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Psychology of Religion

Psychology of Religion


From the perspective of science and religion, there exist three kinds of psychology of religion. "Secular" empirical psychology (e.g., Hood) the most widely practiced excludes the question of the transcendent and researches religious experiences and behavior in terms of meaningful psychological concepts such as cognition, emotion, motivation, attribution, social interaction, and development. The two other kinds are more mission-oriented. "Theistic" religious psychology (e.g., Koteskey; cf. Reich) includes the transcendent and aims to understand God's creation and make people more God-like by improving their mental functioning, their moral judgment, their empathy and so forth. "Atheistic" psychology of religion (e.g. Kurtz; Vetter) aims primarily to demonstrate the illusion of a perceived transcendent and the regressive and oppressive effects of being religious.

See also Freud, Sigmund; Psychology; Self


Bibliography

hood, ralph w., jr.; spilka, bernard; hunsberger, bruce; and gorsuch, richard l., eds. the psychology of religion. an empirical approach. new york: guilford, 1996.

koteskey, ronald l. psychology from a christian perspective. lanham, md.: university press of america, 2002.

kurtz, paul. the transcendental temptation: a critique of religion and the paranormal. buffalo, n.y.: prometheus books, 1991.

reich, k. helmut. "scientist vs. believer?: on navigating between the scilla of scientific norms and the charybdis of personal experience." journal of psychology and theology 28, no. 3 (200): 190-200.

vetter, george b. magic and religion: their psychological nature, origin, and function. new york: philosophical library, 1958.

wulff, david m. psychology of religion: classic and contemporary. new york: wiley, 1997.

k. helmut reich

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Psychology of religion

Psychology of religion. The field of study which employs psychological techniques and theories to explore and explain religious phenomena. In the W., various schools of psychology have given birth to different treatments of religion. Theories have been taken from associational psychology ( J. G. Frazer's The Golden Bough, 1890–1937), from psychoanalysis ( S. Freud, C. G. Jung), from social psychology (as surveyed by M. Argyle and B. Beit-Hallahmi in The Social Psychology of Religion, 1975), and from cognitive psychology (see L. Festinger, When Prophecy Fails, 1956, and D. Sperber's Rethinking Symbolism, 1975). The most influential of these approaches has been psychoanalytic theory, specifically in the psychodynamic form.

In most cultures, however, psychologies are less ‘of’ religious life than they are integral to it. Since religions must address participants as well as whatever is taken to be ultimate, they contain their own psychologies. The most sophisticated, and, it appears, efficacious indigenous psychologies appear in the great Eastern traditions (see e.g. Rama et al., Yoga and Psychotherapy, 1976), but there are countless other examples (e.g. V. Turner on rites of passage and curing rituals).

The most frequently met aim of indigenous psychologies ‘of’ religion is transformative. The aim of Western, supposedly more scientific psychologies of religion is explanatory.

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