The Desires for Religion
In what is considered the most comprehensive theory in the field of religion since Freud’s
work more than a century ago, a new psychological theory by Dr. Steven Reiss, a professor of
psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University, says that people are not drawn to religion
just because of a single reason.
In an article entitled, “New Theory of Motivation Lists 16 Basic Desires That Guide Us,”
Dr. Reiss and Susan Havercamp, a graduate student at OSU, conducted a study involving more
than 6,200 people, mostly of the Christian religion, where they asked the test subjects over 350
questions that have to do with the normal desires human beings have.
The subjects were asked
how much they agreed or disagreed with the questions and then through a technique called factor
analysis, Reiss and Havercamp grouped the responses into sixteen fundamental desires, which
were to be used as the basic human psychological needs that motivate people to seek meaning
The desires are power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving,
honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical exercise, and
Up to this point, psychologists tried to explain religion in terms of just one or two
The most common reason they cite is that people embrace religion because
of fear of death.
Based on their findings, Dr. Reiss and Ms. Havercamp developed a test called the ‘Reiss