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Psychological Understanding of Religlion

Psychological Understanding of Religlion

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Published by Domenic Marbaniang
The word “psychology” is a combination of two Greek words psyche meaning “soul”, “spirit”, or “mind” and logos meaning “science” or “study of”. The science of psychology tries to investigate every area of human experience and behavior. Psychology of religion tries to understand the cause-effect relationships of religious experiences and religious consciousness so as to be able to predict behaviors. It aims to study the religious consciousness with investigations in religious behavior patterns.
The word “psychology” is a combination of two Greek words psyche meaning “soul”, “spirit”, or “mind” and logos meaning “science” or “study of”. The science of psychology tries to investigate every area of human experience and behavior. Psychology of religion tries to understand the cause-effect relationships of religious experiences and religious consciousness so as to be able to predict behaviors. It aims to study the religious consciousness with investigations in religious behavior patterns.

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Published by: Domenic Marbaniang on Dec 07, 2012
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 © 2003
PsychologicalUnderstanding of Religion
Domenic Marbaniang
The word
“psychology” is a combination of two Greek 
words
psyche
 
meaning “soul”, “spirit”, or “mind” and
logos
 
meaning “science” or “study of”. The science of
psychology tries to investigate every area of humanexperience and behavior. Psychology of religion tries tounderstand the cause-effect relationships of religiousexperiences and religious consciousness so as to be ableto predict behaviors. It aims to study the religiousconsciousness with investigations in religious behavior patterns.The major systems of psychology are: structuralism,functionalism, behaviorism, psychoanalysis, and GestaltSchool of Psychology. Obviously, each system has itsown way of understanding religious consciousness.
Psychological Definitions of Religion
About a century ago, James Henry Leuba was able toselect forty-eight definitions of religion to which headded two of his own to include in his famous
Psychological Study of Religion (1912)
. Variouspsychologists have defined religion variously. The word
“religion” poses the same problems as the word “God”.
Both of the above words act like an umbrellacomprehending a multiplicity of meanings, some ofwhich drastically contradict each other.
 
 © 2003Leuba divided all his rich collection of definitions into twogroups, to which he added his own third one:1.
 
Those definitions that treat religion as “the
recognition of a mystery pressing for in
terpretation”.
 2.
 
Those definitions which adopt
Schleiermacher‟s
 
view that religion is “a feeling of absolutedependence on God.”
 3.
 
Leuba‟s definition that “religion is the
propitiation
 or 
conciliation
of powers which are believed todirect and control the course of nature and
human life.”
 The above classification cannot be regarded as final,
since newer definitions like Leuba‟s easily arise. The
definitions seem to be descriptions that, arising throughinduction, are not always comprehensive. The variety ofpsychological perspectives and definitions are also anissue of philosophical investigation.
As early as 1916, Professor C.C.J. Webb had said that “I
do not believe that religion
can
be defined.” This does
not, however, mean that the psychological definitions ofreligion are of no practical value. We must distinguishbetween definitions and descriptions. While definitionsgive essential meanings, descriptions state the externalappearances. Obviously, the attempts to define religionare not merely attempts to describe but attempts topoint out the essence of religion. Psychologyunderstands the various rites, beliefs, and expressions ofreligions as reflective of a religious consciousness which ittries to investigate. The psychological definitions ofreligion do try to locate the essence of religion in the
consciousness and not in the external “symbols”, which
are only interesting as long as they lead to anunderstanding of religious consciousness. It is the
 
 © 2003similarities rather than the differences which are theobject of the study.Following are some psychological definitions of religionthat help us to know what psychology reveals aboutreligion:
Sir James Frazer:
Religion is a propitiation or conciliationof powers superior to man which are believed to directand control the course of nature and of human life. Thusdefined, religion consists of two elements, a theoreticaland a practical, namely a belief in powers higher thanman and an attempt to propitiate or please them.
E. Durkheim:
A religion is a unified system of beliefs andpractices relative to sacred things, that is to say, thingsset apart and forbidden
 – 
beliefs and practices whichunite into one single moral community called a Church,all those who adhere to them.The cognitive and practical sides or aspects of religionhave been well related in a definition by Professor George Galloway.
Prof. George Galloway:
Religion is that which refers toman
s faith in a power beyond himself whereby he seeksto satisfy emotional needs and gain stability of life, andwhich he expresses in acts of worship and service. Thecognitive side of the religious consciousness isrepresented by faith, and faith is stimulated by emotionand posits the object which will satisfy the needs of theinner life
. The practical aspect is denoted by the actsof worship and service which belong to the nature ofreligion.

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