Student Poster Award

One Nation, Under Whose God?

Even though there are some shared links between religiosity and spirituality, spirituality is more individualizing and religiosity is more group-binding .

By Greta Jankauskaite, BA, Sean T. Stevens, and Lee J. Jussim

Religious commitment can increase happiness and overall life satisfaction (Putnam & Campbell, 2010). It can also satisfy the “need to belong,” a fundamental human motivation (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Yet, over the past two decades in the United States, the number of individuals who do not affiliate with an organized religion has rapidly increased (Kosmin & Keysar, 2008). These individuals often identify themselves as “spiritual, but not religious” and consider spirituality a distinct psychological construct that differs from religious commitment and religiosity (Marler & Hadaway, 2002). Moral foundations theory (Graham & Haidt, 2010) proposes that people are bound together into larger communities (e.g., religious organizations) by innate moral intuitions, which provide the psychological foundation for the emergence of shared moral principles. The emphasis an individual places on the different foundations is thought to impact what types of groups and larger institutions they choose to identify and affiliate with. The current research was designed to investigate the moral foundations of spirituality and religiosity.

Results showed that religiosity and spirituality were positively correlated and shared one moral foundation, sanctity/degradation. However, they differed on the emphasis placed on other moral foundations. Spirituality valued care/harm, while religiosity put greater emphasis on loyalty/betrayal and fairness/reciprocity. Also, religiosity was found to be associated with political conservatism. Overall, the results of this study suggested that even though there are some shared links between these two constructs, spirituality is more individualizing and religiosity is more group-binding.

About the Author

Greta JankauskaiteGreta Jankauskaite holds a BA from Rutgers University and the "One Nation, Under Whose God?" project was Greta's honors thesis there. She is currently a masters student at Teachers College, Columbia University studying clinical psychology with a concentration in spirituality and mind/body practices. Additionally, Jankauskaite works at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as a research assistant in psychiatry and behavioral sciences department. At MSKCC she is working on the adaptation of the meaning-centered group intervention for breast cancer survivors, bereavement risk screener development study and a project looking into the clinical utility of bereavement-related mental disorders. Her research and clinical interests include coping with chronic and terminal illness, spirituality and meaning-making, and cultural considerations in psychology. Jankauskaite hopes to continue her studies and pursue a PhD in clinical psychology.


Baumeister, R.F., & Leary, M.R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachment as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497-529.

Graham, J. & Haidt, J. (2010). Beyond beliefs: Religion binds individuals into moral communities. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14, 140-150.

Kosmin, B. A., & Keysar, A. (2008). American Nones: The profile of the no religion population. Hartford, CT: Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC). Retrieved August 9, 2011, from

Marler, P. L., & Hadaway, C. K. (2002). “Being Religious” or “Being Spiritual” in America: A zero-sum proposition? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41, 289-300.

Putnam, R. D., and D. E. Campbell. 2010. American grace: How religion divides and unites us. New York: Simon and Schuster.