Abstract: In today’s society the field of psychology and the study of religion have hardly ever set will with one another. New information is being composed about the two fields working together, this paper is a brief description of those ideas and thoughts.
The psychological study of religion in the United States illustrates tensions and opportunities that exist between psychology and religion. It also demonstrates the multifaceted views taken by psychologists as they address areas of living that have personal implications. Following the early period, American psychology’s push toward behaviorism resulted in the neglect of spiritual matters. The reductionism methods of behaviorism left little room for matters of faith, or for any other theoretical constructs that were not measured directly. Consequently, psychology left religion for other topic that were considered to be more scientific and several decades of neglect ensued. Psychologist’ interest in religion resumed in the 1950’s. Gordon Allport’s (1950) attempt to describe the role of religion in people’s experience began his indelible mark on the field, and to this day his Intrinsic-Extrinsic distinction in religious motivation remains the most influential approach in psychological studies of religion in the United States. In the years since then, several developments have combined to suggest, according to the traditional view of psychology of religion, that the fields is experiencing a resurgence of interest. These include the establishment of professional journals giving an outlet to psychological study of religion, and the apparently increasing availability of college classes focusing on psychology of religion.
Psychologists who study religion, however, address “ an object whose reality can be received only in the state of faith” (p.32). the act of belief is critical to religious knowledge and experience. In psychology, skepticism is an enduring value, but in religion it is an intermediate step on the pathway to belief. This sets up a tension between psychology and religion, which results in psychologists having low rates of religious activity, when compared to other scientific and academic groups (Richards & Bergin, 1997). The methods and assumptions favored by psychology have appeared to be incompatible with the more subjective and experiential methods of religion despite recent efforts to harmonize the two (Richards & Bergin, 1997).
Ralph Hood (1998), a major figure in American psychology of religion, suggests six psychological schools of thought regarding religion. The psychoanalytical schools draw from the work of Freud, and attempt to reveal unconscious motives for religious belief. Although Freud reduced religious belief to a natural, if ultimately flawed, attempt to cope with life’s stresses; contemporary psychoanalytic interpretations are not necessarily...