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The Sixteen Strivings for God

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A psychological theory of religious experiences, sensitivity theory, is proposed. Whereas other theories maintain that religious motivation is about a few overarching desires, sensitivity theory provides a multifaceted analysis consistent with the diversity, richness, and individuality of religious experiences. Sixteen basic desires show the psychological foundations of meaningful experience. Each basic desire is embraced by every person, but to different extents. How we prioritize the basic desires expresses our individuality and influences our attraction to various religious images and activities. Each basic desire is associated with a basic goal and a unique joy, such as love, self-worth, relaxation, or strength. We do not seek to experience joys infinitely; we regulate joys, in accordance with our core values, to sixteen balance points (sensitivities) that vary based on individuality. Religions help persons of faith regulate the sixteen basic joys by providing some images that strengthen joyful experiences and others that weaken them. We can strengthen our experience of self- worth, for example, by contemplating God in the image of savior; we can weaken our experience of self-worth by contemplating original sin. The theory of sixteen basic desires is testable scientifically and suggests such philosophical concepts as value-based happiness.

Keywords: Aristotle and psychology; Gordon Allport; Reiss Profile; god-images; intrinsic value; meaning of life; means and ends; religion and motivation; religion and personality; sensitivity theory of motivation; sixteen basic desires

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: The Ohio State University, Columbus

Publication date: 2004-06-01

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