psychology of religion


Psychology of religion consists of the application of psychological methods and interpretive frameworks to the diverse contents of religious traditions as well as to both religious and irreligious individuals. The extraordinary range of methods and frameworks can be helpfully summed up regarding the classic distinction between the natural-scientific and human-scientific approaches. The first cluster proceeds by means of objective, quantitative, and preferably experimental procedures for testing hypotheses regarding the causal connections among the objects of one's study. In contrast, the human-scientific approach accesses the human world of experience using qualitative, phenomenological, and interpretive methods, with the goal of discerning meaningful rather than causal connections among the phenomena one seeks to understand. Psychologists of religion pursue three major projects: (1) systematic description, especially of religious contents, attitudes, experiences, and expressions; (2) explanation of the origins of religion, both in the history of the human race and in individual lives, taking into account a diversity of influences; and (3) mapping out the consequences of religious attitudes and conduct, both for the individual and for society at large. The psychology of religion first arose as a self-conscious discipline in the late 19th century, but all three of these tasks have a history going back many centuries before that.
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main subject: psychology of religion

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