Integrative Themes in the Current Science of the Psychology of Religion

1-Integrative Themes in the Current Science of the Psychology of Religion
Integrative Themes in the Current Science of the Psychology of Religion

That religion is the greatest force for both good and evil in the history of the world is such a truism that we hesitate to begin the opening chapter of this handbook by saying so. But we highlight it at the outset because, as the chapters unfold, religion, in its vast range of forms and expressions, is shown again and again to relate in positive and negative ways to the whole range of human behaviors, experiences, and emotions. In spite of this, however, the science of psychology has paid only sporadic attention to the psychological processes underlying human religiousness. In fact, for much of the 20th century, academic psychology did not address it (Beit-Hallahmi, 1974; Belzen, 2000; Paloutzian, 1996; Wulff, 1998). There are a variety of reasons for this discrepancy between the undeniable importance of religion to individual people as well as its role in the long, hard march of humans from antiquity to now and this lack of attention. Because these reasons are thoroughly documented elsewhere (e.g., Paloutzian, 1996; Wulff, 1998), we will not reiterate them here. Instead, in this chapter, we condense the history of this field to provide context for the upsurge in interest and research in the psychology of religion that has been occurring during the past approximately 25 years and that continues unabated today. These cutting edges are our focus, and we present a modern five-theme conceptual model for organizing the increasingly rich and complex knowledge that the psychology of religion now comprises.
Although religion shows a history of grand and sometimes awesome display of its powerful role in human affairs-illustrated in a positive way in its provision, to billions of people, of guidance and ultimate reasons to live and endure life's tragedies, and in a negative way by the events of September 11, 2001-the science of the psychology of reli gion has no such glorious history. Instead, after a smattering of more or less independent investigations in the first third of the 20th century (Freud, 1927/1961; Hall, 1904; James, 1902/1958; Leuba, 1912, 1925; Pratt, 1920; Starbuck, 1899), systematic scientific research in the psychology of religion was abandoned for over 40 years. However, the 1960s brought a generation of psychologists who insisted on doing research that they perceived spoke directly to human life, and they undertook with great zest the study of a variety of psychological phenomena with real-world personal and social implications. Their topics included racism and prejudice, aggression and violence, poverty, the subordinate status of women and its effects, and religion.

The initial strands of this work in the psychology of religion involved researchers who carried out their studies in a some what isolated way, only marginally integrated with mainstream psychology, and certainly few in numbers. In fact, although the American Psychological Association Division 36, Psychology of Religion, was formally established in 1976, as recently as 1980 a scholar who wanted to launch new research or teach a course in this specialty would find that no systematic or comprehensive summaries of research existed. This lack of resources has completely reversed itself in a short period (Emmons & Paloutzian, 2003; Hester & Paloutzian, in press).


The succeeding two and one-half decades have seen these initial strands grow into a field amazingly vast, with high-level research that uses myriad sophisticated methods and data-analytic techniques, both quantitative and qualitative-a field that spans the entire range of research corresponding to its parent discipline of psychology. Research in the psychology of religion has moved far beyond simple zero-order correlational coefficients and speculation as the only guides for how one variable is related to others in the human mind. Instead, complex and integrative conceptual models have evolved that allow us to tie together threads of research from different areas and to test hypotheses that were until recently unimaginable. Research questions are now posed along a wide range of levels of analysis, from neuropsychological (see Newberg & Newberg, Chapter 11, this volume) to social-psychological and cross-cultural (see Donahue & Nielsen, Chapter 15, and Silberman, Chapter 29, this volume). And because these models are tied directly to the same ideas that come from general psychology, the findings from psychological research on religiousness speak directly back to the parent discipline. Thus, two kinds of integration are occurring at the same time: integration of material within the psychology of religion itself and integration of psychology of religion research within psychology as a whole. As the chapters in this handbook document, the richness of the research is impressive. At the same time, as noted by Emmons and Paloutzian (2003), we regard these recent advances not as the culmination of research but as the starting point from which the psychology of religion can step forward to make its most important contributions to the science of psychology and to human welfare.
One of the perennial concerns of scholars grappling with how best to conceptualize the psychological processes that mediate religiousness, and seeking the best concepts and categories with which to present, talk about, and integrate the various strands of research, has been the cry for theory. Scholars have repeatedly pointed out that the psychology of religion is long on data and short on theory (Dittes, 1969). In fact, in the past, not only was there no single theory to guide work in the field (let alone to promote integra-tion of the available data), there was not even a good conceptual model that could be used as a working tool to help researchers think, integrate material, and develop new and better hypotheses. This lack is apparent when one examines the opening chapters of several of the standard books in the field (e.g., Batson, Schoenrade, & Ventis, 1993; BeitHallahmi & Argyle, 1997; Paloutzian, 1996; Pargament, 1997; Spilka, Hood, Hunsberger, & Gorsuch, 2003; Wulff, 1997). All of these books present information that the reader needs to know, such as a sketch of the field's history, a statement about the problem of defining religion, and definitions of key terms or dimensions of religiousness. However, none of these books presents ideas that cut across the range of topics in the field and that can serve as comprehensive integrating devices. It is precisely such integrating themes that the field needs.


In an ideal world, the framework that would integrate all aspects of the discipline would be a fully developed theory, well tested and supported by the data that has stood the test of time and gained acceptance by scholars who hold a wide range of opinions. Of course, no such framework currently exists. However, throughout this handbook there are hints about the direction such theorizing may take, and, in fact, in total, the chapters in this handbook may provide a major impetus for the development of such a framework. We therefore offer the following integrative themes, not as a theoretical framework, but as a set of ideas that cut across all or most of the topics. Together, they identify common issues and processes and provide a unifying language that is valid for all of the topics and that allows us to tie the disparate threads of work together, pose new research questions that integrate them, and foster the development of integrative theory. We identify five integrative themes, summarized in general form below. Although presented in parallel sequence in the first and the last chapters of this handbook, the themes are used to integrate past and current knowledge in this chapter, while in Chapter 30 these themes integrate our look at the future.

1. The paradigm issue. There has long been a need for a paradigm that would serve as an overall framework to guide research, debate, and thinking. Such a framework would serve as an overarching umbrella within which research studies in various areas and subareas would proceed and be related to each other. It would include the assumptions that enable such interrelationships among diverse lines of research to develop and flourish, and within which theory building about the psychological processes that mediate religiousness would proceed. Researchers in the psychology of religion disagree about many things, but share a consensus that the field has been preparadigmatic for almost all of its history. Where is the field now, and what ideas do we have to guide its future?
2. Methods and theory. Scholars who study the psychology of religion disagree about what we can know and how we can know it. Should the field mimic those parts of psychology that rely on the laboratory experiment as the "gold standard" for good science? Because scientific concepts are constructs, should we instead deconstruct all of them and conclude that one narrative about the psychological processes that mediate religiousness is as good as another because there are no bias-free rules by which to evaluate them? How these issues and their variations are resolved will affect the very basis or even the very possibility of, this field in the future.
3. The question of meaning. Meaning has long been an undercurrent in the work of some scholars in the psychology of religion, but is the concept of meaning powerful enough to accommodate the greatly varied approaches to studying the psychology of religion that have emerged in recent years? Questions of meaning, typically understood as theological questions, are also psychological questions. Finding the answer to the question of meaning's meaning and its role in religion is essential in order to begin creating a theory of the psychological processes in religiousness that captures the heart and soul of its object of study. This involves understanding the psychology of religion through its meaning-related functions.
4. The path of the psychology of religion. For a science to flourish, a critical mass of ideas and knowledge must be developed that can serve as the springboard that will stimulate research that either extends one topic or supports cross-topic collaboration. This is how one domain of research expands and how all domains move forward. Each topic addressed in this book shows this development. The pathways ahead are far-reaching in their implications.

5. The role of the psychology of religion. To whom and to what is the psychology of religion contributing now, and what should we understand to be its proper and possible goals with respect to general psychology and with respect to overall human well-being? Does this field contribute unique knowledge to psychology, an insight or understanding that is not obtainable by studying other phenomena? And if we do learn about the psychological aspects of religiousness in the manner to which we aspire, should this knowledge be used, and if so, how and how much? We now describe each of these integrative themes in greater detail and illustrate how they inform the specific topics in the 28 areas covered in this handbook.


The psychology of religion has come a long way from its nonparadigmatic past to its current position on the edge of expanding and integrating within a paradigm: themultilevel interdisciplinary paradigm. This paradigm, as presented by Emmons and Paloutzian (2003), "recognizes the value of data at multiple levels of analysis while making nonreductive assumptions concerning the value of spiritual and religious phenomena" (p. 395). A similar version of this idea is found in Silberman (2005b). The precursors to the present movement into this new paradigm grew out of past calls by scholars for some common ground, combined with the articulation of various key issues that needed to be worked through in order to set the stage for this common ground. One of these issues is the attempt at theory, which we address in the next section of this chapter. The others include (1) a long-enduring preoccupation with the creation of the "right" measure of key religious variables, referred to as the "measurement paradigm" (Gorsuch, 1988), and (2) the question of whether religion is unique among all human behaviors (Dittes, 1969) and/ or unique in a way that would preclude its incorporation into the whole of psychology (e.g., due to supernatural or other spiritual forces that can presumably operate outside the realm of a natural order). Let us briefly examine these issues as stepping-stones to the new paradigm.

Going Beyond Measurement
Gorsuch (1984, 1988) observed that the field had spent such a long time attempting to create finer measures that it appeared to be stuck at the starting line. He argued that psychology of religion should advance from measurement as a main focus and instead get on with the task of testing hypotheses derived from models of mental processes and theories that connect the models together, so that the field could finally make progress in the truly scientific task of building incremental, cumulative knowledge within a paradigm and explained by a theory. Fortunately, many researchers in the field heeded his advice: the multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm is a response to his call for change.
In order for us to progress from measuring psychology of religion variables to explaining their relationships, we need a workable degree of common agreement about (1) the range of phenomena that are "in" and "out" of the area of concern, and (2) the wholistic versus reductionistic ways of explaining them. These two concerns are at the heart of what are called the issues ofuniquenessandreductionism, respectively. One's position on them affects one's ability to work within the multidisciplinary paradigm.

Uniqueness and Reductionism
Dittes (1969) highlighted the uniqueness issue and vividly identified a question pivotal to our understanding of the relation between the psychology of religion and the rest of psychology: To what degree can religion be explained by relying only upon more elemental processes and concepts, those that apply to any other behaviors, instead of requiring unique concepts and processes to account for it? At one end of his four-step spectrum is the position that religion is but one instance of behavior-in-general, and that therefore it can be studied by using the same methods that are used to study any other behavior and can be understood by applying the same ideas that apply to other behaviors. At the other end is the perspective that religious behaviors are unique, not found elsewhere in human action, experience, or perception. The "unique" end of this spectrum means that religion cannot be reduced to more elemental processes-that is, religion is no more reducible to "nothing but other known psychological forces" than a hurricane is reducible to "nothing but wind." The argument is that although religion and hurricanes involve other, more elemental processes, each one is something different from "just" the operation of the parts it comprises. If this is so, then special psychological concepts and processes are needed to explain it. The "nonunique" end of this spectrum assumes that because religion is one instance of behavior-in-general, no such special concepts and processes are needed.
The unique view obviously lends itself to easy application of nonreductionistic assumptions, and the nonunique view is normally taken to mean that reductionistic explanations are more or less automatically invoked (Pargament, 2002; Pargament, Magyar, & Murray-Swank, 2005).
However, we argue that working within the multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm (which supports nonreductionistic assumptions) does notmean that a split somewhere between the unique and nonunique ends of this spectrum is necessary, such that a religious phenomenon that is explained at one level effectively explains away an explanation of that same phenomenon at another level. Instead, the multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm acknowledges that valid explanations of the same religious phenomenon can be stated both within the multiple levels of analysis within psychology itself and across traditional disciplinary boundaries. For example, a valid explanation of religious con version can in principle be stated at both a neuropsychological level and at a socialpsychological level, and the ideas and knowledge of allied sciences can be added to these explanations. The nonunique end of the spectrum is more amenable to reductionistic explanations but does not depend upon them. This means that the multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm is a valid framework to guide research on the psychological processes involved in all aspects of human religiousness, regardless of where they fall on the unique-nonunique spectrum.
Uniqueness and the Role of Psychology of Religion Is religion unique among human behaviors as such or is it unique because of a belief that supernatural agency has a causal role in it in a way that it does not in other behaviors? We agree with Kirkpatrick (2005 and Chapter 6, this volume) that this latter position is not knowable one way or the other by the methods of science, that it may or may not be so, and that in any case our job as scientific psychologists of religion is to create good theory to explain religiousness in a way that allows the theory to be assessed against evidence. This means ideas about possible causal factors that are not, in principle, capable of being tested against evidence may be interesting, but they do not meet the criteria necessary to bear upon our theory construction process. Scientific explanations about the psychological processes in religiousness are neutral with respect to them.
Why do we care whether religion is a unique human behavior as such? If it is, then the discipline of psychology needs to include religion among its essential foci of study in order to eventually arrive at a comprehensive theory of human behavior. If it is not, then studying religion is useful only because it happens to be so important in comparison to other behaviors in a practical sense (McCrae, 1999). If religion is unique, then human phenomena are found there that are found nowhere else, so that a psychology that does not address religion can never create a valid comprehensive theory (see Piedmont, Chapter 14, this volume). On the other hand, if religion is not unique, then it can be accounted for by the same principles that account for other human behaviors, and there is no compelling reason, on grounds of pure science, for psychologists to give it any special attention. This issue has been hotly debated (Baumeister, 2002) and the answer to it will determine whether the psychology of religion is to be regarded as a core topic within psychology or whether it is to be regarded as important due only to the obvious importance of its subject matter.
Because opinions about religion are often stated as generalities, it is easy to forget that religion is not one thing but is instead a multidimensional variable that is among the most complex properties of the human mind. We believe that all four steps along Dittes (1969) spectrum are valid for one or another religious behavior. Part of religion is uniqueand part of it is not; more refined research will clarify which is which, and why. One way that religion seems to be unique is that it provides people with ultimate meaning in life (Emmons, 1999; Levenson, Aldwin, & D'Mello, Chapter 8, this volume; Tillich, 1952, 1963), centered on what the individual perceives to be sacred (cf. Pargament, 1997), especially in a way that is nonveridical such that its truth claims or the person's idiosyncratic meanings derived from them can carry the weight of absolute reality without being bound by the rules of evidence (Paloutzian & Silberman, 2003; see Silberman, 2005b, for a partly overlapping and partly complementary discussion of the uniqueness issue). The multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm accommodates these variations and provides the framework within which these issues can be teased apart for all instances of religiousness.

The Multilevel Interdisciplinary Paradigm
The multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm can serve as a framework within which research at all levels of analysis (both within the discipline of psychology and between psychology and allied fields) can advance. Yet there are certain phenomena for which it seems particularly suited or essential. Consider two examples of emergent properties that come from within the discipline of psychology itself. One of them, the phenomenon of emergent leadership in groups, is at the social-psychological level of analysis; the other one, the phenomenon of consciousness as an emergent property of brain function, is at the neuropsychological level of analysis. The chapters in this book illustrate others. Using these two simple examples of emergent properties (leadership, consciousness), however, highlights the principle that for certain phenomena the sum of the elements that are known to operate at a lower level of analysis does not equal the phenomenon at the higher level. Leadership and consciousness are not reducible to nothing but the elements and processes that constitute them, and they exert control over as well as are controlled by those elements and processes. The multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm is particularly well suited to accommodate research on such phenomena.
If the multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm has even a small ability to accommodate fairly narrow-band topics within a subdiscipline of psychology, then it has an even greater ability to serve as an overall umbrella that can help us in our efforts to think of multilevelintradisciplinary research within the discipline of psychology itself. Further, this paradigm can be expanded to promoteinterdisciplinary research into the workings of religion, and even further to integrate theory that surrounds this research around a set of common ideas. The psychology of religion is poised to reach out to evolutionary biology, neuroscience, anthropology, cognitive science, and allied sciences generally, and to philosophy in a generalized cross-disciplinary approach to critiquing and sharpening the assumptions of science. Thus the multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm allows for the linking of subfields within psychology as the core discipline in a broader effort, and, when the notions of reductionism and nonreductionism are properly understood, also allows the cross-fertilization of allied areas of science in a way that fosters integrative lines of research, findings, and theories.
In its most visionary form, the multilevel disciplinary paradigm would be able to accommodate whatever knowledge is necessary in pursuit of the ultimate goal: the full understanding of human beings. This means that we should understand human beings not as amazing creatures unique unto themselves as the most complex or intelligent endpoint of the phylogenetic scale, but as beings that are the most advanced example of an emergent property. Whatever else the human being is, it is an emergent property of the interaction of nature and nurture, whose ability to function has gone far beyond the more narrow survival needs that prevailed whenever human nature as we know it came about.
Although we came from our environment, we also control it. The being that emerged from the interaction of nature and nurture is now in the process of changing that very nature and nurture to make them fundamentally different. This means that more singular ways of explaining how humans and how human religiousness work, such as a direct causal model and a single-level explanation, are inadequate. Instead, satisfactory explanations will require the application of principles such as reciprocal determinism (Bandura, 1986) and multilevel approaches that are beginning to emerge, illustrated by social-cognitive neuroscience (Ochsner & Lieberman, 2001). Regarding the human being as an emergent property makes explicit that just as the environment controls people, peo ple exercise control over their environments in ways that change how the environment in turn controls people. Because understanding how this works requires application of the principle of reciprocal determinism and multilevel theory, it means that human behavior and its religiousness are not reducible to their elements or the forces from which they emerged, and that the multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm would be the framework within which their understanding can be obtained.
To move steadily forward in these directions will require the most engaging, mindstretching, and collaborative work that has been done in the history of the psychology of religion. Accomplishing it in the next generation is the task ahead of us.


In the normal progress of science, there is a relation between research methods, the data that derive from them, and the theoretical ideas that prevail in the field, such that advances in one lead to advances in the others. But in the psychology of religion this selfcorrective and growth-inducing feedback process has rarely functioned until recent times.
It is precisely this self-corrective feedback loop that is required for the science of the psychology of religion to develop.
The most important historical example of this lack becomes evident when one examines the relationship between the grand theories of religion proposed during the first third of the 20th century and the empirical research conducted during the first 75 or so years of the 20th century. For a generation, the variations of psychodynamic theory about religion that were proposed during the early part of the century dominated the psychology of religion "theory" landscape. However, for the most part the empirical data that were collected had no role as a test of the theories, and the research was neither directly derived from these theories nor typically had much relevance to them. Until very recently, as was the case when Dittes (1969) pointed out this glaring gap, the field of psychology of religion included both comprehensive theories and growing amounts of data, but neither had much bearing upon the other. In effect, while the early theories about religion developed by Freud (1927/1961) and Jung (1938/1969) were well known, new empirical studies came into being mostly as single studies that were not part of a systematic research program. The result was two independent psychologies of religion, one of ideas and one of numbers. The two continued as if they were on two separate tracks, with neither helping the other to become more refined.
Fortunately, these trends have recently changed dramatically. Recent developments include (1) advances in psychoanalytic theorizing (see Corveleyn & Luyten, Chapter 5, this volume); (2) a proliferation of models of more narrow-range processes such as religious attributions (Spilka et al., 2003; Spilka, Shaver, & Kirkpatrick, 1985), spiritual intelligence (Emmons, 1999, 2000), conversion as spiritual transformation (see Paloutzian,
Chapter 18, this volume), religious orientation (see Donahue & Nielsen, Chapter 15, this volume), spirituality as a personality factor (see Piedmont, Chapter 14, this volume), and religion as schema (McIntosh, 1995) or schemas (Ozorak, 1997); and (3) efforts at integrating large swaths of biological and psychological science within the theory of evolution (see Kirkpatrick, 2005, and Chapter 6, this volume). These developments provide promise for integrating the psychology of religion at the multiple levels within psychological boundaries and connecting it across disciplinary boundaries as this material gradually becomes integrated into the larger orbit of the life sciences.

Methodological Developments
Along with an expansive list of ideas to research comes a need for methods adequate to study them. An increasing amount of research is being done with novel, creative methods, both quantitative and qualitative, that are well equipped to do the field good service in the next generation. Their application promises to refine and broaden these theoretical advances (see Hood & Belzen, Chapter 4, this volume).
The methodological advance that has occurred in recent times is truly impressive to anyone who has watched how empirical studies were conducted for the past 30 years. In 1975, the field was at a point of methodological infancy, with most studies conducted by distributing questionnaires assessing theoretically weak aspects of religion. The results were not impressive. In summarizing the level of sophistication at that time, Hunsberger (1991) wrote, "Countless studies report thousands of weak correlational relationships between many aspects of religion and almost every other variable imaginable" (p. 498).
Today the menu is vastly expanded. The keynote chapter on methods by Hood and Belzen (Chapter 4, this volume) presents clear examples, prototypes of a technique, and exemplars of ways to adapt a particular method to the unique problems in studying human religiousness. It also illustrates the puzzles that arise when different studies that purport to test the same idea with different methods yield opposite results (such as with a laboratory experiment and an attempted field study replication, or with a quantitative study and a parallel qualitative study).
The remaining substantive chapters document the creativity, cleverness, and thoroughness with which researchers in all areas of specialization within the field have invented new techniques in order to find out the answers to key questions. These include neuroimaging (Newberg & Newberg, Chapter 11, this volume); interview, observational, and qualitative methodologies adapted for use with children (Boyatzis, Chapter 7, this volume); specialized adaptations of the tools from the cognitive psychology laboratory (Ozarak, Chapter 12, this volume); and the inclusion of real-world physical and mental health outcome variables (Oman & Thoresen, Chapter 24, and Miller & Kelley, Chapter 25, this volume).
It is especially promising that this large number of new methods has come into use in addition to, but not in place of, questionnaires. Questionnaire measures have shown much improvement in the precision with which they capture a meaningful dimension of religion (Hill, Chapter 3, this volume; Hill & Hood, 1999). Add to this the recent advances in the application of qualitative methods to the study of religious experience (Hood, Chapter 19, this volume), as a complement to traditional quantitative methods, and it begins to look as though all the methodological tools that we could hope for are in place for us to use and extend into new territory. By researching questions in diverse and complementary ways, we will gather the data we need to feed the development of integrative theory.

Modernism Postmodernism
Recent scholarship in the philosophy of science requires us to address the issue of a modernist versus postmodernist approach to scientific knowledge in general and its expression in the psychology of religion in particular. The traditional modernist approach led to those methods that have prevailed until recently. Valid knowledge was gained by using methods that conformed to the prototype, or gold standard, of the conduct of good sci ence: the laboratory experiment. It would be against this model that data from other, lesscontrolled methods would be compared. As recently as 30 years ago, psychologists of religion debated whether they should strive to do controlled laboratory experiments (Batson, 1977, 1979; Gorsuch, 1982). Today the methodological discussion is about whether psychologists of religion should use quantitative methods versus qualitative methods. Those favoring quantitative methods emphasize the objectivity of the data and the requirement that there be public agreement about what the data are, although not necessarily about what the data mean. Others endorse qualitative methods, especially hermeneutical interpretations of personal texts (Belzen, 1997) and methods based on the principle that data are culturally relative and that their interpretation must be culturally sensitive (Belzen, 1999, 2003). These researchers point out that the meaning attributed to data, including those obtained by traditional quantitative methods, cannot be divorced from the cultural context of the subjects and the culture-bound biases of the researcher, and that therefore it is essential that those judgments define the data categories in a unique way from study to study. At one level, this distinction is based upon variations in understanding what precisely "empirical" data are.
At another level, this issue of modernism versus postmodernism concerns operationalism, deconstruction, and the confrontation between these two derived from positivistic modernism, on the one hand, and postmodernism, on the other. It is agreed that scientific advances have occurred because of the power of empirical science, and especially because of the use of the pure experiment to discover cause-and-effect relations.
This approach emphasizes operational definitions of both independent variable categories and dependent variable measures. An unnecessary and sometimes unspecified assumption is that these operations represent true categories or real dimensions that exist in ontological reality. This may or may not be so. But in either case the correspondence between an operational definition of a variable and the psychological category that it is purported to represent can always be a matter of debate. Because of this, scholars who reason from a postmodernist orientation point out that our categories are actually constructed by us. If this is so, then the correspondence between them and whatever their counterparts in ontological reality are is either something that should be questioned (in soft versions of postmodernism) or is not knowable (in more extreme versions of postmodernism). The most extreme variant of this presupposition states that all such categories are inherently meaningless and unknowable. For such reasons, it is the task of critics of traditional empirical science to deconstruct them. It is based upon such reasoning that those who extend the argument of postmodernist orientation to psychology of religion research argue for qualitative, hermeneutical, and cultural approaches (Belzen, 1999, 2003). They assume that the proper categories of study are those that come from the subject him- or herself, not those imposed by research design or measured by a preexisting tool external to the person.
Fortunately, Corveleyn and Luyten (Chapter 5, this volume) have stated the ideal way for us to establish integrative progress even with the cogency of this dilemma. They have called for peaceful and collaborative coexistence between the opposing camps, as has evolved over the same dilemma in the allied fields of sociology and anthropology.
There is no need for those on either side to argue as if the other approach had nothing to offer. They point out that those emphasizing operationalistic, quantitative methods do so with categories and measures based upon already existing ideas about what processes are important, and that those emphasizing qualitative and hermeneutical methods nevertheless use operations and measures in the course of interpreting their texts. These two ap proaches are complementary, not competitive, and in the end may not be as far apart as arguments narrowly endorsing one side or the other would make it appear.

Theory and Definition
Allowing quantitative and qualitative methods to complement each other holds promise for the development of exceptionally rich theory, so long as we can validly blend the knowledge gained from the combined approaches. It also refutes the idea that the developments today are so fatally flawed, narrowly positivistic, closed to enrichment by alternative methods, and fraught with bias that the psychology of religion should start over (Wulff, 2003). The field is so ripe with good ideas and good methods that it is poised to make contributions that could not be imagined in the past. As stated by Emmons and Paloutzian (2003) when they introduced the multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm, "The field has made great strides in its effort to say something important to the rest of psychology . . . what has come before is only a platform and the field is now poised, ready to begin" (p. 395). Going forward from this platform enriches the field in a way that trying to reconstitute itself with an adherence to the definition of religion stated by James (1902/ 1958) cannot (Wulff, 2003). Because our theories and our definitions promote the development of each other, a new picture of the psychology of religion will evolve that will do far greater service than James could have hoped for.
How do we get from here to there? At least three things need to be in place for integrative development of the psychology of religion to occur:
1. The extensive exploitation of the range of methods noted above.
2. A common language that can be applied across the specialized topics in the field.
3. An overarching framework that is powerful and flexible enough to contain a variety of midlevel theories about religious phenomena and that connects psychology of religion theory to the rest of the life sciences more generally.
As part of our five integrative themes, we believe that the latter two needs may be met by construing religion as a meaning system (Park, Chapter 16, this volume; Silberman, 2005b) and by an evolutionary approach to the psychology of religion (Kirkpatrick, Chapter 6, this volume), and that the first need is met by knowing the status of the field, understanding a wide range of methods and the unique benefits of each, and by conducting programmatic research that connects them.
Can methods, theory, and application converge? If so, around what common themes might they come together? The multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm describes an overarching idea for how fields and subfields can be seen in relation to each other and productively cross-fertilize. But what about within the psychology of religion itself? All of these ideas can be fruitfully discussed as an expression of the question of meaning.


Meaning holds much promise as a unifying construct in psychology. The notion of meaning-related constructs as an approach to many phenomena within the psychology of religion is very new, but seems to be rapidly gaining momentum. For example, in the third edition of their classic text on the psychology of religion, Spilka et al. (2003) broadened their framework for organizing the material from an emphasis on attributions to a more comprehensive emphasis on meaning. Similarly, Hood, Hill, and Williamson (2005) centered their discussion of religious fundamentalism on the concept of religion as a meaning system. An issue of theJournal of Social Issuesis devoted to the topic of religion as a meaning system, highlighting the centrality of meaning for the psychology of religion (Silberman, 2005a).
Like most words, there is a great deal that can be said regarding the meaning of the term "meaning," which spans the domains of purpose, intent, order, sense, interpretation, signification, and denotation (Janoff-Bulman & Frantz, 1997). In his book on meaning, Baumeister (1991) noted that "the term meaning is used here in its ordinary, conventional sense, as when one speaks of the meaning of a word, a sentence, a story, or an event. Meaning cannot be easily defined, perhaps because to define meaning is already to use meaning. A rough definition would be that meaning is shared mental representations of possible relationships among things, events, and relationships. Thus, meaning connects things"(p. 16). As with the concept of value, something has meaning insofar as it stands for or represents something else.
Although existential psychologists have promoted the centrality of meaning for many years (e.g., Frankl, 1969; Yalom, 1980), mainstream psychology has been slow to come around. Recent developments in areas as diverse as evolutionary psychology, developmental psychology, and cognitive psychology have brought meaning to the forefront (Baumeister, 1991). A growing body of research supports the idea that people's meaning systems are central to their everyday patterns of life and may be of particular importance in coping with adversity (Park, 2005; Silberman, 2005b). In their everyday lives, individuals operate on the basis of personal beliefs or theories that they have about themselves, other people, the world at large, and their place in it. These beliefs and the goals and purposes they engender constitute idiosyncratic meaning systems that allow individuals to organize and comprehend the world around them and their experiences, as well as to plan and direct their behavior (Silberman, 2005a, 2005b, and Chapter 29, this volume).
While many areas of psychology would benefit from embracing meaning as a focus, the psychology of religion seems especially wellpositioned to embrace a meaning-centered approach. After all, all religion concerns meaning in one sense or another. Spilka et al. (2003) noted that "for all religious people, religion is indeed a struggle to comprehend their place in the scheme of things and what this entails for their relations with the world and others" (p. 15). In fact, while Baumeister, quoted above, notes that meaning "connects things,"that which connectsis the literal meaning of the term "religion." Thus, religion and meaning appear to be intimately related. As a meaning system, religion is unique in that it centers on what is perceived to be sacred (Pargament, 1997, 2002; Silberman, 2005b).
While one chapter in this handbook is specifically devoted to the topic of meaning and religion (Park, Chapter 16, this volume), most of the topics covered in this handbook explicitly discuss or implicitly incorporate meaning-related concepts. Thus, meaning concepts are integral to the development of religiousness (e.g., how children come to understand the world and their roles in it; see Boyatzis, Chapter 7, this volume), adult religious experiences (such as forming life goals; see Levenson & Aldwin, Chapter 8, this volume), and beliefs about aging and life after death (McFadden, Chapter 9, this volume); coping with stressful experiences, which often pull for more religious responses (Pargament, Ano, & Wacholtz, Chapter 26, this volume), including attributions and coping strategies as well as negative responses such as struggle and doubt (Exline & Rose, Chapter 17, this volume); spiritual transformation (Paloutzian, Chapter 18, this volume); cognitive aspects of psychology (Ozorak, Chapter 12, this volume); emotional and motivational aspects (Emmons, Chapter 13, this volume); and fundamentalism (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, Chapter 21, this volume). Further, the chapters on religion and physical and mental health touch on how religious meaning can have pervasive influences on well-being (Oman & Thoresen, Chapter 24, and Miller & Kelley, Chapter 25, this volume). The chapters dealing with applications of the psychology of religion also inherently involve meaning, including topics such as religion and psychotherapy (Shafranske, Chapter 27, this volume) and religious violence and terrorism versus peace (Silberman, Chapter 29, this volume).


The interest in religion among psychologists tends to be consistent over time (given that it was one of William James's enduring contributions), but also somewhat uncomfortable for many people and therefore somewhat marginalized and out of the mainstream (Emmons & Paloutzian, 2003). Thus, the psychology of religion as a field of endeavor has a pulse-albeit a weak pulse!-always coursing, but beyond the awareness of most psychologists. Most mainstream researchers paid scant attention to the enterprise of the psychology of religion, but the research plodded along, advancing slowly, hampered by the samples used, the isolated thinking and theorizing that characterized the area, the limited measurement and methodological strategies, and even the biased agendas of many in the field (i.e., researchers who set out to "prove" their points of view, especially that religion is positive and helpful).
As noted above, this bleak situation changed rapidly over the past quarter of a century (see Emmons & Paloutzian, 2003, for a review of recent historical developments).
As the chapters in this handbook show, this new era of burgeoning research in the psychology of religion has seen an increasing diversity of areas that have been explored (e.g., ranging from neurobiology to terrorism). At the same time, there are nascent hints of convergence in the development of some broader theories and attempts at definition that may help tie this research together. We note a few points relevant to all this here and expand upon them in the corresponding sections of Chapter 30.


A great deal of attention has been paid in the recent past to defining religion and related constructs. Researchers have been concerned not only with defining religion, but in particular have been attempting to differentiate the constructs of religion and spirituality.
"Spirituality" as a term and as a construct in scientific discussion is a relatively new kid on the block. Its appearance reflects the shifts within Western culture occurring in the past decade or so, wherein religion, which previously connoted both organizational and personal aspects of religion, has increasingly been assigned to denote only the organizational aspects, while the construct of spirituality has increasingly been used to denote the personal aspects. Along with this shift has come a shift in cultural assignations of desirability. Among many groups, religion is considered to denote dogmatism and rigidity, while spirituality is viewed as positive and growth-oriented. Yet, this relatively recent dis-tinction is open to question (Zinnbauer & Pargament, Chapter 2, this volume) and criticism (Silberman, 2003).
The issue of definition is obviously critically important for developing conceptual understandings and for proceeding with empirical work, which requires operationalization of conceptual constructs into measurable ones. In their chapter on definition, Zinnbauer and Pargament (Chapter 2, this volume) grapple with the issues involved in definition. They conclude that there is at present no consensus on these definitional issues, and it does not appear that any such general consensus is on the horizon. One is left to agree, then, with the observation made many years ago by Yinger (1967) that "any definition of religion is likely to be satisfactory only to its author" (p. 18).
Part of the confusion over how to define religion may center on whether attempts to define it are intended to represent cultural categories or a psychological process operative within the individual. Defining religion (and its newer counterpart, spirituality) in ways that reflect people's usages of those concepts in a culture is good for certain purposes, especially when that distinction is critical to the theoretical question posed. On the other hand, religion and spirituality may largely service the same psychological function and the different terms that people use themselves may be a matter of personal preference or style. Thus people call themselves religiousandspiritual, religiousbut notspiritual, spiritual but notreligious, neither spiritual no rreligious, and, very interestingly, a hairsplitting blend of religious spirituality plus nonreligion (e.g., as one of our students said, "I am a spiritual Christianbut notreligious").
Overall, it seems that various definitions may be useful when it is necessary to focus on cultural or subgroup religious meanings, although a purely psychological functional definition would not need to draw such distinctions. Thus a purely psychological approach would emphasize that "whatever does it" (i.e., serves a religious function) for someone, is it. Thus we look back at Batson's (Batson et al., 1993) encompassing attempt at writing a functional definition stated in terms of the need to answer existential questions. That and other definitions did good service for a time. We believe, however, that future functional definitions of religion are more likely to be stated in terms of a human need for meaning and to invoke the model of religion as a meaning system.
Definitional issues do not need to impede progress in the field. Taking a functional approach, it may be that there is no meaningful distinction between the positions presented by Zinnabauer and Pargament (Chapter 2, this volume), or perhaps not only between those two positions but even among the whole set of definitions. At this point in the development of the field, it appears that breadth is to be preferred over narrowness.

The vast bulk of existing research in the psychology of religion has been conducted with samples of Western Judeo-Christians, primarily white college students. However, within this research body, there is some variation and some attention to group differences, such as studies of religion in African Americans and Latinos and studies of differences in affiliation or denomination (e.g., comparisons of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish participants). However, much remains to be learned about other religious groups. For example, there is very little psychological research on Islam in spite of its recent prominence in the world. Hunsberger and Jackson (2005) and Roccas (2005) review cross-cultural and cross-religion research on religion and prejudice and on religion and values, respectively.

In addition to the methodological issues noted above, even in light of the creative advances in methods (Hood & Belzen, Chapter 4, this volume), questionnaires will remain a primary assessment technique in the psychology of religion. This is partly because the psychometrics of these measures have improved dramatically in recent times (see Hill, Chapter 3, this volume). Also, a primary focus of the psychology of religion is the study of religious meaning and its expressions, and one obvious way to capture part of that is through paper-and-pencil measures. Questionnaires remain necessary because many aspects of religiousness, such as beliefs or motivation, are interior processes that cannot be inferred but must be reported by the subject. However, many nonquestionnaire measures have been employed as both dependent and independent variables in studies of the psychology of religion. For example, studies of religiousness and health have included assessments of mortality and physiological indices (e.g., interleukin-6, blood pressure), while other studies have employed neurophysiological indices (see Newberg & Newberg, Chapter 11, this volume).

Another relatively recent development in research in the psychology of religion is that of mini-models that help to guide theory and research in circumscribed areas and for particular phenomena. For example, spiritual intelligence is an idea about a hypothetical dimension of personality/intelligence that is concerned with the sustaining of behavior in the pursuit of goals, and the regulation of subgoal behavior under the umbrella of more global goals; the overarching one (orsuprameaning, in Frankl's [1969] terms, orultimate concern, in Tillich's [1952, 1963] terms) is what is of ultimate concern to the person (Emmons, 1999). In contrast, religion as schema (McIntosh, 1995) or a constellation of schemas (Ozorak, 1997) proposes a structure of religious ideas, teachings, behavioral scripts, and other knowledge in the information storage system. Religion and coping describes how the use of different types of religious coping strategies differentially influences health and well-being (Pargament, 1997). Right now, each of these lines of research is relatively independent of the others. Thus, they can be described as mini-models whose work runs in parallel but has yet to be integrated within psychology (thus, intradisciplinary development), let alone across disciplinary boundaries (thus, multilevel and interdisciplinary).


What role does the psychology of religion now play in the broader field of psychology? Perhaps its most immediate disciplinary contributions are the publication of research that has put the topic of religion in front of the rest of the psychological community. Psychology of religion articles are now published in leading journals, psychology of religion books are published by leading publishers and the American Psychological Association, and a comfortable amount of program time for this topic is evident at professional meetings. Applied contributions are also current. For example, training in the application of some of this knowledge is more likely than in prior years to be available as part of doctoral programs in clinical and counseling psychology. Therefore, an overview of the field of psychology shows that the psychology of religion is present, contributing, and engag-ing other areas in dialogue.
One way to identify the potential contributions of the psychology of religion is to assume that they parallel those of the larger discipline of psychology. When people are introduced to psychology, they typically learn that its goals are to describe, predict, understand, and control behavior. In general psychology, the pursuit of these goals has resulted in a discipline with a self-evident expanse. Its contributions to myriad lines of intellectual work and applications to a broad array of human problems are far-reaching. It would be proper, therefore, for advances in the psychology of religion to fill a similar role. Scholars in the field would agree upon the first three goals (describe, predict, and understand). Understanding all of the psychological mechanisms underlying human religiousness is an aim inherent in the process. There may be differences of opinion, however, about the fourth goal, control. Following the next 28 topical chapters, we return to this issue in Chapter 30.
Also in Chapter 30, we discuss the material in these 28 topical chapters in light of the integrative themes identified above. These 28 chapters describe the various minitheories, conceptual frameworks, and empirical work that are on the cutting edge of the psychology of religion. They make it clear that the psychology of religion is becoming ever more sophisticated and integrative while also pushing the boundaries of relevant subject matter in very exciting ways. We think that the multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm and the model of religion as a meaning system will emerge as intellectual tools that contribute to these developments in significant ways.

We thank the contributors in this handbook for providing a number of good suggestions for the preparation of these chapters, and Adam Cohen, Ralph Hood, Jr., and Ralph Piedmont for helpful critical comments on the rough drafts.

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