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Celebrity Worship and Religion Revisited

Article  in  Implicit Religion · December 2013

DOI: 10.1558/imre.v16i3.319-328


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4 authors, including:

Lynn McCutcheon Robert Lowinger

North American Journal of Psychology Marshall University


Maria M Wong
Idaho State University


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The Journal of Psychology, 2004, 138(3), 286–288

Replications and Refinements

Under this heading are brief reports of studies providing
data that substantiate, disprove, or refine what we think we
know. These Notes consist of a summary of the study’s
procedure and as many details about the results as space
allows. Additional details concerning the results can be obtained by
communicating directly with the author.

Celebrity and Religious Worship:

A Refinement
School of Psychology
University of Leicester, England.


lated on the possible relationship between celebrity worship and religious
worship. Although a close relationship between attitudes toward famous per-
sons and attitudes toward religion may not be obvious, there are theoretical
arguments proposing possible relationships between these variables. First,
within the Christian religion, the Ten Commandments forbid the worship of
anyone other than God, and this suggests that there should be a negative rela-
tionship between celebrity worship and religiosity. Second, authors such as
Giles (2000) and Jindra (1994) extended this idea by likening those who wor-
ship celebrities to those who engage in religious worship. Giles pointed to the
devotion, bordering on reverence, with which some celebrities are viewed. For
instance, illicit behavior by stars is often forgiven and explained away where-
as similar behavior by noncelebrities is not. Jindra suggested that some fan
behavior, such as Star Trek fans at conventions, often resembles religious acts
and practices of organized religions.

Address correspondence to John Maltby, School of Psychology, University of Leicester,

University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH, United Kingdom; (e-mail).

Maltby 287

To examine these hypotheses, Maltby et al. (2002) compared participants’

scores on a number of frequently used religiosity measures (religious orientation:
intrinsic, extrinsic, and quest) against scores on the Celebrity Attitude Scale
(McCutcheon, Lange, & Houran, 2002). Results indicated that as religiosity
increased for both men and women, the tendency to worship celebrities decreased,
which supported the first theoretical account that celebrity worship and religiosity
were negatively associated. However, the mean of the 12 relationships reported was
only –.20, accounting for less than 4% of the variance and suggesting that many
religious people apparently ignore the religious teaching that thou shalt worship no
other Gods, or fail to connect it to their worship of celebrities
One possible refinement to the previous consideration by Maltby et al.
(2002) is to use a different measure of religiosity, that of religious puritanism.
Religious puritanism is thought to differ from the religious orientation measures
used in Maltby et al. in that this religious dimension is part of the Wilson descrip-
tion of conservatism as a reflection of a preference for existing and traditional
ideas (Wilson, 1973, 1975).
Specifically, Wilson describes religious puritanism as a person’s concern for
divine law and church authority that can be measured by using the Wilson–Pat-
terson Attitude Inventory (Wilson, 1975) and is reflected in responses favoring a
belief in concepts such as church authority (Item 12), divine law (Item 5), Bible
truth (Item 30), and Sabbath observance (Item 35). Consequently, if the theory
that celebrity worship is negatively related to religiosity as a result of following
one of the Ten Commandments is to be properly tested, then it should be against
a measure of religiosity that reflects an adherence to divine law, Bible truth, and
church authority.
I tested this hypothesis by administering the Celebrity Attitude Scale
(McCutcheon et al., 2002) and the Religious Puritanism subscale from the Wil-
son–Patterson Attitude Inventory (Wilson, 1975) to 257 undergraduate students
(123 men and 134 women) at the University of Leicester (mean age = 20.3, SD
= 4.2). I computed a Pearson product–moment correlation coefficient (two-
tailed) between the two measures and found a significant negative correlation
between attitudes toward celebrity worship and religious puritanism (r = –.48,
p < .01).
The present findings are consistent with previous findings in that they show
a negative relationship between celebrity worship and religiosity, but the nega-
tive relationship between attitude toward celebrity worship and religious puri-
tanism was more pronounced in the present study, suggesting a larger variance
shared between the two variables (23%). Therefore, the conclusions of Maltby et
al. (2002), suggesting that many religious people apparently ignore the religious
teaching that “Thou shalt worship no other Gods” or fail to connect it to their
“worship” of celebrities needs revising. The present finding suggests that reli-
gious individuals who show an adherence to divine law and church authority tend
to ignore celebrity worship in preference for religious worship.
288 The Journal of Psychology

Giles, D. (2000). Illusions of immortality: A psychology of fame and celebrity. London:
Jindra, M. (1994). Star Trek fandom as a religious phenomenon. Soiciology of Religion,
55, 27–51.
Maltby, J., Houran, J., Lange, R., Ashe, D., & McCutcheon, L. E. (2002). Thou shalt wor-
ship no other gods—Unless they are celebrities: The relationship between celebrity
worship and religious orientation. Personality and Individual Differences, 32,
McCutcheon, L. E., Lange, R., & Houran, J. (2002). Conceptualization and measurement
of celebrity worship. British Journal of Psychology, 93, 67–87.
Wilson, G. D. (1973). The concept of conservatism. In G. D. Wilson (Ed.), The psychol-
ogy of conservatism (pp. 3–16). London: Academic Press.
Wilson, G. D. (1975). Manual for the Wilson–Patterson Attitude Inventory. Windsor, Eng-
land: National Foundation for Educational Research.

Original manuscript received August 18, 2003

Final revision accepted October 30, 2003
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