The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach

The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach

The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach

The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach

Synopsis

A textbook for graduate or undergraduate students of psychology planning to enter any specialty of the profession. It is not concerned with purely conceptual or philosophical discussions of religion, or with theories that have little empirical support. Much of the material is based on attribution th

Excerpt

At the beginning of the 20th century, those who were to become highly esteemed figures in the history of psychology and its sister disciplines focused much of their interest and attention upon religion. In academic psychology, names such as William James and G. Stanley Hall not only helped to found psychology, but manifested great interest in the psychological study of religion. In psychoanalysis, a new field was created outside of academic psychology that nevertheless immensely influenced psychology. One cannot read Freud or Jung for long without encountering extensive discussions of religion.

The second quarter of the 20th century saw a rapid decline in the study of religion among psychologists. Behaviorism was indifferent to the topic, while psychoanalysts relegated it to the province of psychopathology. The net effect was that research in this area remained on the periphery of scientific respectability. The mid-1950s, however, saw a renaissance in the study of religion. Perhaps more secure as a science, psychology could once again look with some interest upon the serious investigation of religion. This time the study was less speculative, not as concerned with grand theory, and focused on issues other than the origin of religion. In a word, an empirical psychology of religion emerged. This was a more limited view, to be sure, but it demanded that statements about religion be formulated as hypotheses capable of empirical verification or falsification.

In rapid succession, journals devoted to the empirical study of religion emerged in the middle of the last century. Among these are the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Journal of Religion and Health, the Review of Religious Research, and the Journal of Psychology and Theology. More recently, additional journals and annuals have appeared, including the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, the Journal of the Psychology of Religion, Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, and (most recently) Mental Health, Religion and Culture. Specific religious interests have also sponsored such publications as the Journal of Psychology and Christianity and The Psychology of Judaism. In 1988 the Annual Review of Psychology included, for the first time, a summary of the psychology of religion, affirming by its presence that a significant body of empirical research in the area is now available. As this text goes to press, a second Annual Review of Psychology summary has been completed. Likewise, the Archiv für Religionspsychologie (Archives for the Psychology of Religion), the yearbook of the Internationale Gesellschaft für Religionspsychologie (International Association for the Psychology of Religion), founded in 1914, has been revived; this indicates that the psychology of religion has proven to be a topic of truly international interest. The pertinent literature continues to grow at a rapid rate across the globe. The domination of interpretative and conceptual discussions of religion in psychology is gradually yielding to data-based research and writing that are pulling the psychology of religion into the main-

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