Psychology of Religion

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Editors’ Picks, Summer 2018: Re-Experiencing Religious Experience

According to RSP Managing Editor, Tommy Coleman, "Anyone interested in stepping out the front door of their own discipline will find this podcast, like the book, contains tools for thinking you’d better not leave home without." During our "summer break", various members of the RSP editorial team will be sharing their thoughts on some podcasts from the RSP archive that they think you should listen to (again).
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Editors’ Picks, Summer 2018: The Resonance of Vestigial States

During our "summer break", various members of the RSP editorial team will be sharing their thoughts on some podcasts from the RSP archive that they think you should listen to (again). Editors' Picks, if you will. These aren't necessarily 'favourites', but just some podcasts that came to mind that the author has found useful for whatever reason.
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New Horizons in the Sociology of Religion: Beyond Secularization?

In this longer-than-usual episode, Chris and David provide an interlinking narrative between Grace Davie, Joe Webster, Carole Cusack, Jonathan Jong, Paul-Francois Tremlett, Linda Woodhead and Kim Knott, reflecting on current or future developments in the sociology of religion which challenge the ubiquity of the secularization thesis, ...
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Mysticism, Spirituality, and Boats at the IAPR 2015 World Congress

The International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR) 2015 World Congress was held on August 17th-20th. Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by Alex Uzdavines, a PhD student at Case Western Reserve University. The International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR) 2015 World Congress was held on August 17th-20th. Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by Alex Uzdavines, a PhD student at Case Western Reserve University.
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‘Religious’ and ‘Spiritual’ Struggles: Now in ‘Nonreligious’ and ‘Nonspiritual’ flavors!

In this interview, Dr. Julie Exline discusses what led to her interest in Struggles and some of the background behind the development of the Religious and Spiritual Struggle Scale. She goes on to talk about why the scale includes struggles relevant to both religious believers and nonbelievers and how this work related to some of her current work on god images in both groups.
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Workshop: ‘What is religious belief?’ report

The question ‘What is religious belief?’ has a long history and with no definitive answer to date. The aim of this one day workshop was to shed new light on the question by combining three perspectives on the matter: cognitive science of religion, philosophy, and theology. The day consisted of four talks by Neil Van Leeuwen (philosopher), Michiel van Elk (cognitive scientist), Helen de Cruz (philosopher) and Gijsbert van den Brink (theologian).
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Psychology of Religion at Its Best…and Less Best

In this hard-hitting report, Alex Uzdavines reflects on the highs and lows of his recent experience at the American Psychological Association Division 36 Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 2015 Mid-Year Conference hosted by Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, United States on March 20th and 21st 2015.
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God’s Mind, Your Mind, and Theory of Mind

What do God's mind and your mind have in common? A core tenet of cognitive science of religion (CSR) is that the folk-psychological ability to explain human behavior in terms of beliefs, desires and intentions – known as theory of mind (ToM) – is also a system that makes us receptive to belief in the supernatural.
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Prayer, Pretense, and Personification: How God becomes real

Luhrmann details the rise of evangelicals in the 60’s and 70’s, and how anthropological work can be informed by evolutionary psychology. This serves as a framework to understand the unique training processes that teach an individual that their mind is not only open to their own thoughts, but God’s as well.
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Halloween Special: Religion’s Role in Terror Management Theory

When confronted with mortality, humans face the possibility of experiencing a significant amount of terror. Interestingly, many times, people are able to avoid this terror and actually enjoy the mortality themes that are presented. Consider the horror movie industry. To illustrate, Paranormal Activity (Blum & Peli, 2007) brought in $19,617,650 on its opening weekend alone (IMDB, n.d.). Further, ...
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Conference Report: International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion (IACSR) 5th Biennial Conference

For the past few days I attended the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion’s (IACSR) 5th Biennial Conference. The theme this year was focused on addressing the state of the field, 25 years after the cognitive approach to religion (CSR) first appeared (at least in its modern incarnation).
Podcast

Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict

Big Gods: 1. Watched people are nice people, 2. Religion is more in the situation than in the person, 3. Hell is stronger than heaven, 4. Trust people who trust in God, 5. Religious actions speak louder than words, 6. Unworshipped Gods are impotent Gods, 7. Big Gods for Big Groups, 8. Religious groups cooperate in order to compete.
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Guthrie’s Anthropomorphism Helped Bring Religious Studies into the Modern Academic Age

After all, how can one have a scientific understanding of New Age religions or UFO cults without understanding the spirits, ‘energies’, UFOs, and extraterrestrials that inhabit those religious worlds? Guthrie provided, for the first time, a theoretical basis for such a research project. Without theories such as that presented by Prof. Guthrie, particularly in his book Faces in the Clouds (1993), the current move towards an empirical study of religious beliefs and behaviors...
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More popular than Jesus? Jung, Freud, and Religion

"...Segal touches on something rather interesting when he comments that Freud’s inner circle of brilliant acolytes all outgrew and turned against him, one after another, while Jung’s mediocre followers remained devoted to his methods even after his death. Is there an implied criticism of Jung there, that he didn’t dare surround himself with people who could challenge him intellectually, as he had challenged Freud?"
Podcast

Carl Jung

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist. Initially a collaborator with Sigmund Freud, the two later split and Jung went on to found the Analytical Psychology school of psychotherapy. His approach focussed on what he called the process of individuation, ...
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Back in the SSSR: Reflections on the 2013 SSSR/RRA Conference

"Luckily, the overall tone of the conference and the attending scholars, were much warmer than the brisk weather outside the doors of the lovely Westin Waterfront Hotel. This conference report seeks to capture the unadulterated energy and excitement of a young scholar new to the social scientific study of religion and invite more established scholars to reflect on their early days in the field."
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RSP Psychology of Religion Participatory Panel Special

The RSP Psychology of Religion Participatory Panel Special took place during the International Association for the Psychology of Religion 2013 world congress this August in Switzerland, hosted at the at the University of Lausanne. We asked for the RSP listeners to steer the conversation and YOU responded with tough questions...
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It’s the Fruits, not the Roots: A Response to Ralph Hood

"Hood’s approach has no flaws from the standpoint of an observing scientist; but, on the personal level, one may have trouble distinguishing between the cause and the consequence." When I began outlining my response to this interview—which is an intriguing psychological look at mystical experience through the filter of one of the most insightful minds dealing ...
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Ralph Hood on Mysticism

Dr. Ralph W. Hood Jr. has extensive experience in the field of psychology of religion and particularly in the study of mysticism and mystical experience. As an early pioneer in the renaissance of the field of psychology of religion, Hood’s work is extensive and prolific exploring a variety of research topics in the social sciences of religion.
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Questioning the Utility of Myers-Briggs

"The listener is left with a general overview of the use of the Myers Briggs as a measure of predictive and descriptive social trends among specific samples within a variety of religious groups." In her research, Mandy Robbins applies Carl Jung’s Psychological Type Theory, which was later modified as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, ...
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Mandy Robbins on Personality Types

As one of the earliest forms of Personality Assessment, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI was first formally published in 1942 by Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers. Inspired by the theoretical richness of Carl Jung, the MBTI explored and celebrated the differences of people regarding their behavior. Psychology certainly has benefited from the application of Personality Type in a variety of ways.
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A New Approach to Faith Development Theory

"...the study of religion, spirituality, and faith [...] cannot be explored through simply descriptive statistics or only quantitative models but rather complex qualitative and empirical methods within sophisticated designs." Fowler’s Faith Development Theory has been most influential in guiding religious and spiritual research. However, while this theory is highly regarded in the realm of developmental psychology, controversy abounds regarding the validity of the faith development model. Heinz Strieb,
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Faith Development Theory

Over ten years ago, Streib saw applicability to Fowler’s stages, but not in their typical empirical application. Heinz realized that Fowler’s descriptions had descriptive utility in how individuals structure and formalize their belief, but he also recognized that the graduated method of “stages” was empirically and culturally problematic. For Streib, these systems of meaning were not passé or scant in any way, only different.
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Why are Women more Social than Men?

"As a psychologist, my emphasis and interest is in the properties of individuals (or the situations of individuals) that underlie behaviors. Given that women are more agreeable and conscientious than men and that they mentalize more than men, it is not surprising that women are more involved in the social and ritual aspects of human behavior and, therefore, with religion."
Podcast

Should Scholars of Religion be Critics or Caretakers?

The inspiration for this episode came from one of Russell McCutcheon's works which we had encountered through the undergraduate Religious Studies programme at the University of Edinburgh, entitled 'Critics Not Caretakers: Redescribing the Public Study of Religion'. The result is this compilation of differing opinions and interpretations ...
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Religion as Vestigial States

. In this interview Professor Goldenberg takes us through the idea that religions might be vestigial states. She argues that religions are formed in distinction to governmental ‘States’ and represent the last vestiges of the previous order. At the same time this is a maneuver on the part of those States to delineate spheres of power. A vestigial state is both a once and future state, ...
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Religion’s common denominators, and a plea for data

Beit-Hallahmi rightly notes that psychologists of religion focus on the psychological common denominators that associate with religious beliefs. Some of these are cognitive processes; for instance, Barrett (2000) has discussed the ‘Hyperactive Agent Detection Device’, a cognitive feature whereby humans (and some animals) tend to misperceive the movements of objects in the world as intentional, even if the object is,
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Psychological Approaches to the Study of Religion

"In practice, experimentation requires much effort, imagination, and resources. The subject of religion seems too complex and too ‘soft’ for the laboratory. It is filled with much fantasy and feelings, two topics which academic psychology finds hard to approach." Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin, and Michael Argyle. The Psychology of Religious Behaviour, Belief and Experience. London: Routledge, 1997, p. 47.
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What We’re Learning from the Cognitive Study of Religion

"As the cognitive science of religion matures, there will no doubt be creative and exciting approaches to the current debates and to questions that are only beginning to arise in the field, such as how thinking about malevolent agents differs from thinking about benevolent ones. It is an exciting time for the study of religious cognition." In Armin Geertz’s recent interview with the Religious Studies Project, he provides an excellent overview of the methods and challenges in the cognitive study of religion and provides examples of some interesting theories and findings from the field.