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Psychology of Religion List of Books

Featured Psychology of Religion Books

Here are some favorites from the early aughts (2000-2004).

Aspects in Contexts

Aspects in Contexts: Studies in the History of Psychology of Religion

Edited by Jacob A. Belzen, Ph.D.

In this worthwhile book you will find in-depth examinations of several ongoing issues in the psychology of religion. Belzen has assembled some of the world's foremost psychologists of religion, such as David Wulff and Hendrika Vandekemp to lend their insights on a wide range of issues, personalities and events that the field has faced. These include

  • the role of history in psychology of religion;
  • factors that affected James Henry Leuba;
  • influences on Oskar Pfister's use of psychoanalysis in religion;
  • psychology of religion in The Netherlands;
  • Gordon Allport's early writings on religion;
  • the development of the Dorpat School;
  • events in the French psychology of religion;
  • and the place of psychology of religion in Swedish academia.
Although these topics may seem divergent, the issues they address are acutely relevant to the current status of the field. The authors address such points as psychology of religion's relationship to religious studies and to psychology; the distinction between religion and spirituality; and the influence of individual background factors on the theories and research psychologists of religion perform. This is a very interesting book for people who study issues such as these. To read more or to order, click this link.

Bless Me Father For I Have Sinned

Bless Me Father For I Have Sinned: Perspectives on Sexual Abuse Committed by Roman Catholic Priests

Edited by Thomas Plante, Ph.D.

An insightful series of articles addressing problems of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests. This book, published in 1999, is especially timely because of the recent events affecting the church. As Dr. Plante points out in his article on the subject, even though this is an issue that one church is grappling with, it is certainly not limited to only Roman Catholics. Aimed at clinical psychologists and others who deal with sexual abuse among clergy, this book focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of sexual abuse among priests. To order the book from, click this link.

Churches ad hoc: A divine comedy

by Herman Krieger

Studies in religion can be ponderous and "heavy". Herman Krieger offers an alternative with his photo essay of religious life in the U.S. His photos and captions demonstrate a sharp eye for wit, humor and irony. In many ways, this book functions as a projective test-- whatever your views regarding religion, you will find photos that bring a smile to your face. This little book is a gem! Read the review of Churches ad hoc at to learn more! You also can view his work online.

A witty glimpse into religion

Church ad hoc: A divine comedy

Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence Updated Edition with a New Preface

by Mark Juergensmeyer

With the terrorist attack that took place September 11, 2001, people are seeking answers. One important issue that the attack brings up is the role of fundamentalism in the world's religions. Terror in the Mind of God has received very good reviews in the academic community and among the broader public. I highly recommend that you consider reading this book and learning more about the ways that extreme religious views can affect people's behaviors. The connection between belief and behavior is important if we are to understand our world.

Understanding Religious Extremism

Terror and the Mind of God

When Does Religion Help?

The Psychology of Religion and Coping

The Psychology of Religion and Coping: Theory, Research, Practice

by Kenneth I. Pargament

Read about one of the most interesting -- and important -- programs of research in the psychology of religion. Dr. Pargament and his students have spent years investigating the ways that religion helps people cope with stressful events in their lives. The kinds of questions that Pargament asks are fascinating: When faced with apparent death, what prompts some people to use prayer, while others do not? Why does religion seem to help some people, but not others? Pargament provides thoughtful answers to these questions, and he offers a theory to help explain the research findings of scores of studies. The book is well-written, and suitable both for people new to psychological research, and to other scholars. More importantly, the message is an enlightening glimpse into the intersection between psychology and religion. I highly recommend The Psychology of Religion and Coping

Religion and the Individual: A Social-Psychological Perspective

by C. Daniel Batson, Patricia Schoenrade, and W. Larry Ventis

This book is an excellent examination of the "religious orientation" research that has guided hundreds of psychological studies of religion. In it, you read about Allport's intrinsic and extrinsic orientations toward religious events, and Batson's quest orientation. Batson and his colleagues offer a readable introduction to the research literature. This book does not offer a survey of the many different perspectives that psychologists bring to the field. What it does offer is an excellent study of religious orientation, describing how this line of research can be used to better understand the motivations behind religious behavior & belief, and the consequences of religious belief on mental health and social behavior. Although written from the perspective of social psychology, the authors also address concerns relevant to clinical and developmental psychology. Read Religion and the Individual to learn more!

Examines the role of Existential Questions

Religion and the Individual

A Profound and Touching Message

Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie

by Mitch Albom

This simple book leaves you with an enduring message. Mitch Albom describes his last class with Morrie Schwartz, held during the final weeks of Morrie's life. In these encounters we learn about a teacher who brought love to many lives, and we are reminded of the things that are truly important. Tuesdays with Morrie describes how one man affected millions of people with his genuine and guileless story. As I read this book I laughed, I cried, and I was inspired to live a better life. Tuesdays with Morrie isn't a typical psychology of religion book, but it brings to light many of the things that religion strives for. Available in regular and large print editions as well as an unabridged audiotape edition.

Religion Books of the Century

[The 20th Century, that is...]

Among the celebrations of our arbitrary demarcations of time are special lists of noteworthy events. If you are like me, you take such lists with a grain of salt, but they do offer us an opportunity to remember the accomplishments of the past. Here are the top 10 religion books, as judged by HarperSanFrancisco, a leading publisher of books on religion and spirituality. If you are looking for a good book on religion, these are some excellent options to consider.

Religion Books of the Century

The Sabbath, by Heschel

An Excellent Starting Point

Invitation to the Psychology of Religion

Invitation to the Psychology of Religion

by Ray Paloutzian

If you are new to psychological research on religion, an excellent starting place is Paloutzian's Invitation to the Psychology of Religion. Here you will learn the kinds of questions that psychologists ask about religion, and how those questions are answered. This book has a well-deserved reputation for being accessible to a wide variety of readers, and is one of the most frequently used books in college classes dealing with psychological studies of religion. My students are among the many who have found Paloutzian's writing interesting and easy to comprehend. See for yourself why it is a highly recommended book! Check it out from your library, or click for a personal Invitation to the Psychology of Religion.

The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach

by Ralph W. Hood, Jr., Bernard Spilka, Bruce Hunsberger, & Richard Gorsuch

This is the best available source of information concerning psychological research on religion. Each of the authors are without doubt among the finest researchers in the field, and their work forms the basis for much of what we know about religious belief and behavior. Combine their efforts, and it is no wonder that this book is an excellent resource. I confess that I don't care for the endnote system that the publisher uses in this book, but I simply can't say enough good about its contents. I use this book in my class, and when someone asks me a question about psychology and religion, I turn to this book more often than any other to find the source of the research. If ever there were a one-volume encyclopedia on current research in psychology and religion, this is it! I highly recommend Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach.

The Best in Current Psychological Research

The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach

Broad in Scope

Psychology of Religion: Classic & Contemporary

Psychology of Religion: Classic and Contemporary

by David M. Wulff

David Wulff provides the best available summary of the diverse perspectives commonly taken in psychological studies of religion. Wulff describes American and European views of psychology of religion, and he addresses the current and historical approaches that typically divide books on the subject. The breadth of research discussed includes biological, behavioral and comparative perspectives, along with more commonly-found social psychological perspectives. The theories of Freud, Erikson, Jung, and William James are described, as are contemporary object relations perspectives. For a broad-based view of the field, you would be hard-pressed to find a book better than Psychology of Religion: Classic and Contemporary.

The Varieties of Religious Experience

by William James

Your library is incomplete without this classic book. James examines religion by analyzing people's experiences. He takes a respectful approach to the subject, while at the same time trying to maintain objectivity. The personal accounts contained in the book are fascinating, and include first-person experiences of such luminaries as Tolstoy, as well as less well-known people. These accounts give the book a sense of intimacy that makes psychology of religion exciting to study, and they convey the power that religious experience exerts in people's lives. Because the original text is in the public domain, the book is very affordable in either softcover or hardcover editions. The hardcover also includes several other of his works, such as his "The Meaning of Truth."

A Classic For Every Library

Varieties of Religious Experience

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To help you find useful books, I offer these links to, a well-known internet bookstore. Every few weeks, I will highlight particularly worthwhile books from those found among my resources page. I will include only those that I personally have found to be interesting and helpful for myself or my students. Likewise, I am offering these links to because I have received excellent service from this store. If you have a question about a book, feel free to ask me and I'll do my best to give you a helpful reply.
    Michael Nielsen, Ph.D.
    Department of Psychology
    Georgia Southern University
    Statesboro, GA 30460-8041

© 1999-2002 Michael Nielsen

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