Podcast – Episode 0081 – Personality Types And Religion

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In this episode Joel and Antonia talk about personality types and religion and unpack which personalities are more likely to leave or stay with religion.

In this podcast you’ll find:

  • What’s the relationship between personality types and joining religious movements? Are there some that aren’t compatible with religion? Do certain types leave their religion?
  • What personality types have the tendency to gravitate to certain religions?
  • Externally structured– are surrounded with organization and various methodologies (for example: actual buildings that you worship and certain sacraments that you follow).
  • Internally experienced – some people have much more comfort in expressing their religion internally. These people are not interested in external markers and have that sense of private worshipping processes of expressing their faith.
  • Baptists
    • Have the tendency to be individual expression-oriented in the religious faith. Personal salvation is big. If they don’t like what the pastor or minister is saying, they’ll simply just move to the next church and they’ll look for someone who’s more in alignment with how they feel.
    • Attract a lot of feeler-perceivers because it’s about your personal faith expression and personal salvation.
  • Presbyterians
    • A lot more organized as a collective and structure-oriented. The congregation’s a lot systematized.
    • Attract a lot of feeler-judgers and thinker-judgers.
  • Accuracy people (TPs) have the highest likelihood of leaving religion in general. Oftentimes they leave early (teen years). If there is something they can convert/move on with, it usually is Buddhism. Why Buddhism? Because it does not require them much faith or submission to established systems. Buddhism is more inclined on practices, meditations and exercises.
  • Intuitives V Sensors
    • Intuitives do speculative thinking – things that can’t be proven by reality.
    • Sensors – more interested on what can be verified
    • Intuitives tend to be the one’s leaving religion at some point.
    • Intuitives are the ones who are comfortable with redefining.
  • Understand that no group is entirely representative of those who do or don’t describe themselves as religious.
  • Whatever is your dominant cognitive function (driver process), if you are in a religion that doesn’t honor it or allow full expression, eventually you will leave that religion.
  • If your driver process has full expression of your religious belief, you’re probably stay in the religion for a long time.
  • Ask yourself:
    • Is this truly serving me or just leading me to unhappiness?
    • How can we make sure that we haven’t outsourced our belief system?
    • What tools and models can we gather in order to take a deeper look at the structure of what we think and believe?
  • Let’s celebrate each other’s differences and cultural backgrounds.


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Showing 28 comments
  • Mike

    Hi Joel and Antonia. I just listened to your podcast (which like everything else you do is really nicely done!) and I actually know of a Myers-Briggs-based book that is extremely apropos to everything discussed.

    The book is called ‘Soultypes: Matching your Personality and Spiritual Path’ by Sandra Krebs Hirsh. It divides the chapters by each of the 8 cognitive functions and really does a nice job at describing how spirituality/faith can be approached by each type in a highly unique manner. It completely complements everything that you discussed in the podcast and would highly recommend it as a nicely written resource on the topic.

    Between your podcast and this book, a lot of clarity can be identified with regards to the connections between type and spirituality/religion. I love all these really cool resources here!

    • Charis Branson

      Thanks for telling us about this book, Mike! We will check it out! 🙂

  • Jeffrey Buresh

    I am just now getting into podcasts and so am catching up on some of the older ones on your website. This morning I listened to this one on personality types and religion with some interest. I am wondering if you ever read a book entitled Four Spiritualities by a Unitarian Universalist minister named Peter Tufts Richardson. The approach here is entirely on the four combinations of the cognitive functions, being of course NT, NF, SF and ST, called the Journeys of Unity, Harmony, Devotion and Works, respectively. It is actually this book that lead me eventually to your website, and it deals more with spiritual paths than religious organizations. As such, there is more focus on growth beyond the personality or, if you will, the ego.

    This growth beyond the ego/personality is something I would like to see more of on your podcasts, meaning the vertical structures of growth beyond the horizontal typology of Meyers Briggs. In my reading I have become a fan of Robert Kegan and his “subject-object” theory of personal development, where higher levels take increasing numbers of concepts as “out there” objects and less as “in here” subject. To me this points toward an ultimate sense of being pure awareness, where everything having been made an object, including thoughts and feelings, means that in a paradoxical way you become one with everything. At an extreme, this gets to a recognition that an atheist and a mystic are but a variation on the same theme.

    Without this variation on mindfulness, I question how personality distinctions and understandings will ultimately create meaning.

  • Alice

    Thanks for this excellent podcast. I’ve always been amazed by the number of INFPs who are Quakers.

  • Kara

    I’m INFP as well and I grew up Baptist, in a family of missionaries, pastors, and councelors. My experiences were very personal and I also served as a worship leader for 13 years. Now I go to a non-denominational church and I enjoy the atmosphere so much more.
    However, sometime around my 37th birthday, I started going through this phase where I need to prove christianity logically in order to believe it. I no longer trust my emotional experiences as reality and wonder if I’ve spent my whole life chasing something that was in my imagination. I don’t know what I belive anymore and would have to call myself “borderline agnostic”. I was wondering if I’m literally having what Jung calls a “midlife crisis” and if this is caused by my inferior function “Te”.

    P.S. On a Facebook page for worship leaders, someone asked everyone’s mbti type. They were all intuitives, mostly introverts. I just thought it was interesting.

  • BC

    Thanks for your great podcast and website. I – like Joel – am an explorer type who went to seminary. My denomination required professional MBTI processing for clergy and the results were interesting:
    55% INFJ
    25% INFP
    20% everything else.
    Thought you might be interested 🙂

    • Joel Mark Witt

      What an interesting statistic. It’s interesting to see such a high number of Intuitives in leadership.

      Thank you for sharing.

  • Caroline

    I grew up torn between two religions: My father’s side is Protestant and I was batised a Protestant. But my mother’s family is Catholic and I grew up in their town (which was also Catholic). My Catholic grandparents were not happy about my religion and criticised that we were outsiders in our community, family and school due to it (which was true). From the beginning I knew that religion can hurt, divide and segregate.

    Also for me there was the THE ONE religion. There were always two sides competing to win me over – and I was fascinated by both of them. Over time learnt to adapt to both: To act as a Protestant and a Catholic depending on which church I was in.

    Now as an adult I call myself an Catholic Protestant when people as. As an INFJ the revolutinary aspect of Protestantism appeals a lot to me (Martin Luther was definitely an intuitive). But Catholicism with its pomp and mysticism fascinates my feeler side – Protestantism always seemed a bit too dry and logical to me. So I guess I try to take the best of both worlds 😉

    • Charis Branson

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Caroline! Sometimes we mix and match to create a system we can feel comfortable in. I’m sure you get a lot of interesting looks when you identify as a Catholic Protestant. That in itself would be worth seeing. 😉

  • Marissa

    I hadn’t made time to listen to this podcast for several weeks, but this title brought me back. I’m an INFJ, and since I started blogging about MBTI types and Christianity (usually in separate posts), I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see several of my readers commenting about how they think their personality type and faith are intertwined. It’s a fascinating topic.

    I grew up in a Christian church that defined themselves by how they were different from “mainstream Christianity.” We keep the 7th Day Sabbath and Biblical holy days, we don’t believe in the Trinity, we don’t keep Christmas — those were the big things. It was still a very traditional sort of structure, though. In the midst of that, my ISFJ Father always encouraged me toward developing a personal relationship with God that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with structured religion. I think that’s one of the major reasons I never left.

    Though I’ve stayed with most of the core doctrinal beliefs of my childhood, I do, however, find myself engaged in that sort of redefinition that Joel and Antonia talked about Intuitives doing. I’ve started attending with a Messianic congregation on Shabbat mornings, which is where I find that “flow”, then I spend the afternoon with my family and the congregation I’ve attended with since a child. My personal beliefs are somewhere between the two groups right now.

    • Charis Branson

      Thanks for your personal story, Marissa! I’m glad you have found a way to express your faith that feels right to you.

  • Brittani

    Great job on this podcast! I am an INTP and a Christian, and find that many do a really poor job in explaining religion and type especially as relates to NTs and Ti users, typically depicting logic as opposing belief in God, and faith as being a highly emotional choice. You guys did a good job in this area. I am a Christian because, like Joseph, the INTJ a couple of posts ahead of me, my interest in science, mathematics, and nature have led me to think that the most logical option is intelligent design, and the intelligent design argument that makes the most sense to me is the Christian God. There is an element of personal experience, but I doubt it would be enough if I thought that it made no sense. I think that NTs and Ti users tend to dismiss religion very quickly and dislike it deeply because they think that it opposes critical thought. This is probably because so many organized religions discourage questioning and true understanding in favor of authority, and their preferences are confused for actual teachings. Faith does not inherently oppose critical thinking though, and you guys did a very good job of expressing that and remaining objective, regardless of your personal beliefs – thanks!

    I also think that this podcast might be the absolute best explanation I’ve ever heard regarding the differences between sensors and intuitives, even without the connections to religion! Your explanation of these differences in this podcast gave me a really good understanding of the basic differences of a much deeper level, so thanks!
    I really do resonate with the concept of intuitives redefining what religion means, as I have done this in my own experience with religion. I do attend church, but do not believe it is fundamental or necessary part of my faith… actually I probably wouldn’t even consider it part of my faith, per se… more like going to a formal class isn’t necessary for learning, but still won’t necessarily be detrimental, you know? I do not feel any need to rely on authorities to interpret or mediate my faith or relationship with God, which is not always typical of Christian practice, but probably fairly common for religious intuitives, if I understand the gist of the podcast correctly.
    Bottom line, this was a great exploration of the topic – I enjoyed this!

    • Charis Branson

      Thanks for the feedback, Brittani! I’m glad you have found a place where you can grow and embrace your own distinctly authentic spirituality. 🙂

  • Stephen

    Im an INFJ Christian. A year ago I left the church that I was attending because there was this funny taste in my mouth whenever I left. It wasn’t the beliefs as I loved listening to the sermons. Recently a friend of mine (ENTP) moved into my area (from a different city) and wanted to check out some churches. Every recommendation he got was to this particular one I’ve attended. A couple Sunday’s ago we both went together. The same funny taste came up again. Things were different this time; I know that being an INFJ, I pick up tons of other people’s emotions like they were my own (A year ago had no MBTI knowledge, and on top of that I was trying to deaden that emotional sensitivity.) I received a lot of resentment, bitterness, grudge-holding etc. Sometimes the reasoning might even be silly. It’s all really subtle but I intuitively know it’s there. Now I know why I left. For me it wasn’t the beliefs, it was the poisonous social structure. It doesn’t surprise me that Jesus (an INFJ) would call some of his followers a “den of vipers” haha. Me and my friend are gonna “church hop” lol. But, I feel that I should be kind and call out what I see =

    • Charis Branson

      Thanks for your honest appraisal, Stephen. It takes a lot of courage to realize something is lacking with your faith and decide to move on. Such a thing can be traumatizing if it means losing a community you had become adjusted to.

      When I read your experience, something came up for me. You’re an INFJ, which means you lead with Introverted Intuition (we call it Perspectives). This means you are not married to your own perspective but can sense other people’s perspectives. In other words, its like looking through someone else’s eyes and seeing things the way they see them.

      You were already experiencing some cognitive dissonance apparently (that “funny taste” you describe). All it took was bringing along your friend and you were able to see things through his detached perspective, which is what caused your eyes to be open.

      That’s my theory anyway. What do you think?

      • Stephen

        I think you’re right on with that one! My ENTP friend was looking for a church to call his own, but didn’t find it at the one we went to. I had actually already formed an impression of this community by the 2nd visit. Sometimes our own opinions can be very unpopular, but welcomed among others.

        Since I was with my friend, I thought I might check out what was going on in his Perspective. It also helped a lot that he was a little detached. So when we were discussing our experience, I was actively looking for the little “tells,” the small clue that hinted what he thought and felt about the congregation/church. When I found what I was looking for, I told him what I saw and he let out some relief because he got something similar. He was a little hesitant, guessing that since he does have Harmony it may not always be spot on (in the same way with our Accuracy process, hehe), though he did feel something odd.

        My friend keeps in touch with all our friends and he told me that one of my old roommates, from a few years back, used to go here but stopped because of how harshly he was judged. So we aren’t the only ones who feels like this. Even though we both have a lot of friends at that church, we decided to keep looking for another church.

        Thank you for your thoughts!

  • David

    Thank you for this particular podcast. I thoroughly connect with Antonia’s feeling “friendly toward religion,” and wholeheartedly concur with Joel’s observation about the counter-intuitive draw of religion for Sensors. After all, “religion” itself comes from word origins meaning, “to bind together again,” i.e. “re” and “ligere.” Personally, I wonder if the Intuitives who end up leaving religions do so because they’ve lost sight of the fact that religion is about a FORM of practice, while spirituality is the essence from which that form emanates. We have a tendency to conflate form and substance or essence, e.g. “idolatory,” fixation of symbols, etc. As an an Authenticity/Exploration “Genius Type” (INFP), Catholic practice fits my Stoic-Buddhist-Taoist-Advaita affinities by giving me certain FORMS of ritual that I am able to experience at a deep level, because I am not mistaking the map for the territory (Korbyski, Hiyakawa). Of course, I don’t agree with everything the Catholic Church says and does – and I remain confident in the Church returning the favor – particularly as to me! As you might well imagine, given my “type,” I still favor chewing my own food, and recommend the same to others.

    • Charis Branson

      Thanks for the insight David! I grew up in a fairly ascetic religion and I must admit to being drawn to the beauty of traditional rituals, such as those found in Catholicism. I don’t ever see myself joining another religion, but I like to sample the various traditions on occasion just to see if any one type feels supremely me. I think you have an incredibly healthy view in that you realize perfect symbiosis is not possible and you don’t torment yourself over an inability to assimilate or judge others for the same. “I still favor chewing my own food, and recommend the same to others.” Great way of saying it!!

  • Joseph

    I am a Catholic missionary and an INTJ. Apparently INTJs tend not to believe in God. However to me, after following the lodgic and available evidence, I have concluded that God exists. I have also had some emotional experiences of God wich I find very fascinating. I am also preparing to go to become a priest.
    I have found quite a few INTJ Catholic including allot of femail INTJs.

    Would this be a common trend?
    What are your thoughts on INTJs and religion and particularly Christianity and Catholicism?

    • Charis Branson

      Thanks for your perspective Joseph! I’m glad you have found something that feeds your soul. Congratulations on your new vocation!

  • Arabella

    Thanks again, guys, for a thought-provoking podcast. I grew up in a free church within the Christian tradition but as it really did not gel at all with my core values (I’m an INFP) of tolerance and inclusion, I made a conscious decision to leave at the age of 11. Was a fairly hardcore atheist for a number of years, probably influenced by my father and the injustice and hypocrisy I had witnessed while active in the church I was born into. I then took a short detour in my youth through spiritualism and New Age (mainly influenced by my mother – I was still sceptical) and after extracting myself from my family, I dived back into atheism. And there I stayed. But then I discovered naturalistic/scientific pantheism and finally felt properly at home for the first time! It combines everything that I truly gel with (scientific principles, respect for all beings, respect for the environment – and all in the here and now because pantheists believe that there is no afterlife) without the negativity that is sometimes evident in atheism, defined as it is through non-belief. I know it’s really just a question of terminology but I feel much happier about saying “I see the entire universe as ‘god'” rather than saying “I don’t believe in God”!

    Would be interesting to know whether you’ve noticed any trends in personality types when it comes to a) spiritualism/New Age and b) pantheism. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say SFPs are mostly likely to lean towards the former and maybe NPs towards the latter?

    • Charis Branson

      Thanks for the comment Arabella! I’m glad you have been able to find something positive to believe in. As a believer in the New Age/Spiritualism movement myself, I have noticed a lot of Intuitives with a large percentage of INFJs. As an INFJ, I don’t run in large circles, but this is something I have noticed from online communities and fellow dabblers. I say “dabbler” because most people like the freedom that comes with the New Age system, and I think that it draws Intuitives that still feel a spiritual need. There are no churches or dogmatic rules. You can hold your own service out in a beautiful park or under a tree and still feel a spiritual connection. I think that kind of freedom of expression, without the need to assimilate to a group collective, is appealing to Intuitives overall. But that is just my observation….

  • Danny

    Thank you for this brave podcast! You both did a fantastic job of being authentic, yet respectful. I was raised in the south, went to college for and then spent more than a decade in full-time ministry, and while still very much fascinated by the subjective experience of spiritual experience, now identify as an atheist. It was – and continues to be – a challenging adjustment, not just for me and those around me, but for the interactions between us. It’s tough to be fascinated by the universe right here at our fingertips, when your views are automatically assumed to be ‘broken’ since they do not adhere to some societal norm.

    I am an INFP and highly value the necessarily subjective spiritual experience and continue to seek out those experience for myself – but I do not have a belief in personified gods or supernatural forces. I will admit that I still struggle with some bitterness (as Joel Mark rightly predicted) post-emancipation, and wish sincerely that I could simply relax into apatheism (but it is such a big and fascinating and frustrating subject with so much real world implication that I struggle to stay away). I would say that it is an issue that causes a bit of obsession – and yet is still so difficult to discuss with anyone as the terms can be so loaded and personal.

    This is a podcast I’ll probably listen to more than once. Thanks for doing it!

    • Joel Mark Witt

      Thanks Danny for sharing. It’s something that both of us have had to deal with and I’m happy it resonated with you.

    • David

      I appreciate your honest sharing, Danny. As a fellow INFP I may understand the difficulties of figuring out how to deal with the nagging concerns that “the emperor has no clothes,” and “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” For my part, humbly I will offer, it’s O.K. that we’re all on our own paths, and for many it is difficult to handle the fear that comes with exploring hand-me-down beliefs. In my opinion, there is nothing whatsoever “broken” in your genuine desire to understand. Cheers!

  • Shannon

    I became a Christian through a personal strong spiritual experience as an adult. One thing I notice over the years is that I tend to run up against people who are very legalistic and interpret things very strongly in black and white terms (TI?) In relation to my faith, I find this an area of conflict with some others. As per your podcast, Knowing MBTI types now I wonder if that is Ne seeking or using vs. Ne ignoring. (INFP) I have been actually rethinking my faith strongly in recent years, questioning many things because of the evangelical manipulation of my emotions and actions.

    • Joel Mark Witt

      Thanks Shannon for sharing your thoughts on this.

      It’s been my personal experience that some groups are more likely to “push the emotional buttons” than others.

      I would say that Christian Evangelicals are usually open to working with strong emotions.

      I also think music/lighting/sound design etc plays a significant part during a “worship service” for Evangelicals. Some Evangelical churches feel more like rock concerts on Sunday mornings than what you see in the movies.

      As an INFP – you would lead with Introverted Feeling (We call it “Authenticity”) as your dominant mental process.

      Your natural talent is to see the nuances and grey areas with regard to ethics. When mature, “Authenticity” is not about black & white thinking. It’s about seeing and understanding that we each have a very unique individual personal emotional experience.

      INFPs (when mature) are some of the best at honoring these individual perspectives.

      So – like we mention in the podcast – if your dominant mental process (for you it’s “Authenticity”) is threatened – you may find yourself needing to reevaluate things.

      This doesn’t mean you leave your faith necessarily – just re-define it or find an expression of it that matches what you know to feel right in your soul.

      Does that resonate? What are your feelings about this?

      • Christina

        Joel/Antonia, this podcast was quite interesting. I would like to actually get your feedback on this. I grew up in an Evangelical environment, like how you describe. As an adult, I questioned my faith and left the Church. During that time, I guess I had what the Amish call ‘Rumspringa’, dealing with atheism and agnosticism, then eventually transitioning through questions about Islam and other faiths. Three years ago, at 27, I converted to Eastern Orthodox and I feel very devout. In my experience there seem to be a lot of NFs in my church, like me. I’m an INFP. How do you think this melds with your comments and questions in the podcast?

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