Handbook of the Psychology
of Religion and Spirituality
Raymond F. Paloutzian
& Crystal L. Parks, Eds.
Geoffrey W. Sutton
As I write this review, world leaders, both secular and religious, have attempted to separate the heinous actions of murderous groups identifying with religion from the majority of people who practice their religion in peaceful ways. As the editors observe, the importance of religion and spirituality hardly needs justification. The editors and authors of the thirty-three chapters clearly focus their attention on a psychological perspective without ignoring the contribution of sociologists and anthropologists. They accomplish this by focusing on two meta-themes, which the editors propose will take scholars beyond the endless attempts at formulating definitions of the terms religion and spirituality.
The first meta-theme views the study of religion in the context of meaning systems, which enable people to integrate their beliefs, feelings, and behavior with the ongoing stream of information one encounters in life.
The second meta-theme is an affirmation of a “multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm,” which encourages researchers to examine any topic at any level of analysis in an effort to build a richer understanding. In this view, there is a place for the neuroscientist to examine the role of neurochemistry and neuroanatomy in religious experience as well as for the scientist collecting thematic material by interviewing practitioners about their experiences wherever they worship or practice their faith.
This handbook is divided into six parts that focus on progress since the first handbook was published in 2005. In reading the chapters and checking the dates on the references, I found that, for the most part, the authors provided sufficient context to track the historical trajectory of a particular subfield even though the focus is on the proliferation of research in the past eight years. Both the subject and author indexes are extensive and will serve readers well in tracking a particular topic. For example, entries for the following topics include multiple subtopics taking up more than half of a column: Developmental Psychology, Forgiveness, Meaning systems, Mental health, Moral concern, and Religious coping. In contrast, several high-profile media topics garnered a few pages of references (number in parentheses): abortion (1), homosexuality (4), LBGT or LGBTQ (0).
Part I consists of seven foundational chapters. I consider the first two chapters as two parts of a State of the Field report. The editors provide an overview of progress in chapter one, and chapter two reviews progress on defining the elusive concepts of religion and spirituality. The other basic chapters cover measurement, research methods, psychodynamic and evolutionary approaches, and cross-cultural comparisons. Part II consists of three chapters covering research on religion and spirituality through the lifespan.
Another issue a novice reader might conclude is that researchers understand this core aspect of human behavior by relying on surveys. There are some experiments, interviews, and comparative group studies, but surveys have, in fact, dominated the field. Given the increasing interest in religion and spirituality, this, too, should change in the years ahead as scientists build models and conduct studies likely to expand understanding in laboratory and field experiments as well as quality longitudinal studies.
Download a pdf copy Click Here Paloutzian, R. F. & Park, C.L. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality, 2nd. Edition. New York: Guildford.
Paloutzian, R. F. & Park, C.L. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality, 2nd. Edition. New York: Guildford.
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