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[Ebook PDF] The Psychology of Religion, Fifth Edition: An Empirical Approach, 5th Edition
Keeping up with the rapidly growing research base, the leading graduate-level psychology of religion text is now in a fully updated fifth edition. It takes a balanced, empirically driven approach to understanding the role of religion in individual functioning and social behavior. Integrating research on numerous different faith traditions, the book addresses the quest for meaning; links between religion and biology; religious thought, belief, and behavior across the lifespan; experiential dimensions of religion and spirituality; the social psychology of religious organizations; and connections to coping, adjustment, and mental disorder. Chapter-opening quotations and topical research boxes enhance the readability of this highly instructive text.
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 on religion. In academic psychology, scholars such as William James and G. Stanley Hall not only helped to found psychology but manifested a 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 as psychology became more secure as a science, it could once again look with some interest into 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 were the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Journal of Religion and Health, and the Review of Religious Research, as well as three journals with specific religious interests: the Journal of Psychology and Theology, the Journal of Psychology and Christianity, and the Journal of Psychology and Judaism. More recently, additional journals and annuals have appeared, including The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion; Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion; Mental Health, Religion and Culture; and Spirituality and Health International. Since the fourth edition of this text was published, the American Psychological Association has introduced the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.
Likewise, the Archiv für Religionspsychologie (Archive for the Psychology of Religion), once the yearbook of the Internationale Gesellschaft für Religionspsychologie (International Association for the Psychology of Religion), founded in 1914, has been revived and is now published as a journal; 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. Specialty journals such as the Journal of Muslim Mental Health address religious traditions other than Christianity, which has been long dominant in the work of American scholars of the psychology of religion. 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 mainstream of academic psychology.
Likewise, several general and specialty handbooks focusing largely on empirical studies of religion and spirituality have been published. The appearance of the fifth edition of this text is itself an indication of the vigor of our field. Finally, the psychology of religion is now a frequent topic in mainstream psychology journals, indicating the increased frequency of experimental studies in the field.
Our aim remains the same in the fifth edition as in the first four: to present a comprehensive evaluation of the psychology of religion from an empirical perspective. We are not concerned with purely conceptual or philosophical discussions of religion, or with theories that have little empirical support. Interesting as these approaches may be, they generate few, if any, hard data of relevance to their evaluation. We do not, however, ignore these theories when meaningful empirical predictions follow from their claims. When this occurs, they are considered, as are other hypotheses, tentative claims to be judged by the facts. We have not imposed a single theoretical perspective across all the chapters. However, we do see the issue of meaning and control as the single most general theme running through each of the
chapters. We avoid siding unequivocally with any of the emerging grand theories, such as evolutionary psychology, that have been proposed to integrate the psychology of religion.
Likewise, we do not give exclusive dominance to a single empirical approach, such as cognitive science; nor do we unequivocally endorse emerging areas of psychology, such as positive psychology. Instead, these theories, approaches, and areas are integrated where relevant throughout the text. We simply approach the field from an empirical perspective, broadly conceived to include any studies in which either quantitative or qualitative data are germane to establishing and/or resolving questions of fact. Although we are sensitive to the difficulties and limitations of a purely empirical approach, we have not abandoned the commitment to empiricism as the single most fruitful avenue to understanding the psychology of religion.
However, as several of the chapters also reveal, the same empirical data can lend credence to radically different ontological claims. Since the work of William James, texts on the psychology of religion have suggested various metaphysical options under which the same empirical data can be viewed with radically different consequences. All we ask is that our readers not lose sight of the empirical data, so that various theoretical interpretations can be recognized and evaluated in terms of their relationship to these data.
While we retain the basic structure of the fourth edition, we have added much new material while trying to show the continuity of the field. However, as with the fourth edition, many chapters can be read independently, so instructors can reduce the range of material assigned on the basis of their own classes’ needs. The rich variety of empirical research that continues to be published is itself a testimony to the vitality of the field.
We briefly acknowledge three major cultural influences that have affected our field. The first is the growth of spirituality outside of organized religion. A glance at the references for the fifth edition reveals numerous titles that reference spirituality, not simply religion. In some areas, such as health, few studies refer to religion alone, and many titles reference both religion and spirituality. How this growth of spirituality has occurred, and why, is addressed throughout the text.
The second is the role of the John Templeton Foundation in funding projects concerned with the psychology of religion and spirituality. Various splinter foundations established as offshoots have also heavily funded the scientific study of religion and spirituality. We simply acknowledge, although not without criticism, that the availability of such funding sources often guides the direction and prominence of research agendas.
Finally, September 11, 2001, remains a crucial date for psychologists who study religion. Fundamentalism in all its forms has become a major issue. Even those who thought that religion could be ignored as a topic of study have recognized that religion continues to have a powerful influence on the course of history. Our hope is not only that this new edition fairly represents the research and scholarly literature, but also that it will encourage young psychologists to participate in the empirical study of religion, regardless of how they otherwise identify their own psychological expertise.