Religious beliefs and experiences of the body: an extension of the developmental theory of embodiment


Rosemead School of Psychology

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Embodiment involves the engagement of the body with the world, including the relationship between people's bodies and their social contexts. As one aspect of a person's social context, religion has been shown to be linked to body image, weight concerns, and eating behaviours in previous research. The present study extends existing research by examining the relationship between two specific religiously influenced beliefs about the body and three ways of experiencing the body. One view, radical dualism, sees the body as corrupt and separate from oneself, while a second view, 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 ways people experience their bodies including depersonalisation, body connectedness, and sexuality awareness. 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 the ways they experience their bodies. Radical dualism was found to be positively related to depersonalisation and lack of body connectedness and negatively related to sexuality awareness. Sanctification was found to negatively predict depersonalisation and positively predict body connectedness. Both radical dualism and sanctification predicted body connectedness and depersonalisation over and above more general religious measures. In addition, measures of religion-specific views of the body predicted body connectedness and depersonalisation over and above both general religious measures and more general measures of sanctification. This study contributes to a greater understanding of how religiously based beliefs about the body are related to people's experiences of their bodies.


Dualism; Sanctification;

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Mental Health, Religion & Culture





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