Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Religious Commitment and Subjective Well-Being across Christian Traditions

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Religious Commitment and Subjective Well-Being across Christian Traditions

Article excerpt

Much of the research and theory on personal religiousness and subjective well-being fails to consider how the traditions in which individuals practice their faith may influence results. This study reveals significantly different findings across Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, and Mainline Protestant religious traditions. Specifically, results show that Evangelical Protestants tend to show greater religious commitment and meaning in life than Catholics and Mainline Protestants. Furthermore, associations between religious commitment and various measures of subjective well-being are shown to differ across Evangelical Protestants and Mainline Protestants. Religious commitment generally predicts greater well-being for Evangelical Protestants in this study. Religious commitment also predicts greater meaning in life for Catholics. In contrast, religious commitment is associated with greater anxiety for Mainline Protestants.

One of the essential questions in the psychology of religion concerns how religion influences people's lives. This topic has generated a vast amount of scholarly interest and a voluminous research literature. The best available research suggests that personal religiousness correlates weakly with a wide array of important life outcomes, including subjective well-being, physical health, marital satisfaction and stability, effective parenting, work satisfaction and stability, and various kinds of virtues (Duffy, 2006; Emmons, 2005; Mahoney & Tarakeshwar, 2005; Pargament, 2002; Powell, Shahabi, & Thoresen, 2003). For example, the most recent meta-analysis of research on the relationship between intrinsic religious commitment and depression revealed an average correlation of -.18 (Smith, McCullough, & Poll, 2003).

Given the degree of influence often attributed to religion in people's lives (e.g., James, 1902), it is somewhat puzzling that the average correlation between religiousness and life outcomes is so weak. Perhaps this is because individuals from different groups show differential relationships between religiousness and outcome variables. Thus, it may be possible to advance the research literature on religiousness by considering possible moderators of the relationship between religiousness and various outcomes of interest (Baron & Kenny, 1986; Frazier, Tix, & Barron, 2004). For example, although many psychologists assume that religiousness predicts outcomes in a similar fashion across religious traditions, the vast differences across traditions may suggest otherwise (Snibbe & Markus, 2002). The central thesis of this paper is that the tradition in which individuals practice their faith may function as an important moderator of the relationship between religious commitment and individuals' subjective well-being.

Within Christianity, for instance, there are at least three distinct religious traditions (i.e., the Catholic Church, the Evangelical Protestant tradition, and the Mainline Protestant tradition; Keller, 2000). Historically, the Catholic Church has held that salvation results from the interplay of both faith and works. Catholics are taught to approach God through the Church and its seven sacraments. The Protestant Reformation challenged these views, emphasizing that salvation may be attained through personal faith in Christ because of the grace of God. The Reformation resulted in a major schism within Christianity, spurring the development of Mainline denominations that include Lutheran, Reformed/Presbyterian, and Anglican branches. Beginning in the 19th century, the Evangelical movement has further emphasized many of the central points of the Reformation (e.g., the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ). Furthermore, the Evangelical Protestant tradition typically places a relatively strong value on the quality of individuals' religious experiences. Pentecostal and "non-denominational" churches often reflect this tradition (Prothero, 2010). Because of disagreements over controversial theological issues, it warrants mention that some traditionally Mainline denominations have further divided over time, with some groups now better conceptualized as Evangelical (e. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.