."

All and practices are designed to meet one or more of these 16 desires, Reiss explained.

For example, religious rituals fulfill the desire for order. Religious teachings about salvation and forgiveness tap into the basic human need for acceptance. Promises of an afterlife are designed to help people achieve tranquility.

What about atheism? While all people need to fulfill the same basic desires, not everyone will turn to religion to satisfy them, Reiss said. Secular society offers alternatives to fulfill all of the basic desires.

"Religion competes with secular society to meet those 16 needs and can gain or lose popularity based on how well people believe it does compared to secular society," Reiss said.

One of the basic desires - independence - may separate 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.

Reiss said one advantage of his theory is that, unlike many other theories of religion, it can be scientifically tested.

"In 16 Strivings for God, I discuss a mystical personality type - the kind of person who would likely find value and meaning in mystical experiences and would be attracted to religion for that reason," he said.

"We can test that and find out if there really is a mystical personality type."

While the theory can tell us a lot about the types of people who are attracted to religion and different religious experiences, it cannot say anything about the truth of religious beliefs, Reiss said.

"I'm not trying to answer theological questions about the existence or nature of God," Reiss said. "What I'm trying to answer is the nature of why people embrace religion and God."

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Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (3) Oct 05, 2015
"Religion couldn't achieve mass acceptance if it only fulfilled one or two basic desires,".

Smell tests:
- Smoking once gained mass acceptance by fulfilling one or two basic desires (addiction and social context).
- Clothing gained mass acceptance by fulfilling one or two basic desires (protection and social context).

So, no.

"We can test that".

Sure. Good luck with that.
Returners
1 / 5 (5) Oct 05, 2015
For example, religious rituals fulfill the desire for order


Not really. About the only thing they actually accomplish is highlighting the moral impotence of mankind. Ritual is a crutch by which man attempts to fulfill his own self-righteousness. It (ritual) is not about order at all, even when it's disguised as such. It's about self. Sadly, much of Christianity is filled with ritual nonsense, even though the core doctrines are actually opposed to this.

Vengeance? Useless. Well mostly. It doesn't change anything, at best prevent a perpetrator from committing another crime, which is a noble thing in itself, but that's really too late. If you are looking for Vengeance or Justice, you will have to wait a while, because the omnipotent God isn't in a hurry to administer it himself, and there's a reason.

Power is a pretty stupid and useless goal for humans to have. It causes one's perspective on life to be warped, and even an otherwise moral person can easily be corrupted.
Returners
1 / 5 (5) Oct 05, 2015
Religion and moral convictions or lack thereof are not so simple to deal with as some silly questionaire. Someone may be convinced of oen moral principle and not another, and while I can't just have some attitude of throwing everyone away like a piece of garbage, I cannot simply "agree to disagree" either. Oh that's a term which seems to have taken steam around the time I was in high school, "agree to disagree". and "oh that's a slippery slope".

Well, the slippery slope happened. First homosexuals were rebuked. Then it was reduced to marginalized. Then they were promoted by the far left and the television shows. Then they were accepted by the liberals in high school and college. Then they were married by the supreme court justices.

And meanwhile the Pope blesses them, but in his Bible, the Apostle Paul writes that we should not eat with them nor bid them God speed.

God can forgive anyone, but that doesn't mean we accept them without repentance and commitment to change.
Returners
1 / 5 (5) Oct 05, 2015
Acceptance?

I don't know, religion isn't really accepting. Religion demands self-rejection.

Now for example, I get an email in my in-box, "Hot horny Lesbians...," and believe me it's easy to fall for temptation. As I watch, I am wondering what either of them gets out of being a Lesbian, and what it would take to convince them to be straight.

What was that Augustine quote? It goes something like, "God deliver me from temptation, but not today."

The people who make this stuff know a straight guy can't help it anyway. I don't think that's hypocrisy, I think it's some kind of lapse. I hold myself to the same standard as everyone else, do my best to keep it.

Silly church rituals can't help anyone.
bschott
3 / 5 (4) Oct 05, 2015
Silly church rituals can't help anyone.


Amen.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (4) Oct 05, 2015
Religions evolved through natural selection. Those that were better at outgrowing and overrunning their counterparts were the ones which have survived to the present.

Islam is only a little better at this than xianity because it was able to incorporate lessons learned and trim off unnecessary baggage.

It doesnt matter what they say; it matters what they DO that makes them so dangerous.
Returners
1 / 5 (5) Oct 05, 2015
Further, for Christians to hear as well as unbelievers, Jesus actually told the ritualistic Priests and the lawyers and scribes that, "The Harlots and publicans go into the Kingdom of Heaven before you." Now of course people are supposed to change, "go and sin no more...," but nobody's perfect, which is actually the whole point in the first place.

The problem here was the same as the problem in every major world religion today, especially the big 3 so-called Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam...the leaders corrupt everything (well Islam is corrupt to begin with) and they turn the church/temple into a means of making money off everyone else, which was not supposed to be the intention.

IN spite of Constantine trying to ruin everything, some gems have survived. "It is written, my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves."
Returners
1 / 5 (5) Oct 05, 2015
Religions evolved through natural selection. Those that were better at outgrowing and overrunning their counterparts were the ones which have survived to the present.

Islam is only a little better at this than xianity because it was able to incorporate lessons learned and trim off unnecessary baggage.

It doesnt matter what they say; it matters what they DO that makes them so dangerous.


Islam is a deception which is easily tipped further one way or another to encourage murder in the name of a false prophet, muhammad. Islam does not do anything better than other religions, in fact it does worse. It views God as being transcient and unknowable, and therefore salvation is unknowable. To them, mass murder in the name of their false god "allah" is encouraged and rewarded with carnal benefits such as extra wives in heaven and so forth.

The heaven Jesus spoke of is one where humanity transcends the carnal and the mortal pleasures to a greater spirituality with God.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.1 / 5 (9) Oct 05, 2015
in his Bible, the Apostle Paul writes that we should not eat with them nor bid them God speed
No, the book says they should be KILLED along with unbelievers, apostates, jews of course, and also wayward women and insolent children.

Xians have nothing to say against the cultures who are still doing these things because their books all require them. They are edicts from your GOD.

Where does the audacity to ignore certain parts of the bible while insisting that others be adhered to, come from?

Ill tell you - it comes from the rise of secular western culture and the fact that religions are not ALLOWED to do what god tells them to do in their books.

Many religionists are understandably unhappy about this.

This includes expressing their inherent bigotry in public. Although you WILL hear it in church, temple and mosque, and from evangelists on tv and radio.

And I thought that inciting bigotry was illegal.
https://en.wikipe...e_speech
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.9 / 5 (7) Oct 05, 2015
Islam is a deception which is easily tipped further one way or another to encourage murder in the name of a false prophet
But lrrkrrr your book says exactly the same things, and REQUIRES that they be carried out, in the name of gods little boy.

How do you rationalize this, if I can even use the word in the context of religion?

Do you want specific verses?
Returners
1 / 5 (5) Oct 05, 2015
For example, when the Jews asked Jesus the hypothetical about a woman with 7 husbands and who's wife would she be in the resurrection, he answers "you greatly err, NOT KNOWING THE SCRIPTURES NOR THE POWER OF GOD (SPEAKING TO THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS,) because they don't marry in the resurrection, but they are like the angels."

The Islamists are insane hypocrites who believe their reward in heaven is a material pleasure they are forbidden here on Earth.

Mohammud is a false prophet, and he is one of the few false prophets who is specifically predicted by a Bible author, namely Paul in the book of Galatians, where Paul indicates that someone was going to claim an "Angel from heaven" gave them something contradictory to spread. "Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel, let him be accursed."

The Biblical Gabriel proclaims "peace on Earth, good will towards men (from God).' Mohammud's book proclaims the murder of Christians and Jews as something noble.
Returners
1 / 5 (5) Oct 05, 2015
Islam is a deception which is easily tipped further one way or another to encourage murder in the name of a false prophet
But lrrkrrr your book says exactly the same things, and REQUIRES that they be carried out, in the name of gods little boy.

How do you rationalize this, if I can even use the word in the context of religion?

Do you want specific verses?


If you are referring to the Old Testament, it was intended to that the Jews would admit they couldn't keep it, but in their pride they said "This we will do," which they never actually could keep it. For the most part they actually didn't go around stoning people, because they mostly got that. If you stoned everyone who was an adulterer, witch, or an idolater, you'd quickly kill the majority of the population for one reason or another.

When Jesus came on the scene, and asked what to do with an adulteress, he said, "Let him who is without sin first cast a stone at her."
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.1 / 5 (9) Oct 05, 2015
Answer the question Lrrkrrr.

When your bible orders you to KILL homosexuals, atheists, apostates, wayward women and insolent children, EXACTLY as the koran does with muslims, Why dont you do it?

Are you less pious than the muslims who do these things perhaps (not to mention the xian faithful in northern ireland and serbian and lebanese militias, and the lords resistance army)?

Do they love god more than you?
Returners
1 / 5 (5) Oct 05, 2015
cont...

And there hasn't been a legitimate stoning since then, because the law was never intended to kill people, it was intended to convict people and turn them to God.

8But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,…

There is not a single command by Jesus or an Apostle to kill anyone in the new testament, and the only time an Apostle attempted to kill someone (in defense of Jesus), Jesus himself stopped him and then reportedly healed the man he cut with his sword.

In the New Testament church leaders simply excommunicated people until they changed their behavior.
Returners
1 / 5 (5) Oct 05, 2015
Answer the question Lrrkrrr.

When your bible orders you to KILL homosexuals, atheists, apostates, wayward women and insolent children, EXACTLY as the koran does with muslims, Why dont you do it?

Are you less pious than the muslims who do these things perhaps (not to mention the xian faithful in northern ireland and serbian and lebanese militias, and the lords resistance army)?

Do they love god more than you?


Fool.

They know nothing of Love nor mercy nor God.

I have also told people that I believe some of the books in the old testament are corrupted, in fact there is even internal evidence in parts of the Old Testament which suggests that other parts have been heavily doctored or replaced.

I don't believe the texts we have regarding the prophet Samuel, nor even much of what we have of Moses and Joshua, are in agreement with the teachings of Jesus in certain regards, because Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world, else his people would fight.
Returners
1 / 5 (4) Oct 05, 2015
Do you know that secular law actually agrees with most of what Paul wrote to Timothy?

Right now we don't kill them, we just put them in prison forever...which doesn't accomplish much because they are in a prison with other evil people who further corrupt one another. As one prisoner from a maximum security facility even said, "once someone has been in here a long time, ten years, they should NEVER let them out."

The prisoners actually pointed that out, that they were better off dead, because all they did was fight amongst one another and rape one another and corrupt one another further.

The Purpose of the Law
…24Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

It was supposed to make you realize that you could not live up to God's standard of goodness through your own efforts, and therefore make you ask for forgiveness and salvation through a savior.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.9 / 5 (7) Oct 05, 2015
There is not a single command by Jesus or an Apostle to kill anyone in the new testament
Oh no its only implied there. Jesus says to sell your cloak and buy a sword. And that he came not to bring peace but a sword "For I have come to turn
'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'

21 "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death." matt 10

-So not only does he condone murder, he says it is his purpose to incite it.

Not to mention the foulest form of all; self-murder, or martyrdom.

But its funny how you godders want to separate yourselves from the OT.

Jesus didnt. Paul didnt. They referred to it a lot. You reject the Law but you still want the 10 commandments in courthouses.

What makes you think you can pick and choose?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.9 / 5 (7) Oct 05, 2015
So if the Law no longer applies why is it still attached to the NT? If youre required to refrain from killing n the commandments, why elsewhere in the OT is killing mandated?

And WHY have countless generations of xians fully understood that the OT is the word of god and have obeyed it? What makes you think that your lovely genteel civilized contemporary interpretation is better than the ones the conquistadors or the southern plantation owners or the rwandan priests believed?
http://home.sandi...anda.pdf

The words are still there and good xians around the world are obeying them at this moment. And YOU WOULD TOO, if given the chance.

Because theyre in the BIBLE.
Spaced out Engineer
1.7 / 5 (6) Oct 06, 2015
I see a whole lot of speculation here. I think physics can be spiritual. I also think churches can fulfill psychosocial needs. People need community and rituals.

Church rituals might not be as silly as you think. More of you should go to church. It's fun to sing in a crowd and become a part of the swarm. The complexity of the mathematical story told via organized noose still has many interpretations. Unfortunately we only can share their reflected internal representation's interpretation. Np=P?

Blessing food and giving it out would be useful if there were famine. It would provide the means to attempt fair sharing.

Solitude is a part of the return to the self...
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 06, 2015
As expected an abrahamist would hog the thread, pretend a study about religions is about his sorry excuse for a sensible myth. and make unsupportable claims about his magic rituals and their never-seen 'consequences'. 'Nuff said.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 06, 2015
@Spaced out: "I think physics can be spiritual."

If the term is supposed to have a cognate it would imply dualism (spirits in some form or other), and science has rejected that. [Cosmology, thermodynamics, mechanics, ...]

"More of you should go to church."

You suppose secular people haven't? According to Pew statistics the average atheist know more about religion than the average member of a sect. Moreover, no benefits have been implied in research. On the contrary, not only are the rituals ineffective, they can be downright harmful. Intercessory prayer for patients has worse outcome than none.

I know what has happened in secular nations in Europe to [well, Sweden] to replace religion for social needs. People came together and started doing hobbies and/or studies together. (And while I have no statistics on that, I bet it is a lot healthier than playing pretend or doing magic!)
greenonions
5 / 5 (4) Oct 06, 2015
Synopsis - 'religion fulfills many deep human needs - and therefore has a very powerful grip on our world.' If you also have any insight into the power structures of our world (America almost stopped for 2 days while his Highness the Pope visited) - you see how tight that grip currently is. It has nothing to do with truth - and everything to do with feeling good, and power.
gkam
1 / 5 (2) Oct 06, 2015
We will not survive as a species unless we outgrow out pathetic need for a Cosmic Daddy to tell us he loves us, will punish us severely, and we really won't die.

But we will all return to the nothingness from we came. No hoping, no praying, no singing, no promising, can change it.

Science is rationality. Religion is emotion.
orti
1 / 5 (3) Oct 06, 2015
"He who does not believe in God will believe in anything." – GK Chesterton
greenonions
5 / 5 (4) Oct 06, 2015
orti - I don't believe in God - and I don't believe in Big Foot - so I guess Chesterton is wrong - easily proven to be wrong - and you are gullible.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 06, 2015
I think physics can be spiritual
Define 'spiritual'.
I also think churches can fulfill psychosocial needs
This means that religion can be useful. It does not mean that it is based on anything real.
People need community and rituals
Humans evolved in the context of tribes and large families with their dense and vibrant social interaction.

They also evolved a reproductive rate which could compensate for high tropical attrition rates.

Who knows what the social equivalent would be if superstition had not commandeered the community?

Church rituals might not be as silly as you think... It's fun to sing in a crowd and become a part of the swarm
-That also doesnt make it real, or benign. 1000s of historians, archeologists, and biblical scholars have concluded that the evidence PROVES conclusively that the bible stories were impossible.

And so the god who based his holy books on them is either incompetent or a liar.

Or, more likely, a fabrication.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 06, 2015
We will not survive as a species unless we outgrow out pathetic need for a Cosmic Daddy to tell us he loves us, will punish us severely, and we really won't die.

But we will all return to the nothingness from we came. No hoping, no praying, no singing, no promising, can change it.

Science is rationality. Religion is emotion.
"Those of us who have had experiences with psychopaths know that the language of the psychopath is two-dimensional. They are, as someone once said, as "deep as a thimble."

-They say shallow ignorant things and, because of their limited intellects coupled with their overblown egos, imagine that what they say is profound.

More evidence george.
gkam
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 06, 2015
"Those of us who have had experiences with psychopaths, . . "
-----------------------------------------

Yes, . . you called it "The Man in the Mirror".

You said how they cannot stop bringing up psychopathy, as they scream for help.

It must be terrible to be controlled by such adolescent emotions.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 06, 2015
"Those of us who have had experiences with psychopaths, . . "
-You do understand that that is a quote from somewhere else, in this case an expert?
http://www.cassio...path.htm

-Thats what quotation marks mean, yes?
You said how they cannot stop bringing up psychopathy, as they scream for help.
No I didnt. This is another lie, like you insinuating that I said I play games.

YOU said that youre here to play people like cheap kazoos. The people whom you call goobers and gnats and cowards like barakn and thermodynamics and real science who post anonymously.

These things are easy to reference.

The reason that I reference psychopathy so often is because you seem to exhibit all the symptoms. Of course Im not a pro and have no training. Have you ever found yourself admitting to those 2 things?

You deposit new evidence every day which reinforces this suspicion.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) Oct 07, 2015
When Jesus came on the scene, and asked what to do with an adulteress, he said, "Let him who is without sin first cast a stone at her."
@returners/lurrrkrr
hate to bust your bubble, but jc didn't delete all the old testament, nor did he state it was invalid, in fact, he said it is all still LAW
MAT 5:17-19
because the law was never intended to kill people, it was intended to convict people and turn them to God
Uhm... no, it was very specific in it's implications of wrongful behaviour and it's resulting punishments
There is not a single command by Jesus or an Apostle to kill anyone in the new testament
not a direct command, but indirectly, by discussion of the OT laws, YES, he did
see above

and last time i checked the below were new test books, just like REV
- if you promote prejudice, friction in the family or the LAW of the OT, then you promote killing... see link above as well as

MAT 10:34
LUK 12:51-53
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) Oct 07, 2015
@return/Lurrkrr troll
They know nothing of Love nor mercy nor God
right, becuase you are the judge?
or is it because you are so perfect and therefore you can cast the first stone?
I believe some of the books in the old testament are corrupted
they ALL are: see the biblical canon, where your bible comes from, and the history of the OT, as well as compare them all to older texts of muslim and jewish origin
The Purpose of the Law
is the same as the purpose for RELIGION
it is for control over others
some cultures do it with tradition and cultural beliefs (some Native US tribes, etc) and some do it with religion, our nation sought to segregate religion from the state and chose the path of law and equality (which the religions have fought since day 1 - demonstrated by your prejudice and vitriol above)

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