Ch1 - J.M Nelson Psychology Religion and Spirituality DOI...

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Unformatted text preview: J.M. Nelson, Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality, DOI 10.1007/978-0-387-87573-6_0, @ Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009 3 Chapter 1 Introduction to Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality 1.1 Introduction The nature of the human person has been a subject of fascination since ancient times. We desire to understand ourselves and our place in the world, and at times we also look at broader human questions: Why am I here? What is the meaning or purpose of my life? Why do people suffer? This book is about two of the most important ways that people have attempted to answer these kinds of questions— religion and psychology. Especially over the past century, there has been a fascinat- ing interchange of views between psychologists and religious practitioners about questions of daily life and broader meaning. In this book, we will seek to understand this complex and constantly changing dialogue and its implication for our under- standing of the human person (cf. Henking, 2000). We will begin our quest in this chapter with a look at the basic concepts of religion, spirituality, and psychology, as well as some history of the dialogue between them. 1.2 Basic Concepts 1.2.1 What is Religion? From prehistoric times to the present, religion has been a central part of human expe- rience and culture. Religions are thought to have existed in all times and societies (Cela-Conde, 1998; Glock & Stark, 1965). Traditionally the term religion was used to refer to all aspects of the human relationship to the Divine or transcendent — that which is greater than us, “the source and goal of all human life and value” (Meissner, 1987, p. 119). More recently, scholars have started to understand religion as activities and a way of life: “the fashioning of distinctive emotions; of distinctive habits, practices, or virtues; of distinctive purposes, desires, passions, and commit- ments; and of distinctive beliefs and ways of thinking,” along with “a distinctive way of living together” and a language for discussing “what they are doing and why” (Dykstra, 1986). Thus religion has to do not only with the transcendent as it is “out 4 1 Introduction to Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality there” but also as it is immanent in our bodily life, daily experiences, and practices. Some religious traditions like Islam are thought to emphasize transcendence, while Eastern religions tend to emphasize immanence. Christianity stresses both: the tran- scendent God is also the God who can be found within and around us, discernable in both a dramatic religious experience and in the simple, quiet love of a child for his or her parent (Maloney, 1992, p. 1; Spidlik, 1986, p. 134; Shannon, 2000; Macquarrie, 1982, p. 34). Religion is thus multidimensional, and its complexity must be under- stood if it is to be properly evaluated (Gorsuch, 1984; Snibbe & Markus, 2002)....
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Ch1 - J.M Nelson Psychology Religion and Spirituality DOI...

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