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Psychology of religion
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Psychology of religion

The psychology of religion deals with understanding the psychological processes and explanations of an individual's religious action, thoughts, and beliefs. Many theories exist, and the following appears only as a small sample of early psychology.

Table of contents
1 Pragmatism
2 Suspension of rationality
3 Oedipus complex
4 Protective redemption
5 Projections
6 Stablity frame of reference


William James' hypothesis of pragmatism stems from the efficacy of religion. If an individual believes in and performs religious activities, and those actions happen to work, then that practice appears the proper choice for the individual. However, if the processes of religion have little efficacy, then there is no rationale for continuing the practice. In short, if it works, do it, if it doesn't, don't.

Suspension of rationality

According to Rudolph Otto, religion appears as a non-rational response to the holy, numinous, or divine power. Otto asserts in Latin, "mysterium tremendum atque fasinans", the mystery that causes trembling and facination, attempting to explain that inexpressible and perhaps supernatural emotional reaction of wonder drawing us to seemingly ordinary and/or religious experiences of grace. This sense of emotional wonder appears evident at the root of all religious experiences. Through this emotional wonder, we suspend our rational mind for non-rational possibilites.

Oedipus complex

Needs work

Protective redemption

Carl Jung suggests that religion exists because of a tendency to regression of unsatisfying sexual experiences. In essence, we feel inadequate and strive for religion and/or God as a protective redemption.


No supernatural deities exist, according to Ludwig Feuerbach. The alleged deities arise from our fears and desires people have of fearsome aspects of nature. For example, lightning, fire, flood, and other catastrophes appear attributed to a the effective intranquality between humans and a their higher deity, or perhaps between a conflict between higher deities. In essence, deities appear created by humans.

Stablity frame of reference

According to Eric Frohmm humans have a need for a stable frame of reference. Religion apparently fills this need. In effect, humans crave answers to questions that no other source of knowledge has an answer to, which only religion may seem to answer. However, a sense of free will must be given in order for religion to appear healthy. An authoritarian notion of religion appears detrimental.