Comfort and Joy? Religion, cognition and mood in Protestants and Jews under Stress

This study examined cognitive aspects of coping with stress, how these related to religiosity, and how they related to outcomes (positive mood and distress). Participants (n=126) were of Protestant or Jewish background, and had all experienced recent major stress. They were assessed on measures of religiosity, religious coping, perception of the consequences of the stressful event, attributions for its occurrence, and distress, intrusive unpleasant thoughts, and positive affect. Religiosity affected ways of thinking about the stressful situation, namely: Belief that G-d is enabling the individual to bear their troubles (religious/spiritual support), belief that it was all for the best, and (more weakly) belief that all is ultimately controlled by G-d. Religiosity affected neither the proportion of positive consequences perceived as outcomes of the event, nor the causal attributions examined. Religious background (Protestant vs. Jewish) had negligible effects on the cognitions measures. Causal pathway analysis suggested that religion-related cognitions might directly affect positive affect, but not distress. Problems of design and interpretation are discussed. The study suggests some cognitively mediated means by which religion may have comforting effects.

Loewenthal, K., MackLeod, A.K., Goldblatt, V., Lubitsh, G. & Valentine, J.D. (2000) Comfort and Joy? Religion, cognition and mood in Protestants and Jews under Stress, Cognition & Emotion, Vol. 14 (3)