"Psychology and Religion" How is psychology present in religion? How might some dangerous behavior be linked with religious beliefs? Is religion useful or detrimental to society?

Essay by morgrumUniversity, Bachelor'sA, October 2002

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I find religion to be a fascinating subject. I think that there are many psychological aspects to all religions. This research paper is about relationships between religion and psychology and some of religion's therefore-potential dangers.

William James, former President of the American Psychological Association was interested in religious phenomena and attempted to understand religious phenomena experienced on the individual level. He wrote a series of lectures which came to be known as The Varieties of Religious Experience, first published in 1902. The entire book can be found online at www.psywww.com/psyrelig/james/index.htm In his book, he says "There can be no doubt that as a matter of fact a religious life, exclusively pursued, does tend to make the person exceptional and eccentric...They have known no measure, been liable to obsessions and fixed ideas; and frequently they have fallen into trances, heard voices, seen visions, and presented all sorts of peculiarities which are ordinarily classed as pathological.

Often, moreover, these pathological features in their career have helped to give them their religious authority and influence."

These statements remind us that strong convictions can sometimes lead to behavioral tendencies that would not otherwise exist. Take, for instance, the World trade Center disaster in 2001. If it were not for the religious convictions of those involved in the attacks, they would not likely have pursued such heinous goals. It has been my own experience that people are usually unwilling to entertain any notion that defies their religious beliefs. To me, this is an indication that they are effectively being manipulated by the hypnotic control of their own religious leaders and are thereby limited psychologically and in many other ways by the boundaries of their belief system (which seem to be invisible from the inside).

I remember once when I was playing a computer game...