Assessing Spirituality on Two Dimensions: Closeness to God and Focal Orientation

Carissa A. Sharp, Kathryn A. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Assessing the nature of people’s relationships with God or the Divine is a central concern in the psychology of religion. We developed an intuitive, single-item diagrammatic scale which measures spirituality along two dimensions: (1) closeness to God or the Divine, and (2) the focus of that relationship as aimed at understanding either God (theo-focused) or the Self (ego-focused). In predominantly Christian and SBNR US samples, we found that the closeness dimension (from distant to close) was highly correlated with awareness of God’s presence and also with various measures of religiosity and belief in a personal God. Additionally, focal orientation discriminated between different aspects of religiosity/spirituality. Theo-focused spirituality was associated with religious beliefs and practices such as religious commitment, belief in a personal God, and religious service attendance. Moreover, it was a positive predictor of social responsibility, belief in a dangerous world, and support for government spending on the military. In contrast, ego-focused spirituality was associated with an eclectic combination of unorthodox religious beliefs, an individualistic approach to spirituality, as well as an interest in science, support for government spending on scientific research, and environmentalism. Finally, we found similar between-group differences in closeness and focal orientation across the US, UK, and India. We expect that this short, intuitive measure will be useful for better understanding a wide range of relationships with the Divine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-67
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal for the Psychology of Religion
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • General Psychology


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