Psychology and religion: what are they?


Radford, J. 2006. Psychology and religion: what are they? History and Philosophy of Psychology. 8 (1), pp. 1-11.
AuthorsRadford, J.

Psychology and religion would appear to be related in principle. But religion does not feature largely in main-stream psychology. Richards (1988) argues that the relationship has historically been closer than it is now, and Buchanan (2003) largely agrees. A prior question, it is suggested, is what we do or should mean by the two terms. Different types of definition are discussed, stipulative, reportive, essentialist and operational. A special case of the last can be considered to be ’family resemblances’, characteristics shared in unequal measure by members of a class. This seems most appropriate to religion, but the lists of most writers appear too short. A longer set of characteristics is suggested. But for psychology a lexical approach seems more helpful, an example being the author’s distinction between discipline, subject and profession. These points suggest two entities which do have something in common, but which are in fact essentially different in significant ways affecting assumptions, content, methodology and modes of thought. Nevertheless psychology should engage with religion. Some reasons why it has not done so more completely are discussed. There are currently signs of a more comprehensive approach.

Keywordsmain-stream psychology; religion
JournalHistory and Philosophy of Psychology
Journal citation8 (1), pp. 1-11
Accepted author manuscript
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Deposited06 Jul 2010
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Radford, J. (2006) ‘Psychology and religion: what are they?’ History and Philosophy of Psychology, 2006, 8 (1), 1-11.

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