Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Relationships of Psychological Well-Being, Social Morals, and Personality among Religious and Non-Religious Individuals

Dann Hazel, Fielding's School of Psychology

Throughout American history, an idea has predominated popular thinking that people of strong religious faith, particularly those from a Judeo-Christian tradition, possess personality traits characteristic of mental stability more than do non-religious individuals, including atheists. Furthermore, strong religious faith has also been seen as the precursor of greater psychological well-being and social morality more than does lesser faith, or than no faith at all. This study surveyed 1,195 participants of a variety of faith and no-faith positions on the Internet, utilizing the Ryff Scales of Psychological Well-Being, the Socio-Moral Reflection Measure, the Big Five Inventory, and the Updated Dogmatism Scale to determine correlations among psychological well-being, social morality, personality traits, and dogmatic cognitive systems with degrees of faith, including primarily Judeo-Christian traditions, secular humanists, and atheists. Finally, within four asynchronous online discussion groups derived from various Facebook communities, 25 participants indicated the degree of their involvement in online social media as it related to their growth and identity maintenance as religious or non-religious individuals. Both quantitative and qualitative study results indicated that social and personal evolution may be occurring among both religious and non-religious individuals, possibly and at least partially attributable to the pervasiveness of social media in modern lives. As examples, dogmatic cognitive styles and intolerance of human diversity are largely eschewed by both groups. Consequently, the “culture war” between theists and atheists, often typified by social marginalization and dogmatic communication styles, may have already begun to wane.

Keywords: degrees of religious faith, fundamentalism, progressive religion, atheists, theists, personality traits, Five Factor Model, virtue ethics, social morality, dogmatism, psychological well-being, social media, focus groups, Facebook

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