Tag Archives: Psychology of religion

People who pray are nice

Praying mantis
Image via Wikipedia

In 2002 results of research into the relationship between personality and spirituality were published in Pastoral Psychology.

If you’re one of those arm-chair anti-religionists who speculates that people who pray the most probably have some psychological malfunction and are expressing a need to communicate with an imaginary friend given their inability to relate to the real world, then the research findings are against you.

If you have rejected western religious traditions and think you are a much nicer person than the average for having found value in the regular practice of Eastern meditation instead, then again the science is against you. But what do you care for quantifiable observations of this crass material world!

The findings were that those who pray the most (in the conventional or traditional sense of the word) are jolly good types who fit in well with wider social expectations. Plato would be happy. Wasn’t he the one who said a strong dose of conventional religious belief and fear was a necessary thing to keep the masses well-behaved and in line?

To be specific, the researchers conclude (using the Eysenck personality model) that those who pray the most are at the low end of the “psychoticism” dimension of personality and are thus most likely to be found to be

empathic, unselfish, altruistic, warm, peaceful and generally more pleasant, although possibly less socially decisive individuals. read more »