Date of Completion


Embargo Period



religious beliefs, well-being, suffering, theodicy, measurement, religion

Major Advisor

Crystal L. Park, Ph.D.

Associate Advisor

Daniel N. McIntosh, Ph.D.

Associate Advisor

Julie R. Fenster, Ph.D.

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Beliefs are central to all world religions, but there is limited data on the relationships between specific religious beliefs and well-being. This dissertation presents findings from two studies of beliefs about suffering using the Views of Suffering Scale (VOSS; Hale-Smith, Park, & Edmondson, 2012).

Study 1 was a cross-sectional validation study using an online sample of 1000 participants self-identified as Catholic, Protestant, Atheist/Agnostic, Hindu, Muslim, or Jewish. Measures included information regarding demographics and measures of religious history and beliefs. Results of Study 1 indicated differences in beliefs based on age, geographic region, religious affiliation, and how religious or spiritual participants were. The data indicated that the VOSS is a valid measure of beliefs across religious contexts in the United States.

Study 2 was a longitudinal study of beliefs, physical and mental well-being. Participants were 300 senior citizens who completed two surveys three months apart. Measures included demographics, religious beliefs about suffering, physical and mental health, attitudes toward God, stressful life events, the most stressful event experienced between Time 1 and Time 2, coping strategies, and perceptions of stress-related growth. Results indicated that many beliefs are related to well-being, sometimes mediated by optimism and negative attitudes towards God. Most relationships predicted poorer well-being on psychological rather than physical measures of health. Beliefs were also related to coping strategies and perceptions of growth in several ways. These studies represent some of the first psychological research conducted on religious beliefs about suffering and indicate that this is a rich area for further study.