Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren, Psychology

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Recent polls indicate that rates of individuals in the United States who identify as currently religious are declining (Twenge et al., 2016). Events such as COVID-19, presidential elections, and personal adversity affect religious change, likely because such events threaten one's religious worldview. One understudied area of religious change is intellectual humility. Religious change may be more welcome and less destabilizing. We seek to better understand religious change by examining the critical role of humility. In this study, individuals who attended a ex-vangelical conference participated in a year-long longitudinal study where they answered surveys in both 2019 and 2020. These surveys focused on religious affiliation, intellectual humility about existential issues (IH-E), and religious deconstruction. In total, 240 individuals (85.8% women, 11.2% men, 2.4% gender-nonconforming, and .6% transgender) participated. Additionally, the majority of participants were white/caucasian (57.9%). Of this population, there were individuals who have always been religious (45.6%), were formerly non-religious but now identify as religious (5.9%), left religion but have reidentified (12.4%), are formerly religious (33.1%), and who were never affiliated with religion (3%). Results revealed a significant interaction between religious change (moving toward religion) and intellectual humility (IH-E) around existential concerns on change in religious well-being (b = .77, SE = .27, t = 2.82, p = .006). Specifically, for those low in IH-E, religious change predicted less religious well-being one year later (p = .061), whereas for those high in IH-E, religious change predicted greater religious well-being (p = .027). Having humility when undergoing religious change seems critical for religious well-being. Specifically, moving toward religion humbly results in greater future religious well-being, whereas doing so arrogantly impairs future religious well-being. In the future, we look to advance our research by investigating the relationship between humility and religious deconstruction more broadly.


This project/publication was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation/Templeton Religion Trust. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation/Templeton Religion Trust. In addition, this work was partially funded by a Frost Center Fellowship.

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