A History of Psychology of Religion in the West: Implications for Theory and Method

Submitted by James Miller on Sat, 12/29/2012 - 11:24
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TitleA History of Psychology of Religion in the West: Implications for Theory and Method
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsNelson, J.
JournalPastoral Psychology
Pagination685 - 710
Date Published2012
PublisherSpringer US
ISBN Number0031-2789
KeywordsHermeneutics, Naturalism, Phenomenology, philosophy of science

The study of religion in Western psychology has an interesting history that provides many lessons for future attempts to understand the spiritual aspects of human experience. In the past, psychologists have typically operated from one of three paradigms in their study of religion: (1) hermeneutic–phenomenological, (2) positivistic naturalism, and (3) religious integration. Each of these paradigms has a number of important theoretical assumptions and a preferred set of methodologies that offer significant advantages and disadvantages. The paradigm of positivistic naturalism, with its emphasis on quantitative questionnaire methodology, has been the most influential but also the least helpful in generating new ideas for the psychological understanding of religion, particularly as it is practiced in non-Western contexts. A historical survey of the other competing paradigms offers many insights and practical suggestions about how research in the psychology of religion might proceed in the twenty-first century.