Temple or prison: Religious beliefs and attitudes toward the body


Rosemead School of Psychology

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Most research on religion and the body has focused on the relationship between broad dimensions of religion, such as religious commitment or religious orientation, and body image or eating behaviors. The present study extends existing research by examining two specific religiously influenced beliefs about the body within a Protestant Christian sample, radical dualism and sanctification, and by focusing on a wider range of attitudes toward the body. The view of radical dualism sees the body as corrupt and separate from oneself, while the view of sanctification sees the body as holy, worthy of respect, and integral to one’s being. This study examined how both radically dualistic and sanctified views of the body relate to attitudes people hold about their bodies including body appreciation and two components of body objectification: self-surveillance and body shame. To date, none of these attitudes have been examined in relation to specific, nuanced religious beliefs about the body. Participants were 243 adults from a variety of Protestant denominations. Using an online survey system and self-report measures, participants indicated the degree to which they hold radically dualistic and sanctified views about their bodies as well as their attitudes toward their bodies. Radical dualism was found to be negatively related to body appreciation and positively related to body shame. Sanctification was found to predict body appreciation. Body shame mediated the relationship between religious beliefs about the body and self-surveillance. This study contributes to a greater understanding of how religiously based beliefs about the body are related to attitudes about the body.


Dualism; Sanctification; Body image disturbance

Publication Title

Journal of Religion and Health





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DOI of Published Version

10.1007/s10943-016-0266-z .