Security Versus Growth: Existential Tradeoffs of Various Religious Perspectives

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Abstract

Religion serves many social and existential functions. In 3 studies (N = 1,197), we examine how religious belief orientations involve tradeoffs that prioritize either existential security or tolerance toward religiously different groups. In Study 1 (N = 205), security-focused beliefs were related to greater meaning in life and lower tolerance, whereas growth-focused religious beliefs were related to lower meaning in life and greater tolerance. In Study 2 (N = 298), we found that a security-focused religious belief orientation (i.e., defensive theological beliefs) was associated with existential well-being, and religious commitment enhanced this relationship. Finally, in Study 3 (N = 694), using an experimental priming manipulation, we found that meaning threats resulted in greater existential anxiety for those with growth-focused beliefs (i.e., quest religion). Together, this research highlights how religious beliefs may prioritize either (a) existential security (i.e., security-oriented), or (b) ability to span ideological differences to form alliances (i.e., growth-oriented).

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