Psychology and Religion

Dickinson College

Fall semester, 2001

 

Course time:            Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9 - 10 a.m.

(Psychology 180G-01/Religion 241G-01)

 

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30 – 1:45 p.m.

(Psychology 180G-02/Religion 241G-02)

 

Course room:            James Center room 143

 

Instructor:             Adam Cohen

Email:               cohena_delete_this_@dickinson.edu

Office phone:             (717) 245-1562

Office hours:            Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10-11 a.m. and by appointment.

 

General overview

This may be a very different course from what you expect.  An informal survey by me of other people’s psychology of religion courses shows a few crucial differences.  First, such courses are often offered in religion departments, not psychology departments.  Second, the courses are often called “Psychology of religion”, not “Psychology and religion”.  These two factors, put together, to me reflect that such courses are usually focused on such questions as “What’s wrong with those crazy religious people?” and “What is the psychoanalytic basis of religion?” People in these courses read Freud and Jung and call it a day.

We will engage such questions after a fashion.  But this course is called “Psychology and religion” because it is aimed at creating a constructive, respectful dialogue between psychology and religion, a two-way street.  We will as much as possible attempt not only to discuss what psychology can offer as far as understanding religion, but what religion can offer psychology; for example, why religious people are a little healthier and happier than nonreligious people.

Thus, at the conclusion of this course, we should have a sense of what important figures in the social sciences, such as Freud, James, and Durkheim, have said about religion; have a sense of the kinds of questions that religion raises for psychologists; an increased appreciation of different religious traditions; and a good sense of how psychologists interested in religion can proceed.

 

Readings

Most readings are available in a bulkpack from the bookstore.  In rare cases a paper may be put on reserve in the library.   I am trying to assign a mix of classic or general readings as well as primary research articles in psychology.  You should buy a copy of William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience and a copy of The Sunflower by Simon Weisenthal; both are available at the bookstore.

 

Evaluation

We will have 3 exams over the course of the semester.  Each exam will be worth 15% of the grade.  These will most likely be short essay exams.

Over the course of the semester, there are three small assignments related to particular topics.  These will be short (1-2 page) papers and will together be worth 15% of the final grade.  As these will be integral to class discussion, these will not be accepted late.

 Class participation along with attendance will be worth 10% of the grade.  Class participation is not necessarily the same thing as talking.  It is making thoughtful comments, asking questions, listening actively, respecting the other seminar participants and instructor, etc.  There is bound to be a variety of views about religion represented in the class.  No doubt some class participants will be deeply religious and others skeptical.  It is going to be vital to cultivate an atmosphere of respect for both views. 

            A short final paper (around 5-7 pages) will be due at the time the final is scheduled for.  In this paper, you will have the opportunity to go into depth a little more into a topic related to psychology and religion of special interest to you.  You will read 2 or 3 primary research articles in psychology, summarize them in your paper, and also – important – give your well thought-out opinion about the topic and the articles.  We will discuss these papers together at the end of the course both to let other participants know what we have found and also to help with the writing of these papers.  This paper will be worth 30% of the course grade.  I strongly suggest using the Writing Center (x1620) for this paper.  Many people think the Writing Center is a place for “bad” writers to get help but I think that “good” writers benefit even more from their services.  Some time around the end of October, John Stachacz, the science librarian, will come to class and give a presentation on using library resources for this paper.

 

Academic honesty

Don’t even think about plagiarizing or cheating on exams or papers.  Broadly speaking, plagiarism, to my mind, is taking credit for someone else’s work.  A precise definition is in the student handbook.  If I have reason to suspect cheating of any kind I will refer the matter to the Judicial System Administrator.

 

Special needs

If there is a particular condition of which I should be aware (e.g., visual or auditory impairment, learning disability, accessibility), let me know about it immediately so that arrangements can be made to accommodate your needs.  If you haven’t submitted documentation to the Office of Counseling and Disability Services, call x1485.

 

Who is your instructor?

            I am a Dickinson alumnus (’94) and I majored in psychology and Judaic Studies.  My Ph.D. (from the University of Pennsylvania) is in social psychology.  For my dissertation, I studied the importance of mental states (such as faith and immoral thoughts) in different religions.  Last year, I was a post-doctoral fellow at the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at the University of Pennsylvania where I worked on religion and moral judgment, religiosity, health and happiness, forgiveness, and the Holocaust.

 

Course topics, readings and assignments

 

What is religion? What is psychology?

            Hood, R.W., Jr., Spilka, B., Hunsberger, B. & Gorsuch, R. (1996).  The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach, Second Edition (pp. 1-12).  New York: Guilford.

Gleitman, H., Fridlund, A.J. & Reisberg, D. (1999).  Psychology, Fifth Edition (pp. 1-11).  New York: Norton.

James, W. (1902/1997).  The Varieties of Religious Experience (pp. 39-43).  New York: Touchstone.

Durkheim. E. (1912/1995).  Elementary Forms of Religious Life (trans. K.E. Fields).  (pp. 33-39).  New York: Free Press.

 

 

Psychology versus religion?

Freud, S. (1927/1961).  The Future of an Illusion (trans. J. Strachey).  (pp. xxiii, 38-42).  New York: Norton.

Shermer, M. (1997).  Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time (pp. 44-61).  New York: MJF Books.

James, W. (1902/1997).  The Varieties of Religious Experience (pp. 27-30).  New York: Touchstone.

 

 

Two kinds of religions/faiths.

            Morris, P. (1996).  Community beyond tradition.  In P. Heelas, S. Lash & P. Morris (Eds.), Detraditionalization: Critical Reflections on Authority and Identity (pp. 238-245).  Cambridge: Blackwell. 

            Denny, F.M. (1996).  The structures of Muslim life.  In H.B. Earhart (Ed.), Religious Traditions of the World: a Journey Through Africa, Mesoamerica, North America, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, China, and Japan (pp. 612-613).  San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

Neusner, J. (1993).  Judaism.  In A. Sharma (Ed.), Our Religions (pp. 294-297; 306-308).  San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

 

Assignment:  

Attend a religious service of a type you have never been to before. Write about

your reactions in 1-2 pages.

 

 

Religious belief and world-view

Berger, P.L. (1967/1990).  The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (pp. 3-28).  New York: Anchor Books.

            King, L. (2001).  The hard road to the good life: The happy, mature person.  Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 41(1), 54-56; 58-61; 64-68.

Solomon, S., Greenberg, J. & Pyszczynski, T. (2000).  Pride and prejudice: Fear of death and social behavior.  Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9(6), 200-204. 

            Scotton, B.W. (1998).  Treating Buddhist patients.  In H.G. Koenig (Ed.), Handbook of Religion and Mental Health (pp. 263-270).  San Diego: Academic Press.

 

Come to class prepared to write a short essay about the last important event in your life.  W will analyze people’s essays together (essays will be anonymous).

 

 

 

 

Morality

            Sabini, J. & Silver, M. (1998).  Emotion, Character and Responsibility (pp. 9-31).  New York: Oxford University Press.

Shweder, R, Much, N.C., Mahapatra, M. & Park, L. (1997).  The “big three” of morality (autonomy, community, divinity) and the “big three” explanations of suffering.  In A.M. Brandt & P. Rozin (Eds.), Morality and Health (pp. 130-140).  New York: Routledge.

 

 

Evil

Arendt, H. (1963/1992).  Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (pp. 21-55; 206-219; 277-279).

 

Assignment:  

Consider: Was Timothy McVeigh evil? Write a 1-2 page argument.  Naturally what this assignment requires you to do is to define evil so keep that in mind as you write.

 

 

Conversion

            James, W. (1902/1997).  The Varieties of Religious Experience (pp. 180-210).  New York: Touchstone.

 

 

Religion and food

Leviticus chapter 11.

Kass, L.R. (1994).  Why the dietary laws? Commentary, pp. 45-46.

Rozin, P. (1990).  Social and moral aspects of food and eating.  In I. Rock (Ed.), The Legacy of Solomon Asch: Essays in Cognition and Social Psychology (pp. 97-110).

 

 

Women in religion

            AuBuchon, P.G. & Calhoun, K.S. (1985).  Menstrual cycle symptomatology: The role of social expectancy and experimental demand characteristics.  Psychosomatic Medicine, 47(1), 35-45.

            Siegel, S.J. (1986).  The effect of culture on how women experience menstruation: Jewish women and mikvah.  Women & Health, 10(4), 63-74.

 

 

Homosexuality

            Greenberg, A.S. & Bailey, J.M. (1993).  Do biological explanations of homosexuality have moral, legal or policy implications? Journal of Sex Research, 30(3), 245-251.

Haldeman, D.C. (1994).  The practice and ethics of sexual orientation conversion therapy.  Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62(2), 221-227.

 

 

Forgiveness

Wiesenthal, S. (1997).  The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness.  New York: Schocken Books.  (pp. 3-98).

 

Assignment:  

Write a letter (you don’t have to send it) to a person you have not forgiven for some offense.

 

 

Religiosity, health and happiness

Myers, D.G. (1992).  The Pursuit of Happiness.  New York: Avon Books. (pp. 177-204). (on reserve at the library.)

Seybold, K.S. & Hill, P.C. (2001).  The role of religion and spirituality in mental and physical health.  Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10(1), 21-24.

Harris, W.S., Gowda, M., Kolb, J.W., Strychacz, C.P., Vacek, J.L., Jones, P.G., Forker, A., O’Keefe, J.H. & McCallister, B.D. (1999).  A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of remote, intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary care unit.  Archives of Internal Medicine, 159, 2273-2278.


Psych 180-G01 course schedule (subject to change)

Sep 3               Introduction to course, getting acquainted.

Sep 5               What is religion? What is psychology?

Sep 7               What is religion? What is psychology? (continued)

Sep 10             What is religion? What is psychology? (continued)

Sep 12             Psychology versus religion?

Sep 14             Psychology versus religion? (continued).  Note: September 14th is the last Day to Add/Drop or Change to/from Pass/Fail.

Sep 17             Psychology versus religion? (continued).

Sep 19             No class: Second day of Rosh HaShanah.

Sep 21             Two kinds of religions/faiths.  Assignment one.

Sep 24             Two kinds of religions/faiths (continued).

Sep 26             Two kinds of religions/faiths (continued).

Sep 28             Exam One.  At ATS at 9:00 there is a WITF live broadcast on Evolution

and Creationism.  Attendance is required.

Oct 1               Religious belief and world-view.

Oct 3               Religious belief and world-view (continued).

Oct 5               Religious belief and world-view (continued).

Oct 8               Evil.  Assignment two.

Oct 10             Evil (continued).

Oct 12             Evil (continued).

Oct 15             Conversion.

Oct 17             Conversion (continued).

Oct 19             Conversion (continued).  Note: Mid-term pause from 5 pm Friday,

October 19 thru 8 am, Wednesday, October 24.

Oct 24             Food.  Combined class with Dr. Adrienne Su, English dept, Denny 317

Oct 26             Food.  Combined class with Dr. Adrienne Su, English dept, Denny 317

Oct 29             Food.

Oct 31             Exam Two.

Nov 2              Women and religion.

Nov 5              Women and religion (continued).

Nov 7              Women and religion (continued).

Nov 9              Homosexuality.   Note: November 9th is the last day to

withdraw from a course with a "W" grade.

Nov 12                        Homosexuality (continued).

Nov 14                        Homosexuality (continued).

Nov 16                        Forgiveness.  Assignment three.

Nov 19                        Forgiveness (continued).  Note: Thanksgiving Vacation 5 pm, Tuesday,

November 20 thru 8 am, Monday, November 26th.

Nov 26                        Forgiveness (continued).

Nov 28                        Religiosity, health and happiness.

Nov 30                        Religiosity, health and happiness (continued).

Dec 3               Religiosity, health and happiness (continued).

Dec 5               Exam Three.

Dec 7               Wrap-up, discussion of final papers.

Dec 10             Wrap-up, discussion of final papers (continued). 

Dec 12             Wrap-up, discussion of final papers (continued).  Note: Classes end Dec 12th.

                        Final paper due at scheduled time for final exam (Dec 15th).

Psych 180-G02 course schedule (subject to change)

 

Sep 4               Introduction to course, getting acquainted; What is religion? What is

psychology?

Sep 6               What is religion? What is psychology? (continued)

Sep 11             Psychology versus religion?

Sep 13             Psychology versus religion? (continued).  Note: September 14th is the last

Day to Add/Drop or Change to/from Pass/Fail.

Sep 18             No class: Rosh HaShanah

Sep 20             Two kinds of religions/faiths.  Assignment one.

Sep 25             Two kinds of religions/faiths (continued).

Sep 27             No class: Yom Kipper.  September 28th at ATS at 9:00 there is a WITF live

broadcast on Evolution and Creationism.  Attendance is required.

Oct 2               Exam One.

Oct 4               Religious belief and world-view.

Oct 9               Religious belief and world-view (continued).

Oct 11             Evil.  Assignment two.

Oct 16             Evil (continued).

Oct 18             Conversion. Note: Mid-term pause from 5 pm Friday, October 19 thru

8 am, Wednesday, October 24.

Oct 25             Conversion (continued).

Oct 30             Food.  Combined class with Dr. Adrienne Su, English dept, Denny 317

Nov 1              Food (continued).

Nov 6              Exam Two.

Nov 8              Women and religion.  Note: November 9th is the last day to withdraw from

a course with a "W" grade.

Nov 13                        Women and religion (continued).

Nov 15                        Homosexuality.   

Nov 20                        Homosexuality (continued).  Thanksgiving Vacation 5 pm, Tuesday,

November 20 thru 8 am, Monday, November 26th.

Nov 27                        Forgiveness.  Assignment three.

Nov 29                        Forgiveness (continued).

Dec 4               Religiosity, health and happiness.

Dec 6               Exam Three

Dec 11             Wrap-up, discussion of final papers.  Note: Classes end Dec 12th.

                        Final paper due at scheduled time for final exam (Dec 19th).