Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality

Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality

Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality

Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality

Synopsis

From foremost authorities in the field, this comprehensive volume synthesizes the breadth of current knowledge on the psychological processes underlying spirituality, religious behavior, and religious experience. Presented are cutting-edge theories, conceptual frameworks, methodologies, and empirical findings emerging from all psychological subdisciplines. Coverage includes the neural and cognitive bases of religiousness; social, personality, and developmental issues; religion as a meaning system; and implications for behavior, mental health, and clinical practice. Seamlessly edited, the Handbook provides a definitive portrait of the current state of the science, fosters the development of integrative theory, and identifies vital directions for future research.

Excerpt

As with any creative work, we had a mix of professional and personal reasons for working together to create this handbook. The compelling scholarly reason was that the time for it had come. From time to time, in any area of inquiry, the accumulated knowledge progresses to such a degree that a new level of maturity becomes identifiable. The psychology of religion is at this stage now. We see it reflected in the nature of the research questions asked, the range of topics investigated, the sophistication of the research methods used, the adequacy of the theoretical advancements to account for and integrate the increasing body of data, and the connections between research in the psychology of religion and scholarship in other areas of psychology and allied fields. Throughout this volume, the contributors document myriad indicators that the psychology of religion as a field has reached this level of maturity. One indicator is that many of our colleagues now call this area of research “the psychology of religion and spirituality.” We hope this book firmly documents this maturity and serves to guide research and theory in this field to its next level of development.

Our personal reasons for working on this handbook reflect our commitment to study what we think is of timeless importance: people's quest for and involvement in religion and spirituality. For Ray: My interest goes back to my graduate education, in the heydays of the 1960s, when a new generation of doctoral students in psychology decided to research topics that they considered relevant to the real world. Psychologists began to study every imaginable social issue, including prejudice, racism, sexism, gender, poverty, aggression and violence, and the effects of mass media. But nowhere did I see psychologists tackling one of the biggest issues of all: religion. I figured that if psychology was going to take the challenge to be relevant to real-world issues seriously, it was going to have to deal with religion and its then-budding alternative expression, spirituality. Since that time, the importance of the study of the psychology of religion and spirituality has advanced to a degree that I could not previously have imagined.

For Crystal: My interest in existential issues of dealing with loss and making meaning long preceded my awareness of the discipline of psychology. Early in my graduate career, I was drawn to the study of the influence of religion and spiritual influences on coping with stressful life events, and I have continued to pursue a greater understanding of these fundamental processes of human experience in my life as a scholar, a clinician, and a human being.

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