MBTI Types and Conventional Religion

This started out as just a post about INFJs, but I have some further thoughts about other types as well. My bias, stated upfront, is that of an INFP. The two types, despite both being introverted idealists (INF), are in many ways complete opposites: dominant introverted intuition with auxiliary extraverted feeling vs dominant introverted feeling with auxiliary extraverted intuition. That said, I can’t say I’ve ever felt direct conflict with INFJs.

I was just visiting Typology Central (an all type MBTI discussion board). I was looking at threads about religion. I noticed an INFJ in some of those threads who I know from Global Chatter (an INFP discussion board). He is an interesting guy, but it reminded me of an aspect of INFJs that can annoy me at times.

I discussed this in a post titled Darn Apologists! of mine from my Gaia blog. I’m attracted to INFJs because their Ni gives them a unique (idiosyncratic even) perspective and they can be very independent-minded especially if they’re strongly Introverted. However, their Fe can also make them very conventional. Unlinke INFPs, I’ve noticed that many INFJs belong to more traditional forms of forms of religion. They have a love/hate relationship with social groups. However, their desire to feel like they belong to something larger than themselves is surprisingly strong for an Introverted type.

To say the least, my INFP nature balks at this. INFJs can have these crazy ideas but somehow it often leads back to such conventional worldviews. Maybe its because their ideas are so abstract (Ni) that they seek to ground them through a tradition (Fe). At least, INFJs tend to be extremely nice people. An INTJ is much more of a straightforward in their logic, but I’ll take the INFJs conventionalism over an immature INTJ’s snarkiness. Its interesting that INTJs are very opposite of conventional in that they’re the prototypical conspiracy theorist. Still, maybe that is that same Extraverted Judging function (Fe and Te) being focused with the prevailing social order just in a different way.

I should add that my criticisms of INFJs comes from my fondness for them. I seem very attracted to them as I keep befriending INFJs online and my closest friend is an INFJ. Its possible that I am attracted to the very thing I’m criticizing. They’re thinking is more grounded than my own, and it can feel to me to be a bit narrow and plodding. However, this groundedness can also lead to a depth of insight and great knowledge about a particular subject. Overall, INFPs and INFJs have enough similarities to make communication easy while having enough differences to make discussion interesting.

I was again at Typology Central.  I’ve been having a private discussion with an INTP Christian.  INTPs as a whole are generally very unreligious even anit-religious.  INTPs are clear thinkers though and so its interesting to talk to this guy.

He claims that he has never had an experience of God.  God is an idea to him, but an idea that he has been convinced of.  He seems to be an Evangelical Christian which is very strange because Evangelism idealizes direct experience.  His wife is a more an experiential type.  Maybe he trusts the experiences of those close to him.

The reason I bring this up is because its extremely intriguing that an INTP would be attracted to conventional religion.  However, it makes more sense now.  An INTP has three likely ways of relating to religion.  They can outright deny it as irrational.  They can accept it as a philosophy and analyze it.  Or they can accept the experience of others which might include the collective experience of a tradition.

INFPs swim in subjective experience, but INTPs don’t.  An INTP can’t rely on their own experience.  Even if they had a potentially spiritual experience, they’d be reluctant to trust it.  This would be true of NTs in general.

This relates to my dad who is an ENTJ.  His father was a minister and he grew up observing the hypocritical difference between his father at church and his father at home.  He became agnostic and stayed that way for much of his life.  As he grew older, he was attracted to conventional Christianity because it appealed to his dominant Extraverted Thinking which desires principles of social order.

As he became more involved in his 50s, he had some experiences that felt spiritual to him.  He didn’t seem to want to call them God and so defined them as being of the Holy Spirit.  I suspect (based on Beebe’s archetype model) this is his aspirational Introverted Feeling finally manifesting.  Still, my dad submits his experience to the conventional interpretation.  The experience is nice but secondary to him.  What he really likes about church is being around people and having an important leadership role to play.

All of this is somewhat of a new insight for me.  Typically, conventional religion is described as being mainly attractive to SJ types.  My mom is an ISTJ and she definitely isn’t the questioning type and is content to follow an external authority.  However, I’m now beginning to realize there are reasons why other types would also be attracted to conventional religion.

INFPs might be one of the types that is least attracted to conventional religion, but I’m not sure.  INFPs are more attracted to religon than NTs in general.  However, INFPs are extremely independent-minded and extremely self-certain… which could describe INTPs as well.

An INFP has their own direct experience and so they don’t have to rely on other’s experience.  An INFP has a solid Introverted Feeling that doesn’t need the external grounding that Introverted Intuition needs.  An INFP finds annoying the Extraverted Feeling tendencies of many religious groups.  An INFP is unwilling to follow like sheep as SJs like to do.

The only thing that would bring an INFP to conventional religion would be their Introverted Feeling.  If their inner experience corresponded with a particular tradition, an INFP could become quite the zealous believer.  Nonetheless, even then such an INFP would still tend to keep their religious experience as a personal matter.  I doubt INFPs would make good prosyletyzers.  An INFP prosyletyzer would probably just annoy people.  I’m partly basing this on the one INFP fundamentalist I know who can be very annoying when talking about his beliefs… a total lack of objectivity and logic… pure emotion and defensiveness.