I’ve often seen INFJs described as an intensely spiritual type. Yet a little while ago, in an online INFJ group, someone posted that most INFJs are atheist or agnostic. Being a type that appreciates truth, someone else set up a poll trying to see if that was really the case.
It’s a small, volunteer sample group, but the results were interesting. 36% identified as atheist, agnostic or non-religious. That’s the same percentage that identified with a Christian religious sect. The remaining 28% identified as “spiritual” or with a non-Christian religion.
INFJs approach religion much like we approach everything else: with an open, inquisitive mind looking for patterns, especially those relating to people. Our relationship with spirituality largely depends on how we were raised and the direction our lives took from there. But it also depends on our journeys of personal growth, how the religions we encounter line-up with our convictions, and whether or not faith “makes sense” to us.
The Hypocrisy Factor
Many INFJs I’ve seen talking about being non-religious started out in a church of some sort and then left. As with many people who leave churches, hypocrisy is often cited as the reason. INFJs are exceptionally good at detecting deception. We can read people well and pick up on inconsistencies in their patterns of behavior very quickly. At the same time, we want to believe the best of people and it can take a long time for us to admit someone who we value would betray us.
When we do “wake up” to deception or decide we’ve had enough, the reaction is typically quick and decisive (hence the INFJ door slam). A hurt, disillusioned INFJ might door slam the people who betrayed them, religion itself, or even God. Some shift to a different religion that lines-up with their core values. Some maintain a sense of spiritualism without any sort of structure that could qualify as “religion.” Others reject religion entirely.
It Has to Make Sense
INFJs are rarely described as “sensible.” But even at our most otherworldly and abstract, we want things to make sense to us. It doesn’t have to fit anyone else’s way of thinking, but it has to fit the INFJ. We don’t appreciate self-deception any more than we do having someone else mislead us.
If an INFJ’s religious beliefs don’t fit into how they believe the world works, they won’t be happy. Religion should make the world make more, not less, sense to an INFJ. If it doesn’t, they’ll find another explanation (typically turning to science and rational thinking, perhaps blended with spirituality).
INFJs are content with recognizing not everything can be explained in a logical fashion, but they want their beliefs to fit with the explanations they have. If we put our faith in something larger than ourselves, we want it to answer questions for us and be a safe place to ask more questions about life, the universe, and everything.
Why Some of Us Stay
INFJs seek connection to something larger than ourselves, and many of us do that within a spiritual belief system. We often find belonging in an established religion, but it’s also an INFJ thing to walk out your own beliefs in your own way. The more mature, confident, and comfortable with themselves an INFJ is, the more they’ll “do their own thing.” It’ll be in a peaceful, respectful, and non-confrontational fashion (unless you try to hurt an innocent or cross us on a deeply held principle), but we will stay true to our convictions.
Personally, I hit a point in my late teen years where I nearly walked away from organized religion. I think a large part of why I didn’t was that my family always encouraged developing a relationship with God independent of any church group. But they also taught me that fellowship with other believers is important and I shouldn’t blame God or good people for the actions of the bad apples in any given group. Over a few rather trying years, both those things became part of my personal beliefs rather than just something I’d been taught. At the same time, my faith in God deepened and became so much a part of who I am that I define myself as “Christian” before anything else, including INFJ.
I’m sure many religious INFJs have a similar story. There was a point where you had to decide what you believed and how you were going to live your life, regardless of what other people thought, said, or did. If you’re happily, devotedly attached to a faith it’s likely because it has become part of your core identity.
What about you? What has your religious and/or spiritual journey as an INFJ (or any other type who wants to weigh-in) looked like?