PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION Historical Context, Underlying Assumptions, Perspectives on Religion Historical Context USA TENSION & OPPORTUNITIES The psychological study of religion in the USA 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. BIOGRAPHICAL APPROACH Many psychological theorists have had interesting perspectives on religion: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. William James (1842-1910) Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) Alfred Adler (1870-1937) Carl Jung (1875-1961) Gordon Allport (1897-1967) Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) Erik Erikson (1902-1994) WILLIAM JAMES (1842-1910) Major work, Varieties of Religious James distinguished between institutional religion and personal religion. Experience – Institutional Religion: This refers to the religious group or organization, and plays an important part in society’s culture. – Personal Religion: This refers to the individual who has a mystical experience, one that can be experienced regardless of the culture. SIGMUND FREUD (1856-1939) Freud laid the foundation for psychoanalysis which has had tremendous influence on modern culture. In his broad theories, he attempted to explain how we are influenced by past events and by things outside our conscious awareness. FREUD…PSYCHOANALYSIS As a therapy, psychoanalysis is based on the observation that individuals are often unaware of many of the factors that determine their emotions and behavior. These unconscious factors may create unhappiness, sometimes in the form of recognizable symptoms and at other times as troubling personality traits, difficulties in work or in love relationships, or disturbances in mood and selfesteem. Because these forces are unconscious, the advice of friends and family, the reading of self-help books, or even the most determined efforts of will, often fail to provide relief. PSYCHOANALYSIS… Freud suggested that people experience conflicts between what they do (represented by our ID) and what we are told by society and parents that we should do (represented by our Superego). This conflict is resolved by the Ego. Freud viewed religion as originating in the child’s relationship to the father; hence in many cultures God is viewed as a Heavenly Father. In this way, religion reflects an attempt to fulfill our wishes and is an illusion. The popularity of the psychoanalytic perspective has declined to 10% in the APA and 5% in the APS. However, psychoanalytic interpretations of religion remain popular in some circles. ALFRED ADLER (1870-1937) Primary work portraying his ideas, Individual Psychology One of Adler’s most famous ideas is that we try to compensate for inferiorities that we perceive in ourselves. A lack of power often is at the root of inferiority. One way religion enters into this picture is through our beliefs in God, which are characteristic of our tendency to strive for perfection and superiority. ADLER: RELIGION AS COMPENSATORY Example: In many religions God is considered to be perfect and omnipotent, and commands people likewise to be perfect. If we too achieve perfection, we become one with God. By identifying with God in this way, we compensate for our imperfections and feelings of inferiority. ADLER: GOD AS MOTIVATOR Adler is interested mainly in the idea of God as a motivator, and not in the question of whether or not God exists. What is important is that “God” (conceptually) motivates people to act. Adler suggests that we are left with two options: ADLER: OUR OPTIONS 1. 2. We can either assume that we are at the center of the world –both ours and God’s –and that God will care for us as we wait passively for attention, or… We can assume that we are the center of the world, and actively work to achieve society’s interest. Adler’s point is that if we assume that we have power over our surroundings, then we will act in ways to benefit the world around us. Our view of God is important because it embodies our goals and directs our social interactions. ADLER: SOCIAL IMPACT According to Adler, religion is important in that it exerts a great influence on our social environment, and represents a powerful social movement. When compared to science (another social movement), religion is more advanced because it motivates people more effectively. Adler’s assertion was that only when science begins to capture the same motivational fervor as religion, will the two be equal in the public’s eyes? CARL JUNG (1875-1961) Jung was concerned with the interplay between conscious and unconscious forces. He proposed two kinds of unconsciousness: 1. Personal Unconscious (or shadow): This includes things about ourselves that we would like to forget. 2. Collective Unconscious: This refers to events that we all share by virtue of our common heritage (humanity). JUNG: ARCHETYPES The word "archetype" was coined by Carl Jung, who theorized that humans have a collective unconscious, "deposits of the constantly repeated experiences of humanity.... a kind of readiness to reproduce over and over again the same or similar mythical ideas...." This shared memory of experiences has resulted in a resonance of the concepts of hero and heroine (or, gods and goddesses) that transcends time, place and culture. Jung called these recurring personalities archetypes, from the Greek word archetypos, meaning “first of its kind.” GORGON ALLPORT (1897-1967) Classic work, The Individual and His Religion Allport made important contributions to the psychology of personality, refining the concept of “traits.” Allport classified the use of religion as: 1. Mature: Mature religious sentiment occurs when a person’s approach to religion is dynamic, open-minded, and able to maintain links between inconsistencies. 2. Immature: Immature religious sentiment is self-serving and generally represents the negative stereotypes that people have about religion. ABRAHAM MASLOW (1908-1970) Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs, ranging from lower level physiological needs, through love and belonging, to self-actualization. Self-actualized people are those who have reached their potential for self-development. Maslow claimed that mystics are more likely to have had “peak experiences,” experiences in which the person feels a sense of ecstasy and oneness with the universe. Maslow’s theory of “psychological health” is value-based. ERIK ERIKSON (1902-1994) Erikson is best known for his psychology of development. Erikson believed that proper psychological development occurs in a series of eight stages that follow a sequence. Associated with each stage is an identity conflict involving a positive resolution (or, “virtue”) and a negative resolution (or, “pathology”). Erikson considered religions to be important influences in successful personality development, promoting virtues and prohibiting pathologies. UNDERLYING ASSUMPTIONS THE PLACE OF RELIGION IN AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGY UNDERLYING ASSUMPTION The Psychological Assumption of Reductionism: This view asserts that scientists understand something by examining the effects of its component parts (phenomena, observable to the senses) and as such is at odds with the religious assumption that the world cannot be taken at face value (i.e., there is “more than meets the eye”). UNDERLYING ASSUMPTION… Psychologists who study other phenomena assume that those phenomena are real. Those psychologists who study religion address it as a reality that can be received only in a “state of faith.” This sets up a tension between psychology and religion. For example: The act of faith is so critical to religious knowledge and experience, but in psychology skepticism (all knowledge is uncertain, contra. dogmatism that asserts a matter of opinion as though it were fact) is an enduring value, but in religion it is an intermediate step on the pathway to belief. The methods and theories (assumptions) of psychology have appeared to be incompatible with the more subjective and experiential methods of religion. PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES SCHOOLS OF PSYCHOLOGY Psychoanalytical Analytical Object Relations Unconscious motives for religious beliefs (Freud) Reduces religious belief to some natural attempt to cope with life. “Archetypes” Considered by explain most religious belief psychologists as (Jung) “unscientific” Maternal Methodology: influence on Case Studies and the child Group Samples (Freud) Transpersonal Confronts spirituality directly, often assuming the spiritual phenomena are real (Maslow) Small, but growing influence among psychologists. Phenomenological Favor description and critical reflection over experimentation and measurement. Methodology: Experience-based and reflective in analysis. Measurement Use mainstream scientific psychological methods (experimentation and correlation) to study religious life (Allport) Methodology: Measure belief according to certain social behaviors and attitudes.