A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Conflict Changes How People View God


Conflict Changes How People View God

Abstract: 

Religion shapes the nature of intergroup conflict, but conflict may also shape religion. Here, we report four multimethod studies that reveal the impact of conflict on religious belief: The threat of warfare and intergroup tensions increase the psychological need for order and obedience to rules, which leads people to view God as more punitive. Studies 1 (N = 372) and 2 (N = 911) showed that people’s concern about conflict correlates with belief in a punitive God. Study 3 (N = 1,065) found that experimentally increasing the salience of conflict increases people’s perceptions of the importance of a punitive God, and this effect is mediated by people’s support for a tightly regulated society. Study 4 showed that the severity of warfare predicted and preceded worldwide fluctuations in punitive-God belief between 1800 CE and 2000 CE. Our findings illustrate how conflict can change the nature of religious belief and add to a growing literature showing how cultural ecologies shape psychology.

Publication Information

Full Citation: 

Caluori, Nava, Joshua Conrad Jackson, Kurt Gray, and Michele Gelfand. 2020. "Conflict Changes How People View God." Psychological Science (January). https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0956797619895286

START Author(s): 
Michele Gelfand
Publication URL: 
Visit Website

Additional Info

Research Area: