Threatening or Marginalized 3 It is interesting to note that the way individuals perceive religion also serves to make it an important identity marker in the society and a source of psychological well-being. By accepting that the guiding beliefs propa- gated by religion inform worldview, individuals tend to extract the pur- pose and meaning of their life from religious teachings, thereby making religion an integral part of their social identity (Alicke & Sedikides, 2009). Some researchers have argued that the need to have a meaningful life and the desire for self-enhancement can drive and impact the extent of religi- osity as well (Alicke & Sedikides, 2009). Till now, we have briefly outlined why religion still persists as a sig- nificant identity marker by highlighting the psychological benefits of an individual’s association with a religious ideology. The benefits range from positive impacts on self-esteem to fulfilled need for belongingness in the society. Now we will examine how this collective religious identity may not always be empowering in a positive manner. There is sufficient evidence that being grounded in a religious sys- tem with absolute guiding beliefs can potentially promote psychological well-being. This unique advantage, however, has been proven to equally trigger negative consequences when the religious identity is threatened (Ysseldyk, Matheson & Anisman, 2010). To understand how this happens, let’s look at how religion as an identity marker impacts the perception of individuals: People strengthen their faith in religious beliefs when they gain some level of certainty, by whatever means, that what they follow is the ultimate truth. Their social bond with followers of the same religion becomes stronger when there is a positive intragroup comparison where the belief system is reinforced collectively. Such a condensed understand- ing of their stance fosters a sense of superiority, which is an eventual consequence of the in-group mentality (Leidner, Castano, Zaiser, & Giner- Sorolla, 2010). While the in-group cohesion becomes a source of tremendous comfort in times of social, political, and economic distress, it also promotes per- ceived glorification (Leidner et al., 2010) of one religious identity over the other. In other words, an in-group identification inevitably establishes an out-group stance, which may exacerbate religious intergroup relations if a sense of religious superiority persists. To individuals who genuinely embrace a religious identity for whatever reason, even a covert threat that questions or challenges their belief can have negative psychological con- sequences (Major & O’Brien, 2005)—although highly engaged individuals tend to experience less distress than those who are in the process of rely- ing on their religious identities. People also need to belong to their religious and ethnic groups because such identification has clear health benefits for people. People psychologi- cally attach or withdraw from groups based on whether they feel accepted or rejected by the groups around them. For instance, research shows that perceived positive contact creates positive identification perception among
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