Mankind has relied on religion since the beginning of civilization to answer questions about our origins and about what happens to us when we die. In the past, your religion was usually dictated by the part of the world you lived in and the cultural group you were part of. However, today these influences aren’t as strong in the western world as we have unprecedented access to information. Nowadays, religious preference depends more on your own personal ideas and philosophy. With this being said, is it possible that our personalities influence our religious preference?
According to Myers-Briggs personality theory, the Sensing vs. Intuition dichotomy rules how we process information. People with a Sensing preference are more comfortable with information that is concrete and tangible. They aren’t as open to experimentation and prefer information that is tried, true and proven. There are two personality styles that prefer Sensing, Managers (ESTJ, ESFJ, ISTJ, ISFJ) and Explorers (ESTP, ESFP, ISTP,ISFP).
People who prefer Intuition are more abstract, experimental, and like to draw connections between seemingly unrelated things. They are open to new ideas and concepts and are less likely to conform to established cultural norms. The two personality styles that prefer Intuition are Inspirers (ENFJ, ENFP, INFJ, INFP) and Analysts (ENTJ, ENTP, INTJ,INTP). So how does your preference for Sensing or Intuition affect your religious preference?
How Sensing Influences Religious Preference
Sensors will likely be more attracted to established religions. Managers in particular will likely be drawn to the most dominant religion in their family or culture. So, if a Manager’s parents are Catholic, then he/or she is much more likely to choose Catholicism. Or if their parents are Islamic, the Manager is likely to be Islamic. The reason for this is that 1) Managers’ Sensing preference will draw them to an established institution and 2) their need for life structure (due to the Judging preference in their personality) will cause them to make a decision early on in their life on which religious path they’ll dedicate their life to.
Explorers are also more likely to choose their family or culture’s dominant religion, but they are likely to integrate their own personal philosophy into their practice. Explorers may not feel that going to service each week is necessary, or that dogma should be strictly enforced. Explorers’ need for freedom and flexibility (due to the Perceiving preference in their personality) will cause them to bend the rules to fit their lifestyle and desires.
When either of these types stray away from the religion they grew up in, it is typically due to life circumstances, as opposed to ideological disagreement. This could be because their spouse has a different religious affiliation and they choose to adopt it, because there are no religious institutions of their faith in the area, or a myriad of other circumstantial reasons. Also, people with strong Sensing and Thinking preferences may even become atheists as they have difficulty believing in a God they can’t see or experience directly.
How Intuition Influences Religious Preference
Typically, people with an Intuitive preference are less accepting of established norms. While growing up, they typically examine their default religion for logical and spiritual consistency. If during this process they find their questions are reasonably answered, they’ll likely remain affiliated with their faith. However, many may explore other faiths if they don’t find that their spiritual questions are answered sufficiently.
Due to the Thinking preference within their personality type, many Analysts examine religions for logical consistency. Are there any contradictions in theology? Does the religion’s tenets contradict modern science? Has the religion’s principles worked in their own personal life? If the answer to these questions are no, the Analyst will likely explore a different faith, choose aspects of different religions they like and create their own philosophy, or even adopt atheism.
Many Inspirers examine their religion for spiritual consistency due to the Feeling preference within their personality type. Does the religion contradict itself morally? Are the core values of the religion in line with their own personal values? Is the religion’s God (or gods) fair and just? Inspirers consider all these factors when choosing a religion. Many Inspirers create an al a carte religious philosophy to fit their own spiritual principles, or experiment with several faiths in their lifetime until they find one that fits them.
Many factors go into choosing a religion, everything from upbringing to sexuality. However, with the number of people listing themselves as “spiritual but not religious” growing annually, personality is playing a larger role than ever in determining people’s spiritual paths.