Intolerance of Uncertainty & Faith — The Implications of Religiosity on Mental Health

T. W. Moore
8 min readDec 30, 2021
Photo by Marcio Chagas on Unsplash

Despite the secularization of the United States in recent years, a 2020 survey showed that nearly half of Americans belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque in 2020 (Gallup, 2021). Why do people turn to religion in modern times? Some think of religion as a mechanism for community support and connection based on shared belief systems. Others find peace during times of hardship through faith in an afterlife or an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving god.

Psychologists seek to understand the motives and personality traits that lead individuals to religion and the effect of religious involvement on mental health outcomes. For example, the Terror Management Theory (TMT) theorizes that “religion serves to manage the potential terror engendered by the uniquely human awareness of death by affording a sense of psychological security and hope of immortality” (Vail et al, 2010).

The pioneering personality psychologist Gordon Allport theorized that religiosity could be either intrinsically or extrinsically motivated (Allport et al, 1967). Expanding upon Allport’s framework, researchers Brewcynski J., and MacDonald differentiated religious motivators even further by identifying three categories of religious motivation: intrinsic (wherein an individual seeks out religion for its own sake devoid of external motivators), extrinsic-personal (an individual uses religion to bring psychological relief), and extrinsic-social motivations (maintaining religious affiliation for social reasons) (Brewczinksky et al, 2006).

Researching religiosity by motivation style yields meaningful results, such as evidence of a positive correlation between religiosity and depression when an individual’s religiosity is extrinsically motivated (Howell et al, 2019, p. 99).

The 2019 article in the Journal of Clinical Psychology titled “Intolerance of Uncertainty Moderates the Relations Among Religiosity and Motives for Religion, Depression, and Social Evaluation Fears” contributes to this body of research. The article by Ashley N. Howell, R. Nicholas Carleton, Samantha C. Horswill, Holly A. Parkerson, Justin W. Weeks, and Gordon J.G. Asmundson explores the connection between the psychological concept of Intolerance of Uncertainty (IU)…

T. W. Moore

Author of “A Voice From Inside” | JW PIMO | Writing about Psychology, Mental Health, Religious Trauma & Jehovah’s Witnesses.