Concepts & Trends

Psychology and Religion

Contents and definitions of religion and psychology, their relations and effects to each other and the effect of personality on religion will be discussed in this paper. Religion is a belief system which includes values, special rituals, supernatural
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  PSYCHOLOGY AND RELIGION 1 Psychology and Religion Çağla Bulut  University of Zadar Address correspondence to: Çağla Bulut  University of Zadar Ul. Mihovila Pavlinovića, 23000  Zadar/Croatia E-mail:    PSYCHOLOGY AND RELIGION 2 Abstract Contents and definitions of religion and psychology, their relations and effects to each other and the effect of personality on religion will be discussed in this paper. Religion is a belief system which includes values, special rituals, supernatural facts, and beings. Psychology is a science which studies on human mind and behavior systemically. Both the religion and  psychology concern about people and their inner world that’s why they have connection s to each other. Personality characteristics may affect and specify people’s religion and beliefs.  Keywords : religion, psychology, personality, belief  PSYCHOLOGY AND RELIGION 3 Psychology and Religion Religion Religion means a set of beliefs which concern about the universe’s cause, purpose , and nature, religion considers that there is a superhuman power or powers who create the universe and it also involves rituals and commitment. Moreover, religion contains moral rules which should lead human behaviors. According to James and Mandaville (2010), all different religions may have their own and different elements such as sacred objects, supernatural individual or individuals, faith, etc. There are a lot of religious practices such as rituals, sacrifices, prayer, funerary, meditation, praying, music, dance, etc. Brodd (2003) claimed that there are 10.000 different religions in the world which are detected. He also stated that  besides this, approximately eighty-five percent of people believe in one of the five biggest religions which are Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. There are also kind of people who don’t believe any religion such as atheists or agnostics and the number of them is increasing day by day (Vergote, 1996). Theology is an academic discipline which examines religions and all belief systems. Psychology Psychology is a science which systematically examines individuals’ minds and  behaviors. Organisms’ behaviors that are directly obser  vable and also complicated mental  processes that can’t be observed directly like thinking, imagining, remembering and dreaming are part of an examination area of psychology (Gerrig, 2013). Inner processes such as  perception, attention, motivation, emotion, intelligence, personality; interpersonal relationship  processes such as love, conflict and harmony in marriage, attachment between mother and children; in-group such as conformity to group and conformism or intergroup relationships  processes such as prejudice and discrimination between groups are the topics that psychology  PSYCHOLOGY AND RELIGION 4 study on. Psychology can study both human beings and animals. Aims of psychology are defining the mental processes and behaviors, clarify the reasons and formation processes of them, foreseeing what type of changes or enhancements occur on them and control all these  processes. Researches and studies are conducted in the direction of these aims with experimental and correlational methods. Data that psychology produce is used in a lot of areas in life. For example, in diagnosis and treatments of mental illnesses, in the resolution of  people’s adaptation problem in school, family or work or leaving the negative behaviors about traffic and environmental problems and gaining positive attitudes and behaviors are the areas that psychology is useful. Relationship Between Psychology and Religion Conflicts Between Science and Religion There is a well-known conflict between science and religion for centuries. There was no conflict until the sixteenth century. The first problems between these two subjects started when Copernicus claimed that earth is not in the middle and center of the universe and it turns around the sun which have many conflicts with the Bible (Argyle, 2000). Other and one of the  biggest conflicts between science and religion is about evolution. Darwin (1859), stated that human species developed from monkeys just by chance and there was no special creation and  purpose behind this which is against religion. For resolving these problems, they started to say that science deals with the physical world while religion deals with the human’s inner world. But the problem is psychology explains and studies with people’s inner world too. History of Psychology and Religion Especially after the twentieth century, psychologists started to examine and try to understand the religion’s, belief’s and behaviors’ psychological bases with the aim of applying this information for the goodness of humanity. After the pioneers, attention to these topics weas declined between the 1920s and 1960s. Hester (1998) stated that because of the  PSYCHOLOGY AND RELIGION 5 social upheavals in the 1960s, they became aware of that they should use their psychological knowledge to study and deal with real-life issues such as sexism, violence, and prejudice. As the most powerful social force and include human beings, religion is among them too. We can understand the development level of an area by looking at numbers and frequency of books that are published about this area. Gorsuch (1988) stated that when other areas of psychology were enhanced and had gone beyond, the psychology of religion had made no headway even as late as the 1980s. There were no enough books about the psychology of religion until the 1980s, but things changed in 80s and textbooks which are about the psychology of religion were published rapidly (Emmons & Paloutzian, 2003). Especially after APA Division 36, Psychology of Religion was published in 1976, this area enhanced. Moreover, this area of  psychology improved thanks to increasing dialogue and connections between religion  psychologists and other experts who specialize in evolutionary biology, cognitive science,  philosophy, etc. Emmons and Paloutzian (2003) stated that the reason for this is only one discipline’s approach is not enough and capable of clarify ing complex concepts such as spirituality. Psychology of Religion Basic behavioral processes of human are learned by psychology by looking at and studying how people practice religion and sustain their faith (Baumeister, 2002). There are different fields of psychology such as memory, coping with stress, love, sexuality, depression, attachment, happiness, prejudice, authority, culture, etc. In the other hand, religion enhances and enriches all of these fields and also is enriched and enhanced by them. Psychology examines human behaviors and consciousness and even can clarify and give explanations about why people believe religions. It also studies on beliefs and moral behaviors similarly. So, psychology examines a lot of topics that are accepted as religion’s topics in a very different and scientific way.
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