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Religion as Culture: Religious Individualism and Collectivism Among American Catholics, Jews, and Protestants


  • Adam B. Cohen, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, and Institute of Personality and Social Research, University of California, Berkeley. Peter C. Hill, Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University.

  • Some data from Study 1 and Study 2 were presented at the seventh annual conference of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology, Palm Springs, CA.

  • Both Adam Cohen and Peter Hill gratefully acknowledge the support of the Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research program, sponsored by the Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science, with the generous support of the John Templeton Foundation. Adam Cohen also thankfully acknowledges the support of a Templeton Advanced Research Program grant from the Metanexus Institute. We would like to thank Michelle V. Flythe and Elizabeth J. Horberg for assisting with narrative coding in Study 4.

Address correspondence to: Adam Cohen, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, PO Box 871104, Tempe, AZ 85287-1104. E-mail:


ABSTRACT We propose the theory that religious cultures vary in individualistic and collectivistic aspects of religiousness and spirituality. Study 1 showed that religion for Jews is about community and biological descent but about personal beliefs for Protestants. Intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity were intercorrelated and endorsed differently by Jews, Catholics, and Protestants in a pattern that supports the theory that intrinsic religiosity relates to personal religion, whereas extrinsic religiosity stresses community and ritual (Studies 2 and 3). Important life experiences were likely to be social for Jews but focused on God for Protestants, with Catholics in between (Study 4). We conclude with three perspectives in understanding the complex relationships between religion and culture.