The Role of Autonomy within Religious Struggle
Kalinsky, Joseph Mordechai
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The phenomenon of religious struggle among religions, specifically within those which require strict observance of religious rules and observances such as the Amish, fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, and Jews has not been studied extensively. Although many studies have explored the positive associations between religiousness and psychological wellbeing and a smaller body of work has focused on the links between spiritual struggles and negative mental health outcomes, fewer yet have explored the factors contributing to religious struggle. This study represents a step toward closing the gap, producing empirical data by exploring the relationship between individual autonomy and religious struggle amongst modern orthodox Jewish emerging adults (N=451). It was hypothesized that a conflict between an individual's innate desire to embrace her/his autonomy and self-expression and that of specific religious practices and obligations may produce a religious struggle, especially for members of the modern-orthodox community, who identify with and embrace Western culture coupled with a deep commitment to the Jewish religion. In a mixed methods approach, respondents were asked questions related to autonomy, religious commitment, family cohesion, narcissism, social media, and religious struggle. The findings highlighted the relationship between autonomy and religion and demonstrated that higher levels of family cohesion and religious commitment were negatively associated with religious struggle. Autonomy, hypothesized to increase religious struggle, was found to instead lower levels of religious struggle. Qualitative data supported the quantitative data and explored more specifically the effects of autonomy, technology, and individual cases of religious struggle.