Social Indicators Research

, Volume 100, Issue 2, pp 313–330 | Cite as

Is it God or Just the Data that Moves in Mysterious Ways? How Well-Being Research may be Mistaking Faith for Virtue

  • James Benjamin Schuurmans-StekhovenEmail author


Opinion is mixed regarding the link between spiritual faith-based beliefs (SFBBs) and psychological well-being—however, most published field studies suggest a positive link. Controlled experiments demonstrate that spirituality promotes social cohesion and deters excessive self-interested behaviour. Yet past research has largely overlooked virtues (which are related to, yet distinct from, SFBB) as a rival explanation for these observations. Reviewed papers almost exclusively employed bi-variate designs incapable of answering the question “Is it God, or just missing variables?” This paper redresses this oversight by simultaneously including virtue (e.g., kindness, etc.,) and SFBB as predictors of well-being. Although simple analyses (.02 ≤ β ≤ .28) replicate the typical SFBB findings, multivariate analyses reveal that virtues (spirituality) positively (negatively) predict well-being. Since multivariate analyses (which are rarely conducted in this field) are appropriate for testing competing theories, past claims that SFBBs improve well-being appear spurious.


Spirituality Religiosity Well-being Virtues Character strengths 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Charles Sturt UniversityBathurstAustralia

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