How the Non-Religious View the Personality of God in Relation to Themselves

Abstract

In this study we examined the applicability of personality measures to assessing God representations, and we explored how the overlap between personality judgments of self and God relate to strength of (dis)belief and closeness to God among atheists and agnostics. Using sample of 1,088 atheists/agnostics, we applied Goldberg’s Big Five bipolar markers as a standardized measure of personality dimensions, along with measures of identity fusion with God, belief strength, and sociosexuality, as this trait has been shown to be relevant in predicting religiosity. Our study revealed that personality measures can be used for research on the personality of supernatural agents. We also found that personality self-assessments were related to the assessments of God personality. Agreeableness was positively related to the perception of emotional stability of God, while conscientiousness and surgency were negatively related to perceived intellect and surgency of god, respectively. Also, intellect of the participants was related negatively to perceptions of God’s emotional stability and intellect. Perceived distance between the assessment of one’s own personality and the personality of God predicted the strength of (dis)belief, thus opening new interpretations into possible sources of belief and disbelief. Finally, echoing previous studies, we found that conscientiousness of God had a negative effect on SOI-R score.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • 1. Allport, G. W. Personality: A psychological interpretation, New York: Holt, 1937.

  • 2. Aron, A., Aron, E. N., & Smollan, D. Inclusion of Other in the Self Scale and the Structure of Interpersonal Closeness, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 63 (4), 1992, pp. 596–612.

  • 3. Atran, S., Norenzayan, A. Religion’ s evolutionary landscape: Counterintuition, commitment, compassion, communion, Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27, 2004, pp. 713–770.

  • 4. Barlev, M., Mermelstein, S., & German, T. C. Representational coexistence in the God concept: Core knowledge intuitions of God as a person are not revised by Christian theology despite lifelong experience, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 25 (6), 2018, pp. 2330–2338.

  • 5. Barrett, J. L. Why would anyone believe in God? In Cognitive Science of Religion, Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. 2004.

  • 6. Barrett, J. L., Keil, F. C. Conceptualizing a nonnatural entity: anthropomorphism in God concepts, Cognitive Psychology 31 (3), 1996, pp. 219–247.

  • 7. Bassett, J. F., Williams, J. E. Protestants’ Images of Self, God, and Satan as Seen in Adjective Check List Descriptions, The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 13 (2), 2003, pp. 123–135.

  • 8. Benson, P., Spilka, B. God Image as a Function of Self-Esteem and Locus of Control, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 12 (3), 297, 1973.

  • 9. Boyer, P. Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought, New York: Basic Books, 2001.

  • 10. Braam, A. W., Mooi, B., Jonker, J. S., van Tilburg, W., & Deeg, D. J. H. God image and Five-Factor Model personality characteristics in later life: A study among inhabitants of Sassenheim in The Netherlands, Mental Health, Religion and Culture 11 (6), 2008, pp. 547–559.

  • 11. Bradley, D. F., Exline, J. J., & Uzdavines, A. The God of Nonbelievers: Characteristics of a Hypothetical God, Science, Religion and Culture 2 (3), 2015, pp. 120–130.

  • 12. Bradley, D. F., Exline, J. J., & Uzdavines, A. Relational reasons for nonbelief in the existence of Gods: An important adjunct to intellectual nonbelief, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 9 (4), 2017.

  • 13. Buri, J. R., Mueller, R. A. Psychoanalytic theory and loving god concepts: Parent referencing versus self-referencing, Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied 127 (1), 1993, pp. 17–27.

  • 14. Buss, D. M. Social Adaptation and Five Major Factors of Personality, In J. S. Wiggins (ed.), The five-factor model of personality: theoretical perspectives 1996, pp. 180–207, retrieved from https://labs.la.utexas.edu/buss/files/2015/09/social_adaptation-1996.pdf.

  • 15. Buss, D. M. How Can Evolutionary Psychology Successfully Explain Personality and Individual Differences ? Perspectives on Psychological Science 4 (4), 2009, pp. 359–366.

  • 16. Cattell, R. B. The description of personality. I Foundations of Trait Measurement, Psychological Review 50, 1943, pp. 559–594.

  • 17. Ciarrocchi, J. W., Piedmont, R. L., & Williams, J. E. “Who Do You Say I Am?” Personality and Gender Dimensions in Men and Women’s Images of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion 9, 1998, pp. 127–146.

  • 18. Costa, P. T., Mccrae, R. R. Normal Personality Assessment in Clinical Practice: The NEO Personality Inventory, Psychological Assessment 4 (1), 1992, pp. 5–13.

  • 19. Davis, E. B., Moriarty, G. L., & Mauch, J. C. God images and god concepts: Definitions, development, and dynamics, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 5 (1), 2013, pp. 51–60.

  • 20. Davis, M. H., Conklin, L., Smith, A., & Luce, C. Effect of Perspective Taking on the cognitive Representation of Persons: A Merging of Self and Other, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 70 (4), 1996, pp. 713–726.

  • 21. De Raad, B. The replicability of the Big Five personality dimensions in three word-classes of the Dutch language, European Journal of Personality 6 (1), 1992, pp. 15–29.

  • 22. De Raad, B., Perugini, M., Hřebíčková, M., & Piotr, S. Linga Franca of Personality: Taxonomies and Structures based on the Psycholexical Approach, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 29 (1), 1998, pp. 212–232.

  • 23. Denissen, J. J. A., Penke, L. Motivational individual reaction norms underlying the Five-Factor model of personality: First steps towards a theory-based conceptual framework, Journal of Research in Personality 42 (5), 2008, pp. 1285–1302.

  • 24. Epley, N., Converse, B. A., Delbosc, A., Monteleone, G. A., & Cacioppo, J. T. Believers’ estimates of God’s beliefs are more egocentric than estimates of other people’s beliefs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106 (51), 2009, pp. 21533–21538.

  • 25. Exline, J. J., Yali, A. M., & Sanderson, W. C. Guilt, discord, and alienation: The role of religious strain in depression and suicidality. Journal of Clinical Psychology 56 (12), 2000, pp. 1481–1496.

  • 26. Francis, L. J., Astley, J. The Quest for the Psychological Jesus: Influences of Personality on the image of Jesus, Journal of Psychology and Christianity 16, 1997, pp. 247–259.

  • 27. Francis, L. J., Gibson, H. M., & Robbins, M. God images and self-worth among adolescents in Scotland, Mental Health, Religion and Culture 4 (2), 2001, pp. 103–108.

  • 28. Gibson, N. J. S. The Experimental Investigation of Religious Cognition (Queen’s College, University of Cambridge), 2006.

  • 29. Gibson, N. J. S. Chapter 11. Measurement Issues in God Image Research and Practice, Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health 9 (3–4), 2008, pp. 227–246.

  • 30. Goldberg, L. R. An Alternative “Description of Personality”: The Big Five Factor Structure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 59 (6), 1990, pp. 1216–1229, retrieved from http://cmapspublic2.ihmc.us/rid=1LQBQ96VY-19DH2XW-GW/Goldberg.Big-Five-FactorsStructure.JPSP.1990.pdf.

  • 31. Goldberg, L. R. The Development of Markers For the Big Five Factor Structure, Psychological Assessment 4 (1), 1992, pp. 26–42.

  • 32. Goldberg, L. R. A broad-bandwith, public-domain, personality inventory measuring the lower-level facets of several five-factor models, pp. 7–28, In I. Mervielde, I. J. Deary, F. De Fruyt, & F. Ostendorf (eds.), Personality Psychology in Europe, Tilburg, The Neatherlands: Tilburg University Press, 1999.

  • 33. Goldberg, L. R. International Personality Item Pool, 2005.

  • 34. Goldberg, L. R., Johnson, J. A., Eber, H. W., Hogan, R., Ashton, M. C., Cloninger, C. R., & Gough, H. G. The International Personality Item Pool and the Future of Public-Domain Personality Measures, Journal of Research in Personality 40 (1), 2006, pp. 84–96.

  • 35. Gómez, Á., Brooks, M. L., Buhrmester, M. D., Vázquez, A., Jetten, J., & Swann, W. B. On the nature of identity fusion: insights into the construct and a new measure, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 100 (5), 2011, pp. 918–933.

  • 36. Gorsuch, R. L. The Conceptualization of God as Seen in Adjective Ratings, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 7 (1), 1968, pp. 56.

  • 37. Graham, J., Haidt, J., Koleva, S., Motyl, M., Iyer, R., Wojcik, S. P., & Ditto, P. H. Moral Foundations Theory: The Pragmatic Validity of Moral Pluralism, In Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 1st ed., 2013, pp. 55-130.

  • 38. Graham, J., Nosek, B. a, Haidt, J., Iyer, R., Koleva, S., & Ditto, P. H. Mapping the moral domain, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101 (2), 2011, pp. 366–385.

  • 39. Grimes, C. Chapter 2. God Image Research, Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health 9 (3–4), 2008, pp. 11–32.

  • 40. Guthrie, S. Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

  • 41. Hall, T. W., Edwards, K. J. The Spiritual Assessment Inventory: A Theistic Model and Measure for Assessing Spiritual Development, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 41 (2), 2002, pp. 341–357.

  • 42. Hodges, S. D., Sharp, C. A., Gibson, N. J. S., & Tipsord, J. M. Nearer My God to Thee: Self-God Overlap and Believers’ Relationships with God, Self and Identity 12 (3), 2003, pp. 337–356.

  • 43. Janssen, J., De Hart, J., & Gerardts, M. Images of God in Adolescence, International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 4 (2), 1994, pp. 105–121.

  • 44. John, O. P., Srivastava, S. The Big-Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives, pp. 102-138, In L. A. Pervin, O. P. John (eds.), Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research: Volume 2, New York: Guilford Press, 1999,

  • 45. John, O. P., Angleitner, A., & Ostendorf, F. The lexical approach to personality: A historical review of trait taxonomic research, European Journal of Personality 2, 1988, pp. 171–203.

  • 46. Johnson, K. A., Okun, M. A., Cohen, A. B., Sharp, C. A., & Hook, J. N. Development and validation of the five-factor LAMBI measure of God representations, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 2018, https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000207.

  • 47. Johnson, K. A., Hook, J. N., Davis, D. E., Van Tongeren, D. R., Sandage, S. J., & Crabtree, S. A. Moral foundation priorities reflect U.S. Christians’ individual differences in religiosity, Personality and Individual Differences 100, 2016, pp. 56–61.

  • 48. Jong, J., Whitehouse, H., Kavanagh, C., & Lane, J. E. Shared Trauma Leads to Identity Fusion via Personal Reflection, PLoS ONE 10 (12), 2016, pp. e0145611.

  • 49. Kelemen, D. Are Children “‘Intuitive Theists’”? Reasoning About Purpose and Design in Nature, Psychological Science 15 (5), 2004, pp. 295–301.

  • 50. Kirkpatrick, L. A. An Attachment-Theory Approach Psychology of Religion An Attachment-Theory Approach to the Psychology of Religion, The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 2 (1), 1992, pp. 3–28.

  • 51. Kirkpatrick, L. A., Shaver, P. R. An Attachment-Theoretical Approach to Romantic Love and Religious Belief, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 18 (3), 1992, pp. 266–275.

  • 52. Kunkel, M. A., Cook, S., Meshel, D. S., Daughtry, D., & Hauenstein, A. God Images: A Concept Map, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38 (2), 1999.

  • 53. Lane, J. E. The evolution of doctrinal religions: Using semantic network analysis and computational models to examine the evolutionary dynamics of large religions, University of Oxford, 2019.

  • 54. Lane, J. E., Shults, F. L., & Wildman, W. J. A potential explanation for self-radicalisation. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 41, 2018, pp. e207, retrieved from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences/article/potential-explanation-for-selfradicalisation/46180567213843B94D217E50C7F1193E

  • 55. MacDonald, K. Evolution, the Five-Factor Model, and Levels of Personality, Journal of Personality 63 (3), 1995, pp. 525–567.

  • 56. MacDonald, K. Evolution, Culture, and the Five-Factor Model, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 29 (1), 1998, pp. 119–149.

  • 57. May, R. W., Fincham, F. D. Deity Representation: A Prototype Approach, Archive for the Psychology of Religion/Archiv Für Religionpsychologie 40 (2–3), 2018, pp. 258–286.

  • 58. McCrae, R. R., Costa, P. T. Conceptions and Correlates of Openness to Experience, pp. 825–847, In R. Hogan, J. Johnson, S. Briggs (eds.), Handbook of Personality Psychology, 1997, https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-012134645-4/50032-9.

  • 59. Mikloušić, I., Mlačić, B., & Milas, G. Paranormal Beliefs and Personality Traits in Croatia, Drustvena Istrazivanja 21(1 (115)), 2012, pp. 181–201.

  • 60. Mlačić, B., Ostendorf, F. Taxonomy and Structure of Croatian Personality-descriptive Adjectives, European Journal of Personality 152, 2005, pp. 117–152.

  • 61. Moaddel, M., Karabenick, S. Religious Fundamentalism among Young Muslims in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Social Forces 86 (4), 2008, pp. 1675–1710.

  • 62. Nettle, D. The evolution of personality variation in humans and other animals, American Psychologist 61 (6), 2006, pp. 622–631.

  • 63. Norenzayan, A., Gervais, W. M. Secular rule of law erodes believers’ political intolerance of atheists, Religion, Brain and Behavior 5 (1), 2013, pp. 3–14.

  • 64. Norenzayan, A., Gervais, W. M. The origins of religious disbelief, Trends in Cognitive Sciences 17 (1), 2013, pp. 20–25.

  • 65. Norman, W. T. Toward an adequate taxonomy of personality attributes, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 66 (6), 1963, pp. 574–583.

  • 66. Oishi, S., Seol, K. O., Koo, M., & Miao, F. F. Was he happy? Cultural difference in conceptions of Jesus, Journal of Research in Personality 45 (1), 2011, pp. 84–91.

  • 67. Penke, L., Asendorpf, J. B. Beyond Global Sociosexual Orientations: A More Differentiated Look at Sociosexuality and Its Effects on Courtship and Romantic Relationships, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 95 (5), (2008), pp. 1113–1135.

  • 68. Pew Research Center. “Nones” on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation, 2012, retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2012/10/NonesOnTheRise-full.pdf.

  • 69. Pew Research Center. U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious: Modest Drop in Overall Rates of Belief and Practice, but Religoiusly Affiliated Americans Are as Observant as Before, 2015, retrieved from https://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/u-s-public-becoming-less-religious/

  • 70. Piedmont, R. L. Strategies for Using the Five-Factor Model of Personality in Religious Research, Journal of Psychology and Theology 27 (4), 1999, pp. 338–350.

  • 71. Piedmont, R. L., Williams, J. E. G., & Ciarrocchi, J. W. Personality Correlates of One’s Image of Jesus: Historiographic Analysis Using the Five-Factor Model of Personality, Journal of Psychology and Theology 25 (3), 1997, pp. 364–373.

  • 72. Rammstedt, B., John, O. P. Measuring personality in one minute or less: A 10-item short version of the Big Five Inventory in English and German, Journal of Research in Personality 41(1), 2007, pp. 203–212.

  • 73. Rouse, S. V. Differences among religiously unaffiliated and Christians in the perceptions of the personality of Jesus, Journal of Beliefs and Values 39 (4), 2018, pp. 463–473.

  • 74. Saroglou, V. Religion and the five factors of personality: A meta-analytic review, Personality and Individual Differences 32, 2002, pp. 15–25.

  • 75. Saroglou, V. Religiousness as a cultural adaptation of basic traits: A five-factor model perspective, Personality and Social Psychology Review 14 (1), 2010, pp. 108–125.

  • 76. Saucier, G. Openness versus intellect: Much ado about nothing? European Journal of Personality 6 (5), 1992, pp. 381–386.

  • 77. Schmitt, D. P. Sociosexuality from Argentina to Zimbabwe: A 48-nation study of sex, culture, and strategies of human mating, Behavior and Brain Sciences 28, 2005, pp. 247–311.

  • 78. Schmitt, D. P., Shackelford, T. K. Big Five Traits Related to Short-Term Mating: From Personality to Promiscuity across 46 Nations, Evolutionary Psychology 6 (2), 2008.

  • 79. Selfhout, M., Denissen, J., Branje, S., & Meeus, W. In the Eye of the Beholder: Perceived, Actual, and Peer-Rated Similarity in Personality, Communication, and Friendship Intensity During the Acquaintanceship Process, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96 (6), 2009, pp. 1152–1165.

  • 80. Sharp, C. A., Davis, E. B., George, K., Cuthbert, A. D., Zahl, B. P., Davis, D. E., et al. Measures of God representations: Theoretical framework and critical review, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 2019, https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000257.

  • 81. Sharp, C. A., Rentfrow, P. J., & Gibson, N. J. S. One God but three concepts: Complexity in Christians’ representations of God, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 9 (1), 2015, pp. 95–105.

  • 82. Sheikh, H., Gómez, Á., & Atran, S. Empirical Evidence for the Devoted Actor Model, Current Anthropology 57 (13), 2016, pp. S204–S209.

  • 83. Shtulman, A., Lindeman, M. Attributes of God: Conceptual Foundations of a Foundational Belief, Cognitive Science 40 (3), 2016, pp. 635–670.

  • 84. Shults, F. L., Gore, R., Wildman, W. J., Christopher, J., Lane, J. E., & Toft, M. D. A Generative Model of the Mutual Escalation of Anxiety Between Religious Groups, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 21 (4), 2018.

  • 85. Silver, C. F., Coleman, T. J., Hood, R. W., & Holcombe, J. M. The six types of nonbelief: a qualitative and quantitative study of type and narrative, Mental Health, Religion and Culture 17 (10), 2014, pp. 990–1001.

  • 86. Simpson, J. A., Gangestad, S. W. Individual Differences in Sociosexuality: Evidence for Convergent and Discriminant Validity, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 60 (6), 1991, pp. 870–883.

  • 87. Sloan, J. Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn’t, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

  • 88. Smither, J. W., Walker, A. G. The relationship between core Self-Evaluations, views of god, and Intrinsic/Extrinsic religious motivation, Psychological Reports 116 (2), 2015, pp. 647–662.

  • 89. Spilka, B., Armatas, P., & Nussbaum, J. The Concept of God: A Factor-Analytic Approach, Review of Religious Research 6 (1), 1964, pp. 28–36.

  • 90. Strawn, B. D., Alexander, M. Correlation of self-perception and image of Christ using the five-factor model of personality, Pastoral Psychology 56 (3), 2008, pp. 341–353.

  • 91. Swann, W. B., Gómez, Á., Buhrmester, M. D., López-Rodríguez, L., Jiménez, J., & Vázquez, A. Contemplating the Ultimate Sacrifice: Identity Fusion Channels Pro-Group Affect, Cognition, and Moral Decision Making, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 106 (5), 2014, pp. 713–727.

  • 92. Swann, W. B., Gómez, Á., Dovidio, J. F., Hart, S., & Jetten, J. Dying and killing for one’s group: identity fusion moderates responses to intergroup versions of the trolley problem, Psychological Science 21 (8), 2010, pp. 1176–1183.

  • 93. Swann, W. B., Gómez, Á., Huici, C., Morales, J. F., & Hixon, J. G. Identity fusion and self-sacrifice: arousal as a catalyst of pro-group fighting, dying, and helping behavior, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 99 (5), 2010, pp. 824–841.

  • 94. Swann, W. B., Gómez, Á., Seyle, D. C., Morales, J. F., & Huici, C. Identity fusion: the interplay of personal and social identities in extreme group behavior, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96 (5), 2009, pp. 995–1011.

  • 95. Swann, W. B., Jetten, J., Gómez, Á., Whitehouse, H., & Bastian, B. When group membership gets personal: a theory of identity fusion, Psychological Review 119 (3), 2012, pp. 441–456.

  • 96. Trapnell, P. D. Openness versus intellect: A lexical left turn, European Journal of Personality, 8 (4), 1994, pp. 273–290.

  • 97. Weeden, J., Cohen, A. B., & Kenrick, D. T. Religious attendance as reproductive support, Evolution and Human Behavior 29 (5), 2008, pp. 327–334.

  • 98. Weeden, J., Kurzban, R. What predicts religiosity? A multinational analysis of reproductive and cooperative morals, Evolution and Human Behavior 34 (6), 2013, pp. 440–445.

  • 99. Whitehouse, H. Dying for the group: Towards a general theory of extreme self-sacrifice, Behavioral and Brain Sciences 41, 2018, pp. 1–12.

  • 100. Whitehouse, H., Lanman, J. A. The Ties that Bind US: Ritual, Fusion, and Identification, Current Anthropology 55 (6), 2014, pp. 674–695.

  • 101. Youyou, W., Stillwell, D., Schwartz, H. A., & Kosinski, M. Birds of a Feather Do Flock Together: Behavior-Based Personality-Assessment Method Reveals Personality Similarity Among Couples and Friends, Psychological Science 28 (3), 2017, pp. 276–284.

  • 102. Zahl, B. P., Gibson, N. J. S. God Representations, Attachment to God, and Satisfaction With Life: A Comparison of Doctrinal and Experiential Representations of God in Christian Young Adults, International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 22 (3), 2012, pp. 216–230.

OPEN ACCESS

Journal + Issues

Search