If we analyze the concept of religion within a purely context, it is striking how it is considered a private phenomenon. That is to say, everyone professes it in their own intimacy and the exteriorization of certain religious symbols has gradually begun to lose its meaning. This phenomenon has been called secularism. People are religious, but they do not profess their faith to the four winds.

This, however, happens only in theory, because while the practice of minority religions is prohibited under the pretext of secularisation, majority religions continue to resonate in terms of collective acts, not to mention the relations still in force between representatives of majority religious cults and states.

Regardless of the social or legal norms that prevent or prevent certain religious practices, each person lives religion differently. In particular, regardless of their faith, people can live religion in three different ways.

Religion vs. religiosity

Before talking about religious orientation, it is good to make a distinction between religion and religiosity. Religions, by definition, are timeless and universal (they do not change with time or space); religiosity, on the contrary, is the way believers live religion. Religion is a subjective experience that depends on each religion and, in many cases, on the person: his way of living it and representing it.

In this sense, we understand that the way people live religion (their religiousness or religious orientation) need not necessarily coincide with the precepts proper to religion. Among all types of religiosity identified in different areas, social psychology highlights four types of religious orientations. They are the following: intrinsic orientation, extrinsic orientation, research orientation and religious fundamentalism.

Extrinsic and intrinsic religious motivation

Initially two categories were identified, the intrinsic and the extrinsic orientation. They served to differentiate between people who consider religious practices in an instrumental way – i.e. with the aim of obtaining personal or social benefits (e.g. group acceptance) – and people who consider religion as an end in itself (e.g. praying in private). In other words, people with an extrinsic orientation use religion, those with an intrinsic orientation find in religion a reason for living.

In this sense, people would present an intrinsic orientation when they consider faith an end in itself, a fundamental reason in life, an axis and an absolute criterion in their decisions. On the contrary, those who profess an extrinsic orientation consider religion in a utilitarian and instrumental way, as a simple means of obtaining one’s own interests and goals. In many people, as often happens, both types of motivations coexist.

Research orientation

Later, a new way of interpreting religion was added to the intrinsic and extrinsic orientations: the research-oriented one, which is based on fundamental questions concerning existence as a whole. People who profess this orientation perceive and live religious doubts in a positive way, and are open to possible changes related to religious issues.

The research orientation, as far as religion is concerned, stimulates and promotes an open and dynamic dialogue on the great existential questions that arise in the face of the contradictions and tragedies of life. Research orientation is professed by people who are cognitively open, critical and flexible. It can perhaps be defined as an attitudinal expression characterized by doubt and the search for personal identity.

Religious fundamentalism

Religious fundamentalism is defined as the belief in the existence of a series of religious teachings that give form to the fundamental truth about humanity and the divine essence. This essential truth is opposed to the forces of evil, which must be fought. This truth must still be followed today by following the fundamental and immutable practices of the past.

People who profess a fundamentalist vision claim to have a special relationship with the divine force. They firmly believe that their group is the only bearer of truth, that all others are wrong. This leads them to cultivate and preserve prejudices. Fundamentalists also tend to have an extrinsic orientation, while the intrinsic or research-oriented ideology of the fundamentalists is not a fundamentalist one.


The ways of living religion are multiple, characteristic of each group and in turn of each person. Although religion itself and the context in which it is lived can influence the way everyone lives their faith, each person adapts differently. It should not be forgotten that there is no better or worse way of living one’s religion. Nor is fundamentalist religious orientation in itself to be considered negative or worse than others.

The problem arises when one tries to impose one’s religious model on others. Adapting to a new form of religiosity is complicated and time-consuming, but as long as the respect of others prevails, living together can and must be peaceful. At the same time, not even states should impose a way of living religion or stimulate it without thinking about the consequences.