Religion has been around for ages and has influenced more than spirituality and morality. Our thoughts, behaviors, and worldviews are all influenced by religious ideas, specifically the concept of God. The modern concept of God has become a commonplace topic in entertainment and politics, often yielding countless opinions as to what psychological effects does one’s concept of God have on human functioning.
The first protestant church on the entire west coast was founded in the mid-1800s in Oregon City. This late start to organized religion might help explain the most current accounts to some Oregon religion statistics and preferences. The Gallup company polls suggests that over 40% of Oregonians claim religion is very important to them. However, another Gallup poll quotes the Oregon Christian population in the low 50% with other religions ranking in distant 2nd and 3rd places. Also, Oregon consistently ranks as one of the least religious states in the United States and is highest in percentage of people unaffiliated to any religion. Do these rankings indicate something more than “simple” religious preferences? And, could there a correlation between human functioning and believing in God?
A new study looked at the connection between self-regulation and the popular concept of God (Laurin, Kay, and Fitzsimons, 2012). Utilizing six different strategies, self-regulatory behavior was gaged after exposure to the concept of God. The definition of God used in the studies was a “controlling force” and an “all-knowing being.” Participants were reminded of this particular concept prior to responding to self-regulatory tasks. Results showed trends of decreased ‘active goal pursuit’ and an increase in ‘temptation resistance.’ Such exposure to a certain concept of God seemed to decrease goal creation and increased right decision making. However, prefacing decision making with ideas of God is neither completely helpful nor completely harmful to self-regulation. The effect depends on the type of God concept used and form of self-regulation being questioned.
The concept of God as played out in our culture and testing in this study surely impacts the way we perceive ourselves, each other, and our environment. Oregon consistently reports unique religious trends yet fairly different from most other states. One might question the difference in the current Oregon culture and an alternate Oregon world that prefers to be more religious. Either way, the specific notion that surrounds the concept of God is unique to each person and will affect each person differently no matter the religious preference. The range of human God beliefs and the benefit or burden of these concepts will continue to be present in human cultures until the end of time, especially in how humans regulate their thoughts and actions.
Laurin, K., Kay, A. C., & Fitzsimons, G. M. (2012). Divergent effects of activating thoughts of god on self-regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(1), 4-21. doi: 10.1037/a0025971