Religious Psychology

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The psychology of religion is a field of applied psychology and religious studies that deals with psychological issues to religion is concerned. According to Hans-Jürgen Fraas , the "subject of the psychology of religion in the traditional sense [...] is the religiosity of people."

Origin and neighboring disciplines

The impetus for the establishment of religious psychology as a branch of psychology was provided by Friedrich Schleiermacher's posthumously published work 'Psychologie' from 1862 . William James wrote the first great classic of religious psychology with 'The varieties of religious experience' in 1902 .

The psychology of religion is related to, but must be distinguished from, pastoral psychology, which seeks to use psychological knowledge in a Christian theological sense. There are also connections to the depth psychology of Carl Gustav Jung and to general social psychology , and occasionally to parapsychology .


The psychology of religion examines forms, laws and development of religious life on the level of the individual or group. It thus considers the psychological requirements and processes in religious experience, thinking, feeling and acting.

These include, for example, religious belief and doubt, the experience of God , ecstasy and phenomena such as missionary work and conversion , repentance and feelings of guilt , penance and confession , but also prayer . Isolated special forms and borderline cases of religious experience, such as stigmatization , also belong to the subject area of ​​this science and from a neurological and psychiatric point of view are often assigned to the psychopathology of religion . In addition, religious psychology examines the characterological peculiarities of the founders, bearers and representatives of religion as well as those of the believers. Her core pieces include motivational research and social psychology.

In close connection with the sociology of religion and anthropology of religion , the psychology of religion also describes the conditions of religious experience in society: structure and stratification of the population with regard to religious life and the interactions between society, religious community and believing individual. For example, religious psychological studies from a cultural psychological perspective are of interest to these relationships .


Not infrequently, however , the empirical psychology of religion faces major methodological problems. This is due to the difficult experimental access and difficulties in the exact documentation and reproduction of religious experiences.

Traditionally, and above all from the theological side, this is countered in that self-observation , documentation and description play all the more important roles; whereby the psychology of religion works hand in hand with the phenomenology of religion ( Max Scheler , Gerardus van der Leeuw ). Reports, materials and inquiries as well as memoirs on religious experiences, enlightenments and visions are therefore important foundations for the psychology of religion .

A direction that is dominant, especially in the English-speaking world, is deliberately limited to empirically verifiable aspects of religious experience. These include, for example, religious coping and intercession research . In contrast to the mainly psychoanalytically oriented introspective approach, the paradigm of cognitive psychology is used here.

Society for the Psychology of Religion

The Society for Religious Psychology was founded in Nuremberg in 1914 by Wilhelm Stählin and Oswald Külpe ; The managing director of the resulting International Society for Religious Psychology was the Protestant theologian Werner Gruehn in 1927 , and after Gruehn's death in 1961 the Catholic theologian Wilhelm Keilbach .

Due to the expulsions during the Nazi era, society shifted from Europe to the USA. Psychology of religion can be studied in a 1-year course and concludes with an EU diploma.

Introductory literature in German

  • Bernhard Grom: Psychology of Religion . Complete revised 3. Edition. Kösel, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-466-36765-8
  • Susanne Heine : Fundamentals of the psychology of religion. Models and methods . (= UTB; 2528). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 3-8252-2528-3
  • Hansjörg Hemminger: Basic knowledge of psychology of religion. A manual for study and practice . Herder, Freiburg 2003, ISBN 3-451-28185-6
  • Christian Henning / Sebastian Murken / Erich Nestler (eds.): Introduction to the psychology of religion. (= UTB; 2435). Schöningh, Paderborn et al. 2003, ISBN 3-8252-2435-X
  • Nils Holm: Introduction to the Psychology of Religion . (= UTB; 1592). Ernst Reinhardt, Munich and Basel 1990, ISBN 3-497-01212-2
  • Godwin Lämmermann: Introduction to the Psychology of Religion. Basic questions, theories, topics . Neukirchener Verlag 2006, ISBN 3-7887-2174-X
  • Helfried Moosbrugger / Christian Zwingmann / Dirk Frank (eds.): Religiosity, personality and behavior. Contributions to the psychology of religion . (Conference proceedings, Hamburg 1994). Waxmann, Münster et al. 1996, ISBN 3-89325-420-X
  • Christian Zwingmann / Helfried Moosbrugger (eds.): Religiosity: Measurement methods and studies on health and coping with life. New contributions to the psychology of religion . Waxmann, Münster et al. 2004, ISBN 3-8309-1428-8

Individual evidence

  1. Hans-Jürgen Fraas: The religiosity of people: a plan of the psychology of religion. Edition, Vandenhoeck u. Ruprecht, Göttingen 1990, ISBN 3-525-03274-9 . P. 9.
  2. Halina Grzymala-Moszczynska, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Religion, Psychopathology and Coping , 1996, p. 24
  3. Pradeep Chakkarath: On the cultural-psychological relevance of religions and world views . In: Gisela Trommsdorff, Hans-Joachim Kornadt (Hrsg.): Encyclopedia of Psychology. Theories and methods of cross-cultural psychology . tape 1 . Hogrefe, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-8017-1502-1 , pp. 615-674 .
  4. Jacob A. van Belzen: Towards cultural psychology of religion: Principles, Approaches, applications . Springer, New York 2010, ISBN 978-90-481-3490-8 .
  5. Christian way:  Grühn, Werner Georg Alexander. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 20, Bautz, Nordhausen 2002, ISBN 3-88309-091-3 , Sp. 658-668.
  6. University of Vienna European Diploma of Advanced Study in Psychology of Religion (Socrates program) perm. on December 5, 2018

See also

Web links