Security versus growth: Existential tradeoffs of various religious perspectives

Daryl R. Van Tongeren, Don E. Davis, Joshua N. Hook, Kathryn Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Religion serves many social and existential functions. In 3 studies (N= 1,197), we examine how religious belief orientations involve tradeoffs that prioritize either existential security or tolerance toward religiously different groups. In Study 1 (N= 205), security-focused beliefs were related to greater meaning in life and lower tolerance, whereas growth-focused religious beliefs were related to lower meaning in life and greater tolerance. In Study 2 (N= 298), we found that a security-focused religious belief orientation (i.e., defensive theological beliefs) was associated with existential well-being, and religious commitment enhanced this relationship. Finally, in Study 3 (N= 694), using an experimental priming manipulation, we found that meaning threats resulted in greater existential anxiety for those with growth-focused beliefs (i.e., quest religion). Together, this research highlights how religious beliefs may prioritize either (a) existential security (i.e., security-oriented), or (b) ability to span ideological differences to form alliances (i.e., growth-oriented).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-88
Number of pages12
JournalPsychology of Religion and Spirituality
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Death anxiety
  • Defensive
  • Existential
  • Meaning
  • Quest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Religious studies
  • Applied Psychology


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