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Raja M. Ali Saleem

Values are enduring beliefs that impact human actions and behavior. They are conflated with norms, morals, traits, and attitudes, but they are different. Worldviews, held consciously or unconsciously, are interpretive frameworks or a set of presuppositions about the basic constitution of reality that provides the foundation for people’s lives. Religious values can be specific to a religion or universally shared. In the developed world, religious values are losing their potency, but in developing countries, where people are existentially insecure, these values still guide individual and social action and behavior. Although people have had religious worldviews from times immemorial, a conscious effort to develop and present such worldviews to counter more secular worldviews was first initiated in the late 19th century. It was thought that religions, particularly Christianity, could better withstand the onslaught of secularization and modernization by presenting themselves as worldviews. Since then, the presentation of religions as worldviews has gained momentum, and the initiative by a few Protestant evangelicals has spawned hundreds of articles, books, courses, and workshops that cover almost all major religious worldviews.


People are strongly motivated to maintain psychological security, or equanimity, which causes them to process and act on information in ways that are favorable to protecting against anxiety (i.e., psychological “defense”). People rely on at least three interlocking mechanisms to maintain security—investment in social relationships, self-esteem, and meaningful worldviews—and these mechanisms perfuse nearly every aspect of life. By consequence, people’s political beliefs, attitudes, and leadership preferences reflect motivated efforts to maintain security. Research derived from terror management theory and related theories of security maintenance shows that security needs influence political decision making in three major ways. First, they amplify people’s affinity for political stances that affirm their preexisting worldviews and bolster their sense of belongingness, affiliation, and esteem. Second, security needs tend to draw people toward conservative viewpoints; however, a more potent consequence might be to harden or polarize existing political stances. Finally, security needs cause attraction to charismatic and powerful political personalities (i.e., politicians). Although the theoretical basis for these conclusions is strong, and there is research to support them, it remains challenging to apply this analysis to specific persons, situations, and political issues because it is not always clear which security-relevant facets within complex circumstances will be most salient or influential. Nevertheless, a security-based analysis of political decision making has impressive explanatory potential and helps observers to understand polarization and “tribal” tendencies in politics, among other things.