The SELF THE SELF AND RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE: RELIGIOUS INTERNALIZATION PREDICTS RELIGIOUS COMFORT MICHAEL B. KITCHENS 1

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1 THE SELF AND RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE: RELIGIOUS INTERNALIZATION PREDICTS RELIGIOUS COMFORT MICHAEL B. KITCHENS 1 Research shows that variations in religious internalization (i.e., the degree to which one incorporates religion into the self) and intrinsic religiosity predict several markers of mental health. The current literature on religious internalization, however, does not address how this predicts religious experiences, such as religious -strain (feeling guilt/fear and alienation from God) and -comfort (feeling loved and forgiven by God). To test this, participants completed several measures of religiosity, including a measure of internalization types and a measure of intrinsic/extrinsic orientations to religion. The results showed that these variables did not predict participants experience of religious strain, but internalizing religion predicted a substantial amount of variance in religious comfort. Specifically, greater identification with religion predicted religious-comfort. These data show that incorporating religion into the self influences positive experiences with religion. 2 Exline and colleagues 3 have identified two characteristics of religiosity: religious comfort, where one feels loved and forgiven by God, and religious strain, where one feels religiousbased fear/guilt, alienation from God, and experiences rifts in relationships over religion. While Exline 4 has elaborated on important aspects that facilitate religious strain, little is known about religious comfort. The purpose of this work was to further examine predictors of religiouscomfort and religious-strain. More specifically, the purpose of this study to examine how incorporating religious beliefs into identity (broadly conceptualized here as internalized beliefs) would predict these experiences. Previous studies show that cognitive accessibility to one s true (or intrinsic) self and perception of accessibility to one s true (or intrinsic) self causes a greater experience of meaning in life 5,6, 1 Michael B. Kitchens, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology, Lebanon Valley College, 101 N. College Avenue, Annville, PA, Short Abstract: Research shows that variations in religious internalization (the degree to which one incorporates religion into the self) and intrinsic religiosity predict mental health. This study, however, addressed how these orientations predicted experiences with religion. The results showed incorporating religion into the self predicted positive experiences with religion. 3 Exline, J. J., Yali, A. M., & Sanderson, W. C., (2000). Guilt, discord, and alienation: The role of religious strain in depression and suicidality. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 56, Exline, J. J. (2002). Stumbling blocks on the religious road: Fractured relationships nagging vices, and inner struggle to believe. Psychological Inquiry, 13, Schlegel, R. J., Hicks, J. A., Arndt, J., & King, L. A. (2009). Thine own self: True self-concept accessibility and meaning in life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, pg. 1

2 and similarly, but more relevant to this study, intrinsic orientations to religion (i.e., a particular aspect of the true self) predict a greater experience of purpose 7 and meaning 8 in life, less thoughts about death 9, and greater satisfaction with life 10. As such, it is inferred that a greater internalized approach to religion (i.e., integrated beliefs into identity) will influence characteristics of the religious experience, like religious-comfort and religious-strain. Internalizing religion is a complex phenomenon, though. Allport and Ross 11 classic organization scheme of intrinsic religiosity, where religion is motivated by internal, self-oriented motives, or extrinsic religiosity, where religion is used as a means to some other end, is one of the earliest and probably most used ways to identify people s religious orientation. Several variations of these taxonomies have been developed that differ in focus and emphasis. One of these is Gorsuch s and McPhersen s Intrinsic /Extrinsic Scale 12 that measures intrinsic motivation for religiosity (e.g. I enjoy reading about my religion and My whole approach to life is based on my religion. ) and two variations of extrinsic motivation: extrinsic-personal motivations for religiosity (e.g., I pray mainly to gain relief and protection. and What religion offers me most is comfort in times of trouble and sorrow ) and extrinsic-social motivations for religiosity (e.g., I go to church because it helps me to make friends and I got to church mainly because I enjoy seeing people I know there ). Self-determination theory (SDT) 13 offers a more complex classification scheme for cataloging one s source of motivation. SDT proposes that people vary in the degree to which externallyregulated behaviors become internalized into the self. While seemingly similar, SDT s conception of intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivations differ from Allport and Ross classic 6 Shlegel, R. J., Hicks, J. A., King, L. A., & Arndt, J. (2011). Feeling like you know who you are: Perceived true selfknowledge and meaning in life. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, Crandell, J. E., & Rasmussen, R. D. (1975). Purpose in life as related to specific values. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 31, Steger, M. F., Frazier, P., & Oishi, S. (2006). The meaning in life questionnaire: Assessing the presence of and search for meaning in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, Jonas, E., & Fischer, P. (2006). Terror management and religion: Evidence that intrinsic religiousness mitigates worldview defense following mortality salience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, Byrd, K. R., Hageman, A., & Isle, D. B. (2007). Intrinsic motivation and subjective well-being: The unique contribution of intrinsic religious motivation. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 17, Allport, G. W., & Ross, J. M. (1967). Personal religious orientation and prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5, Gorsuch, R. L., & McPherson, S. E., (1989). Intrinsic/extrinsic measurement: I/E-revised and single-item scales. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 28, Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2003). On assimilating identities to the self: A self-determination theory perspective on internalization and integrity within cultures. In M. R. Leary and J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity (pp ). The Guilford Press: New York. pg. 2

3 scheme 14. For example, [Allport s intrinsic religiosity orientation category] and SDT s internalized regulation are similar in the sense that both are integrated into one s selfstructures, yet they differ with respect to the content that gets integrated. In [Allport s intrinsic religiosity orientation category], religious contents are personally subscribed to and fully endorsed; in [SDT s] internalized regulation, the regulation or value for performing a religious behavior is fully accepted and integrated (p ). As such Ryan, Rigby, and King 15 s SDT-based measure that assesses degrees of integrated motivations is a similar, but conceptually different, measure of internalization. Their instrument measures the degree to which individuals have transform[ed] a formally externally prescribed regulation into an internal one on two different indices: identification and introjection (p ). Identification is a more internalized approach that reflects peoples intrinsic tendencies to assimilate and integrate external regulations into more self-determined ones (p ). Introjection reflects a less internalized (or more extrinsic) approach that reflects behaviors [that] are performed because one should do them, or because not doing so might engender anxiety, guilt, or loss of esteem (p ). Another predictor that seemed relevant to predicting religious-comfort and religious-strain was the strength of one s beliefs. Exline et al. s 3 measure of religious-comfort and religious-strain uses several items that may rely on the strength of one s religious beliefs (e.g., Feeling that God has forgiven you for sins. and Fear of evil or of the devil ); as such, it seemed intuitively plausible that one s belief in religious doctrines would be related to these outcomes. Moreover, it was important to control for variations in beliefs since the sample was not restricted to religious people. In short, religiosity may differ on a number of dimensions, but the important variation of interest here is the degree to which religion is internalized (i.e., incorporated into one s identity). As such, the purpose of this study was to assess how intrinsic orientations would predict religious-comfort and religious-strain. 14 Neyrinck, B., Lens, W., Vansteenkiste, M., & Soenens, B. (2010). Updating Allport s and Batson s framework of religious orientations: A reevaluation from the perspective of self-determination theory and Wulff s social cognitive model. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 49, Ryan, R. M., Rigby, S., & King, K. (1993). Two types of religious internalization and their relations to religious orientations and mental health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, pg. 3

4 Method Participants Students (N = 79; 54 females, 1 non-report; M age = 19.73; SD age = 1.22) from Lebanon Valley College (22.8% freshmen, 38.0% sophomores, 17.7% juniors, and 21.5% seniors) primarily identified themselves as Christian-Protestant (44.3%) and Christian-Roman Catholic (24.1%), but also included Mormon (1.3%), Atheist (3.8%), Agnostic (7.6%) or other (19.0%). Participants also identified themselves as Caucasian (87.3%), African American (3.8%), Hispanic (7.6%) or other (1.3%) Materials & Procedure Religious Beliefs. To assess the strength of religious beliefs, participants completed two measures. Specifically, they completed a short version of the Christian Orthodoxy Scale 16 (Cronbach s α =.93). Sample items include Jesus Christ was the divine Son of God and Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God provided a way for the forgiveness of man s sins. They also completed the Certainty in Religious Belief Scale 17 (Cronbach s α =.89). Sample items include There is a personal God and Jesus Christ was God the Son. Intrinsic/Extrinsic Orientation. Participants also completed two measures of religious orientation. Specifically, they completed the Intrinsic/Extrinsic (Revised) Scale 9 that measures intrinsic orientation (Cronbach s α =.86; I enjoy reading about my religion; I have often had a strong sense of God s presence; and I try hard to live all my life according to my religious beliefs ), socially-focused extrinsic orientation (Cronbach s α =.70; I go to church because it helps me to make friends; I go to church mostly to spend time with my friends; and I go to church mainly because I enjoy seeing people I know there ), and personally-focused orientation (Cronbach s α =.76; I pray mainly to gain relief and protection; What religion offers me most is comfort in times of trouble and sorrow; and Prayer is for peace and happiness. ). They also completed the Christian Religious Internalization Scale 10, which measures two degrees of internalization: a relatively strong internalization form known as identification (Cronbach s α =.95; e.g., One reason I actively share my faith with others is because God is important to me and I d like other people to know about Him too and A reason I pray by myself is because I find prayer satisfying ) and a relatively weak internalized (or externalized) form known as introjection (Cronbach s α =.78; One reason I actively share my 16 Hunsberger, B. (1989). A short version of the Christian orthodoxy scale. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 28, Thouless, R. (1935). The tendency to certainty in religious belief. Journal of Psychology, 26, pg. 4

5 faith with others is because I want other Christians to approve of me and A reason I pray by myself is because if I don t, God will disapprove of me. ). Religious Comfort and Religious Strain. To assess religious comfort and religious strain, participants completed Exline et al. s religious-comfort and religious-strain measure 3. This is a single measure with a religious comfort subscale (Cronbach s α =.93; Feeling that God has forgiven you for sins; Feeling that God is close to you; and Feeling like part of a religious or spiritual community ), and three subscales that make up religious strain: alienation (Cronbach s α =.77; Feeling that God is far away; Feeling that your faith is weak; and Difficulty believing God exists ), fear and guilt (Cronbach s α =.77; Fear of evil or of the devil; belief that sin has caused your problems; and Fear of God s punishment. ), and religious rifts (Cronbach s α =.70; Bad memories of past experiences with religion or religious people; Disagreement with a family member or friend about religious issues; and Feeling lonely or different from others because of your beliefs. Results and Discussion To analyze this data, correlations were used to assess the relationships between the predictor variables and outcome variables. As seen in the Table 1 (see pg. 6), none of the predictor variables were significantly correlated to religious-strain, as a whole, but were moderately related to two components that make-up religious strain: alienation and fear/guilt. However, the predictor variables were strongly correlated with religious comfort. These correlations were then used as a basis for performing subsequent analyses. Recall, the primary purpose of this study was to examine whether internalized approaches to religion predict religious-comfort and religious-strain. These correlations show that internalization is important for predicting religious-comfort and portions of religious-strain. Since other relevant variables were also related to these experiences, statistical control was employed through hierarchical regression analyses. Specifically, three hierarchal regressions were conducted. In the first, religious-comfort was entered as the outcome variable. The strength of participants religious beliefs (measured by the Certainty in Religious Beliefs scale and the Christian Orthodoxy Scale) and extrinsic orientations (measured by the extrinsic-personal, extrinsic-social, and introjection subscales) were entered in the first step. Internalization (measured by the intrinsic and identification subscales) was entered in the second step. pg. 5

6 Table 1 Correlation Matrix of Predictor and Outcome Variables OUTCOME VARIABLES RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES RELIGIOUS BELIEFS INTERNALIZED ORIENTATION EXTERNALIZED ORIENNTATION RC RS Alien. Fear & Guilt Rel. Rifts CIRB COS Intrinsic Identify Extrinsic (P) Extrinsic (S) Introjected RELIGIOUS COMFORT (RC) -- RELIGIOUS STRAIN (RS) ALIENATION (RS-SUBSCALE) FEAR & GUILT (RS SUBSCALE) REL. RIFTS (RS SUBSCALE) CERTAINTY IN RELIGIOUS BELIEFS (CIRB) CHRISTIAN ORTHODOX SCALE (COS) -.38**.86** *.59** **.49** ** ** ** **.33* ** -- INTRINSIC.74** *.40** **.72** -- IDENTIFICATION.87** *.36** **.81**.83** -- EXTRINSIC (PERSONAL) EXTRINSIC (SOCIAL).54** * **.46**.42**.55** --.57** * **.49**.57**.63**.48** -- INTROJECTED.52** * **.46**.30*.46**.48**.44** -- + = p.05; * = p.01; ** = p.001; Bolded items = included in subsequent regression analyses; Bolded/Underlined Items = Variables controlled for by entering in first step of subsequent regression analyses pg. 6

7 The analysis revealed that internalization accounted for unique variance in religious comfort (R 2 =.83, R 2 =.05), F(2, 71) = 10.58, p <.001. In particular, the identification subscale of the SDT measure was a significant and unique predictor of religious comfort, after controlling for relevant variance; moreover, this was the strongest predictor in the regression analysis (see Table 2). Table 2 Predictor Variables Strength in Predicting Religious Comfort at the Second Step in a Hierarchical Regression with Relevant Variables Entered at Step-1 and Intrinsic Scores and Identification Scores Entered at Step-2 Predictor Variables B SE β t p-value r semi-partial r partial COS CIRBS Extrinsic (P) Extrinsic (S) Introjected Intrinsic Identification To examine whether identification would predict unique variance for alienation (a component of religious strain), the strength of participants religious beliefs (measured by the Certainty in Religious Beliefs scale and Christian Orthodox Scale) and extrinsic motivation (measured by extrinsic-personal and extrinsic-social subscales) were entered in the first step, and the two internalization subscales were entered in the second step. The results showed that the internalized measures did not significantly account for unique variance in alienation (R 2 =.19, R 2 =.002), F(2, 72) < 1, p = ns Similarly, a hierarchical regression was performed on fear and guilt (a component of religious strain). The strength of participants religious beliefs (measured by the Certainty in Religious Beliefs scale and Christian Orthodox Scale) and extrinsic motivation (measured by the introjection subscale) was entered in the first step, and the two internalization measures were entered in the second step. The analysis showed that the internalized measures did not significantly account for unique variance in fear and guilt (R 2 = 29, R 2 =.05), F(2, 73) = 2.66, p =.077. In short, these results suggest that religious orientations predict the experience of religiouscomfort, but not religious strain. More specifically, these results suggest that selfdeterminations conceptualization of internalization predicts a positive characteristic of the religious experience. pg. 7

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