The Psychology of Religion A Short Introduction by Kate Loewenthal, Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 182 pp.

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Amber Haque

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Abstract

The areas of psychology and religion have been traditionally viewed as mutually
exclusive and the relationship between them seen as one of paradox and impossibility.
The book under review offers a wide coverage of the subject from its troubled
history to the latest developments in the field in easy to understand language.
In an overview of the book, the author points out how religion can be a powerful
force in human society leading to admirable and often horrible consequences.
Citing a few research studies, the author shows how the situation has changed over
the years and how the psychology of religion is emerging as a completely new field
of study. The book is divided into seven chapters.
Chapter one begins with the daunting task of defining both psychology and religion
from the author's own perspective, after a review of some popular definitions.
After presenting a couple of questionnaires to measure religious beliefs, the author
presents a short history of the uneasy relationship between psychology, religion
and discusses the concept of spirituality. The author points out that although spirituality
is common to most religions and cultural traditions, it can be a divisive
issue and is actually outside the context of organized religion. Concern is raised by
the author regarding the lack of attention given to the possible differences between
the religious experiences and behaviors of men and women.
Chapter two focuses on how traditions outside of the western Christian context,
e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism view the psychology-religion
relationship. This chapter also describes "Syncretic Religions" in which different
religious traditions are blended, and the new religious movements starting in the
1960s. The chapter stresses that although psychological emphases and consequences
may differ, psychological themes are common to all or most religions, and
these emphases and consequences need further investigation.
Chapter three discusses religious behavior and examines in detail the effects of
prayer. The author gives definitions and quotations of prominent scholars and
cites empirical studies showing effects and perceived effects of prayer. The use of ...

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