Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality

By Ellens, J. Harold | Journal of Psychology and Christianity, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality


Ellens, J. Harold, Journal of Psychology and Christianity


HANDBOOK OF THE PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY, Raymond F. Paloutzian and Crystal L. Park (Eds.). NY: The Guilford Press, 2005. Pp. 590 + xvii. Cloth, npi. Reviewed by J. Harold Ellens.

Dr. Paloutzian is Professor of Experimental and Social Psychology at Westmont College, past president of Division 30 of the APA, and author of Invitation to the Psychology of Religion. He edits The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. His colleague, Dr. Park, is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Connecticut. Like Paloutzian, she has been the president of Division 36 and is Associate Editor of Psychology and Health, as well as an editorial board member for the Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology and The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. Such credentials suggest that we may expect a watershed volume in this new handbook. Our expectations are fully rewarded. This is a tour de force of scientific scholarship, skillful organization, and precise editing. The Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality will be the definitive work on the subject for at least the next century.

The editors have brought together substantive essays by 45 notable scholars, including such stellar figures as Roy F. Baumeister of Florida State, Jacob A. Beizen of the University of Amsterdam, Peter C. Hill of Rosemead, Ralph W. Hood, Jr. of the University of Tennessee, the late Bruce Hunsberger of Wilfred Laurier, Annette Mahoney of Bowling Green, Susan H. McFadden of Wisconsin (Oshkosh), Bernard Spilke of Denver (Emeritus), and Carl F. Thoresen of Stanford (Emeritus). They have organized these essays into thirty chapters in the following five sections: Foundations of the Psychology of Religion, Religion Through the Developmental Lens, Religion and Basic Psychology Subdisciplines, The Construction and Expression of Religion, and Psychology of Religion and Applied Areas.

Part I has six chapters on Integrative Themes, Spirituality, Measurement, Research Methods, Psychodynamic Psychologies, and Evolutionary Psychology. Part II offers three chapters on religious and spiritual development through the life cycle from childhood to old age, and a fourth on marriage and parenting. The five chapters of the third part discuss neuropsychology and religious experience, cognitive psychologies, emotions and religion, the role of personality, and how religion, attitudes, and social behavior interrelate. The eighth chapter of Part IV focuses specifically on meaning issues, spiritual experiences, conversion and transformation, mysticism, ritual and prayer, Fundamentalism and authoritarianism, forgiveness, and morality and self control (values, virtues, and vices). Part V has seven chapters on spirituality and health, psychopathology, coping, clinical and counseling psychology, advocacy of science, violence and terrorism, and a futurist view of the integration of psychology and religion.

David Meyers of Hope College, nationally known for his work in Christian perspectives on Social Psychology, and notable for his empirical studies, observed that Paloutzian and Park have assembled in this comprehensive volume a stateof-the-art review of the burgeoning psychological science of religion. "From every angle, leading investigators explore religion's roots and fruits. For students and scholars of psychology-religion studies" this is an absolutely essential resource. Much of the previously published work on the psychology of religion has been clinical in orientation, but this volume, as can be seen from the list of chapter subjects, treats the entire spectrum of relevant disciplines and issues relating to the empirical and philosophical science of psychology and the phenomenological and heuristic world of the data on spiritual experience.

Paloutzian indicates that the driving force behind his interest in this specific area of study has been a desire to find out about the real world through the lens of psychology, particularly that aspect of real life that may be more central than others, namely, human religious experiences, practices, expectations, and behaviors. …

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