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Psychology of Religion and Spirituality - Vol 9, Iss 4

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Psychology of Religion and Spirituality Official Journal of APA Division 36 (Psychology of Religion). Psychology of Religion and Spirituality publishes peer-reviewed, original articles related to the psychological aspects of religion and spirituality. The journal also publishes articles employing experimental and correlational methods, qualitative analyses, and critical reviews of the literature.
Copyright 2018 American Psychological Association
  • Buddhist emptiness theory: Implications for psychology.
    In recent decades, there has been growing assimilation of ancient Buddhist practices and principles into Western research and applied psychological settings. One Buddhist principle currently receiving an increasing amount of scientific interest is emptiness. Emptiness asserts that all phenomena—including the “self”—are empty of intrinsic existence. We examine how logical inquiry and evidence from diverse psychological and scientific disciplines appear to be gradually adding credence to the notion of emptiness. We explicate how, if emptiness theory continues to be validated and accepted by Western psychologists, it will become necessary to reexamine some established beliefs in relation to the workings of both the psychological and physical world. Examples of how emptiness might develop and/or complement psychological and wider scientific understanding in this respect include coming to the acceptance that: (a) what is currently understood to be waking reality is effectively a shared dream, (b) the “self” does not inherently exist, (c) the underlying cause of mental illness is an individual’s belief that they inherently exist, and (d) maladaptive psychosocial functioning and the absence of mental illness are not necessarily mutually exclusive occurrences. We conclude that there is a clear need for greater research into the validity and applications of emptiness. However, if supportive empirical findings relating to emptiness continue to emerge, it is possible that some of the next important scientific “discoveries” about mind and matter will emerge at the intersection of ancient Eastern contemplative practice, empirically grounded Western psychological insights, and quantum mechanics. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Relational reasons for nonbelief in the existence of gods: An important adjunct to intellectual nonbelief.
    Can people who do not believe in a god or gods still be influenced by past or present emotional reactions to the concept of a deity? We asked self-labeled atheists (Study 1) and individuals holding atheistic and agnostic views (Study 2) to rate the extent to which their nonbelief was based on negative past relational experiences or negative current views regarding the character of a hypothetical god or gods. Among nonbelievers who reported some history of relational emotion toward or from a god or gods (76% in Study 1, N = 171; 89% in Study 2, N = 429), relational reasons for nonbelief were endorsed by more than half of participants (54% in Study 1 and 72% in Study 2). Among participants with a history of emotion surrounding a god or gods, self-reported importance of relational reasons for nonbelief correlated with other indicators of negative, but not positive, attitudes and past experiences regarding a god or gods. Importance of relational reasons for nonbelief also correlated with other personality factors that tend to interfere with relationship quality, including insecure adult attachment styles, entitlement, and trait anger. Nonbelievers reported that relational reasons for nonbelief were far less important than intellectual reasons for nonbelief. However, these findings suggest that, for some nonbelievers, negative relational experiences with or conceptions of gods are seen as a somewhat important reason for not believing in gods. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Religious coping and posttraumatic stress symptoms following trauma: The moderating effects of gender.
    This study examined the effects of gender on the relationships between religious coping and 2 outcome variables: posttraumatic stress (PTS) and somatic symptoms. Gender effects on the associations between an individual’s perceptions about the world and self and between PTS/somatic symptoms were also examined. Participants were 388 religious or traditional Jews who were exposed to a traumatic event according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM–5). Gender significantly moderated the relationship between negative religious coping and PTS, as well as the relationship between negative religious coping and somatic symptoms; whereas no differences between the sexes were found for low negative religious coping, high negative religious coping was associated with higher levels of PTS and somatic symptoms among women than men. Among women, negative perception of self was associated with a higher level of somatic symptoms. These findings suggest that among women, negative religious coping is associated with elevated PTS and somatic symptoms. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Validation of the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual Well-Being-expanded (FACIT-Sp-Ex) across English and Spanish-speaking Hispanics/Latinos: Results from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos Sociocultural Ancillary Study.
    The validity of the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual Well-Being (FACIT-Sp) has been examined in primarily non-Hispanics/Latinos with chronic illness. This study assessed the psychometric properties of the nonillness, expanded FACIT-Sp (FACIT-Sp-Ex) in 5,163 U.S. Hispanic/Latino adults. Measures were interviewer-administered in English or Spanish. Confirmatory factor analyses indicated 4 factors: meaning, peace, faith, and relational. The scale demonstrated measurement invariance across English and Spanish. Subscales displayed adequate internal and test–retest reliability. Scores were positively associated with Duke Religion Index (DUREL; Koenig, Parkerson, & Meador, 1997) subscales. When all subscales were entered in a single model, meaning and peace were inversely associated with depressive symptoms and positively associated with physical health-related quality of life (HRQOL). Faith was positively associated with depressive symptoms and inversely associated with HRQOL. Relational was not associated with any outcome. FACIT-Sp-Ex subscales were generally more strongly associated than DUREL subscales with well-being. The FACIT-Sp-Ex appears to be a valid measure of spiritual well-being in U.S. Hispanics/Latinos. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Religious affiliation and obsessive cognitions and symptoms: A comparison between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in non-clinical groups in Italy.
    Growing interest has been dedicated by researchers on obsessive–compulsive disorder across different religious affiliations. Increasing migration in Italy is making the country progressively multireligious but is a relatively new phenomenon, consequently this research area is still young. The present study aimed at examining differences on obsessive–compulsive (OC) cognitions and symptoms between Jews, Christians, and Muslims living in Italy. Another purpose was to investigate whether potential differences on these OC features between groups could be moderated by the level of religiosity. Three hundred fifty-four nonclinical individuals, including Jews (n = 97), Christians (n = 139), and Muslims (n = 118), completed the OBQ-87, the III, the PI, the BAI, and the BDI-II. After controlling for anxiety and depression, Muslims had more severe OC symptoms and cognitions compared to Jews and Christians. Conversely, the level of religiosity did not appear to be significantly associated with OC symptoms and cognitions severity. Theoretical explanations and clinical implications are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • A review and conceptual model of the research on doubt, disaffiliation, and related religious changes.
    This essay reviews the research in psychology, as well as anthropology, religious studies, and sociology on changes related to exiting religion, and organizes the relevant constructs into a conceptual model to illustrate a process that an individual transitioning toward irreligion may experience. Specific constructs examined include questioning, doubt, reconfiguration of faith, switching, changes to irreligious identities or “deconversion,” disaffiliation, and opposition to previously held religious beliefs. Limitations and problems regarding the constructs and accompanying research are discussed utilizing recent advances in the literature such as Cragun and Hammer’s (2011) work on proreligious hegemony and bias in terminology. Finally, suggestions for future research are discussed, and implications for clinicians working with individuals experiencing religious changes are outlined. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The perception of atheists as narcissistic.
    Research into prejudice toward atheists has generally focused on broad characteristics. Some of these characteristics (i.e., self-centeredness, elitism, individualism, and immorality) indicate a possible prejudice of narcissism. To investigate this specific prejudice, the present study used the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (Raskin & Terry, 1988), the Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale (Hendin & Cheek, 1997), and the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (Davis, 1983), which were adjusted so that the items of each measure were changed from first-person statements to third-person statements to measure participants’ perceptions. Participants (N = 359) were given a description of a fictitious individual named Alex, portrayed to them as either male or female and atheist or religious, or male or female with no additional information (creating 6 experimental groups), and then asked to complete the measures as they thought the individual would. Participants consistently rated atheists higher on narcissism measures and lower on empathy measures, indicating a perception of greater narcissism and a lack of empathy compared with religious individuals and controls. Participants’ perceptions of Alex were affected by his or her gender in conjunction with his or her religion, and the 2 variables of gender and religion interacted to create different patterns of perception. In general, interactions indicated differences in the way religion and gender impacted the perception of individuals as narcissistic, affecting perceptions of males more than females. The results are consistent with research findings that perceptions of atheists tend to be negative and prejudicial. This study highlights the need to compare perceptions with actual personality differences between atheists and religious individuals. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Role of Islamic religiosity in predicting academic motivation of university students.
    Previous research in the last 2 decades describes the connection between religiosity and academic outcomes, particularly in Christian samples. The present study was designed to find out the role of Islamic religious beliefs, practices, and positive religious coping in predicting academic motivation above and beyond the effects of demographic and academic-related factors among Muslim university students. Participants were 299 university students (mean age = 19.35 years, SD = 3.21, 68% males) registered under different undergraduate programs. They were assessed on the Islamic Beliefs, Islamic Religious Duty and Obligation, and Islamic Positive Religious Coping and Identification subscales as well as the Global Religiousness scale from the Psychological Measure of Islamic Religiosity. In addition, the Academic Motivation Scale was also administered to assess 3 intrinsic motivation outcomes, 3 extrinsic motivation outcomes, and amotivation. The results showed a significant incremental variance due to a differential contribution of religiosity factors over the demographic and academic factors in predicting type of academic motivation. Nevertheless, the number of siblings and current semester remained significant predictors of academic motivation even in the presence of other stronger predictors. However, moderation analysis showed an interaction effect of semester only in predicting intrinsic motivation to know and to accomplish things and extrinsic motivation of external regulation. It was worth noting that the religiosity level of students was more weakly correlated with extrinsic motivation of external regulation than it was with other motivation constructs of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • When the divine defaults: Religious struggle mediates the impact of financial stressors on psychological distress.
    It is generally assumed that religion provides support, strength, and solace to those grappling with financial difficulties. Recently, however, scholars have found evidence of harmful effects of religion by way of negative religious coping and religious or spiritual struggle. To date, these potentially negative phenomena have not been studied in the context of coping with financial stressors. Using intensive longitudinal data collected twice daily for 14 days from 439 participants, we explored whether and how religious struggle with the divine factors into the relationship between financial hardship and distress. Chronic financial stress, as measured by inability to pay bills on a routine basis, had a direct effect on depression, whereas acute financial stress did not. Religious struggle with the divine mediated the effect of acute financial stressors on depression but not the effect of chronic financial stress on depression. These findings suggest that financial hardship impacts well-being by way of religious struggle in the short-term, but that spiritual struggle has less impact on the relationship between financial hardship and well-being in the long term. The implications of these findings are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Intersectionality of religion/spirituality and sexual and gender identity.
    This article is a section introduction that is dedicated to the continued exploration and understanding of the realities that are encountered by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals by examining the point of contact between religion/spirituality (R/S) and sexual and gender identities. The articles chosen to be presented here provide a range of topics and are somewhat representative of the wider LGBTQ and psychology of religion and spirituality literature. This section is not meant to be an exhaustive compilation; instead it is intended to broach the topic of intersectionality and expand on the conversation between 2 fields of research as well as between therapist and client. In terms of future research, it is the hope of this author that the inclusion of this section will prompt more cross-disciplinary studies to try to understand the role of R/S within the lives of LGBTQ people. For therapists working with LGBTQ individuals, the understanding of the intersectionality of these 2 identities, including both positive and negative aspects, can lead to awareness of areas for therapeutic inquiry as well as R/S-inclusive treatment interventions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Exploration of psychological distress in gay, bisexual, and heterosexual Roman Catholic priests.
    An online survey (N = 103) of secular/diocesan and religious Roman Catholic priests was conducted to assess contributions to psychological distress from sexual identity, stress, social support, and fear of compassion from others. Differences in psychological distress across sexual identity and role (religious, secular/diocesan) were also assessed. Results indicated psychological distress was predicted by stress, fear of compassion from others, and gay identity as compared with heterosexual identity. Gay-identified priests were significantly more distressed when compared with those heterosexually identified. Qualitative analyses revealed gay priests’ stress was related to the cognitive dissonance of current social acceptance of sexual minority identity juxtaposed with negative Church teaching, and perceived constraints to receiving compassion from others. Heterosexual and gay/bisexual priests all expressed profound satisfaction in their vocations, but with additional themes of loneliness, negative relationships with Church hierarchy, workload demands, unrealistic expectations, concern about the future, and ageing. Counseling and policy implications are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Christian campus-ministry groups at public universities and opposition to same-sex marriage.
    This study investigates Christian campus-ministry groups at public universities to understand how these groups may be associated with students same-sex marriage attitudes. Based on a multilevel modeling analysis with 292 students from 30 such groups, we found the religious tradition of the campus-ministry group moderated how student participation in the group and student religious conservatism were associated with opposition to same-sex marriage. Specifically, greater participation in evangelical Protestant or Catholic campus-ministry groups was positively associated with opposition to same-sex marriage, whereas the association was not significant for students in mainline Protestant groups. Moreover, the association between student religious conservatism and opposition was positive and significant in evangelical Protestant and Catholic groups, but was not significant in mainline Protestant groups. This shows that the association between student religious beliefs and opposition to gay marriage may be different depending on the type of campus-ministry group a student attends. Implications and limitations also are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Gay men’s and their religiously conservative family allies’ scriptural engagement.
    The present study offered a mixed-methods analysis of the scriptural interpretation strategies of 23 gay men and 15 of their family allies from conservative Christian and Modern-Orthodox Jewish backgrounds. Qualitative analysis of participant interviews suggested that participants used strategies that both questioned relational applications (while maintaining a prohibition premise) and those that questioned the text/prohibition. Statistically significant differences between the number of strategies used by gay men and their family allies emerged, as well as variations in the strategy type favored by each cultural/family group. Additional qualitative analyses suggested that differences in gay men’s and their family allies’ religious practice and community contexts impacted their scriptural engagement and perceived interpretive authority. While the current study was unique in its simultaneous inclusion of multiple religious groups and members of the same family unit, further research is needed to assess the generalizability of the present findings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • A qualitative study of parenting and religiosity/spirituality in LBGTQ families.
    Considerable research has examined reciprocal ties between religiosity/spirituality (R/S) and parenting within families headed by heterosexual married and single parents (Mahoney, 2010). Yet, no systematic studies have explored interlinkages between parenting and R/S within families headed by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) identified parents, despite evidence of the importance of R/S in the lives of LGBTQ people (Herek, Norton, Allen, & Sims, 2010). We asked LGBTQ participants (N = 75) in an online survey to describe how their religious and/or spiritual identity or beliefs influenced their parenting. Three primary themes emerged from analysis of the responses. LGBTQ parents used R/S to (a) teach their children beliefs and values, (b) facilitate spiritual dialogue and critical thinking so that their children could make informed decisions about R/S, and (c) provide a sense of belonging to a community and connections to others and/or a higher power. These findings suggest that, similar to heterosexual parents, LGBTQ parents draw on their religious and spiritual identity, values, and resources to support their children’s R/S development. The findings also highlight the unique motivations and strategies that LGBTQ parents use to facilitate their children’s R/S development within a social context that stigmatizes their family. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The meaning as a buffer hypothesis: Spiritual meaning attenuates the effect of disaster-related resource loss on posttraumatic stress.
    Religious and spiritual beliefs serve a number of functions, including promoting mental health in the wake of negative life events. We explore the “meaning as a buffer” hypothesis, which posits that (spiritual) meaning will shield individuals from the negative psychological consequences associated with adversity. Building on Park’s (2010) meaning making model, we investigated whether spiritual meaning can buffer the effect of disaster-related resource loss on posttraumatic stress. Survivors of Hurricane Katrina (N = 485) completed measures of resource loss, spiritual meaning and peace, and posttraumatic stress 3–4 months after the disaster. Survivors who reported experiencing higher spiritual meaning following the disaster reported significantly less severe posttraumatic stress in response to resource loss, relative to survivors who reported lower spiritual meaning and peace. Put differently, spiritual meaning and peace buffered the deleterious effect of disaster-related resource loss on mental health symptoms. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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