"Because of My Faith, I Have Meaning and Purpose in My Life."

by Albert L. Winseman, D. Min.
Religion and Social Trends Editor

This is the third in a series of articles examining Gallup's nine items of spiritual commitment.

The nine items that Gallup has discovered best measure the spiritual commitment of individuals in congregations* (see "How to Measure Spiritual Commitment" in Related Items) can be divided into those describing attitudes (four items) and those describing behaviors (five items). Last week, I explored one of the key attitudinal components: "My faith is involved in every aspect of my life." (See Related Items.) This week I will look at the statement, "Because of my faith, I have meaning and purpose in my life."

The graph below shows responses to this question on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "strongly agree" and 5 being "strongly disagree."*

The difference between the two items is subtle, but significant, as reflected in the different agreement rates shown below. It appears that some people feel that their faith gives their lives meaning and purpose, without necessarily involving their faith in every aspect of their lives.

Religious faith is extremely important in the lives of many Americans, as indicated by the fact that this question received the second-highest percentage of "strongly agree" responses. People see their faith as a source of meaning, purpose and direction in their lives -- in fact, this may be the main reason that most people belong to religious congregations. Sermons/homilies/messages that address questions of ultimate meaning and encourage congregation members to think about those questions in the context of their own lives are likely to be well received and fill a psychological need for many people.

The SE25 items are protected by copyright of The Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ, 2001. All rights reserved.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 729 adult members of a church, synagogue, or other religious faith community, aged 18 and older, conducted October through November 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3.6%.

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