Desires and religion | Health - Hindustan Times
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Desires and religion

PTI | ByAsian News International, Washington
May 28, 2004 12:35 PM IST

There are 16 basic human psychological needs that motivate people to seek meaning through religion.

A new research conducted by the Ohio State University has revealed that there are actually 16 basic human psychological needs that motivate people to seek meaning through religion.

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According to Steven Reiss the author of the new theory, "Because this theory can be tested scientifically, we can learn its strengths and weaknesses, and gradually improve it. Eventually, we may understand better the psychological basis of religion."

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Reiss described his new theory in the June issue of Zygon, a journal devoted to issues of science and religion. The theory is based on his overall theory of human motivation called sensitivity theory.

The Sensitivity theory is explained in his 2000 book Who Am I? The 16 Basic Desires that Motivate Our Action and Define Our Personalities.

Each of the 16 basic desires outlined in the book influence the psychological appeal of religious behaviour.

The desires include power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honour, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical exercise, and tranquillity.

"They embrace those aspects of religious imagery that express their strongest psychological needs and deepest personal values," Reiss said.

One example is the desire for curiosity, Reiss said. Religious intellectuals, who are high in curiosity, value a God who is knowable through reason, while doers, who have weak curiosity, may value a God that is knowable only through revelation.

"People who have a strong need for order should enjoy ritualized religious experiences, whereas those with a weak need for order may prefer more spontaneous expression of faith," he said.

"The prophecy that the weak will inherit the earth should appeal especially to people with a weak need for status, whereas the teaching that everybody is equal before God should appeal especially to people with a strong need for idealism," he added.

According to Reiss, if religion and personality are linked, religion must provide a range of images and symbols sufficiently diverse to appeal to all the different kinds of personalities in the human population.

"How we value and balance the 16 psychological needs is what makes us an individual, and for every individual there are appealing religious images," he said.

"The values that guide a personality with a strong need for vindication are expressed by a God of wrath, or a war God, while the values that guide a personality with a weak need for vindication are expressed by a God of forgiveness," he added.

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