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Map showing relative importance of religion by country. Based on a 2006-2008 worldwide survey by The Gallup Organization.

Religiosity, in its broadest sense, is a comprehensive sociological term used to refer to the numerous aspects of religious activity, dedication, and belief (religious doctrine). Another term that would work equally well, though less often used, is religiousness. In its narrowest sense, religiosity deals more with how religious a person is, and less with how a person is religious (in practicing certain rituals, retelling certain stories, revering certain symbols, or accepting certain doctrines about deities and afterlife).



Numerous studies have explored the different components of human religiosity (Brink, 1993; Hill & Hood 1999). What most have found is that there are multiple dimensions (they often employ factor analysis). For instance, Cornwall, Albrecht, Cunningham and Pitcher (1986) identify six dimensions of religiosity based on the understanding that there are at least three components to religious behavior: knowing (cognition in the mind), feeling (affect to the spirit), and doing (behavior of the body). For each of these components of religiosity there were two cross classifications resulting in the six dimensions[citation needed]:

Other researchers have found different dimensions, ranging generally from four to twelve components. What most measures of religiosity find is that there is at least some distinction between religious doctrine, religious practice, and spirituality.

For example[original research?], one can accept the truthfulness of the Bible (belief dimension), but never attend a church or even belong to an organized religion (practice dimension). Another example is an individual who does not hold orthodox Christian doctrines (belief dimension), but does attend a charismatic worship service (practice dimension) in order to develop his/her sense of oneness with the divine (spirituality dimension).

An individual could disavow all doctrines associated with organized religions (belief dimension), not affiliate with an organized religion or attend religious services (practice dimension), and at the same time be strongly committed to a higher power and feel that the connection with that higher power is ultimately relevant (spirituality dimension). These are explanatory examples of the broadest dimensions of religiosity and that they may not be reflected in specific religiosity measures.

Most dimensions of religiosity are correlated, meaning people who often attend church services (practice dimension) are also likely to score highly on the belief and spirituality dimensions. But individuals do not have to score high on all dimensions or low on all dimensions; their scores can vary by dimension.

Genes and environment

The contributions of genes and environment to religiosity have been quantified in studies of twins (Bouchard et al.', 1999; Kirk et al.', 1999) and sociological studies of welfare, availability, and legal regulations [1] (state religions, etc.).

Koenig et al. (2005) report that the contribution of genes to variation in religiosity (called heritability) increases from 12% to 44% and the contribution of shared (family) effects decreases from 56% to 18% between adolescence and adulthood.[2]


A market-based theory of religious choice and governmental regulation of religion have been the dominant theories used to explain variations of religiosity between societies. However, Gill and Lundsgaarde (2004) [3] documented a much stronger correlation between welfare state spending and religiosity.

Just-world hypothesis

Studies have found belief in a just world to be correlated with aspects of religiousness.[4][5]

See also


  1. ^ Nolan, P., & Lenski, G. E. (2010). Human societies: Introduction to macrosociology. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publisher.
  2. ^ L. B. Koenig, M. McGue, R. F. Krueger and T. J. Bouchard, Jr. (2005). Genetic and environmental influences on religiousness: findings for retrospective and current religiousness ratings. Journal of Personality, 73, 471-88
  3. ^ Gill, Anthony; Erik Lundsgaarde (2004). "State Welfare Spending and Religiosity". Comparative Political Studies 16 (4): 399–436. doi:10.1177/1043463104046694.  Free PDF
  4. ^ Begue, L. (2002). Beliefs in justice and faith in people: just world, religiosity and interpersonal trust. Personality and Individual Differences, 32(3), 375-382.
  5. ^ Kurst, J., Bjorck, J., & Tan, S. (2000). Causal attributions for uncontrollable negative events. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 19, 47–60.