The deep influences of religion on psychology

The deep influences of religion on psychology

Religion affects psychological processes

Religion affects psychological processes in diverse and important ways and is a topic that receives increasing attention from psychologists. I will discuss four reasons why religion is important. Including that religion is a fundamental basis for moral judgment (for example, Protestants, unlike Jews, regard pleasant thoughts as morally suspect) and that religion affects greatly intergroup relations (for example, forgiveness theology affects intergroup relations). I will then propose that religion broadly shapes self-concept (for example, Protestants tend to themselves independent). And that the various ways in which religion shapes people’s psychologies are a complex issue that can be instructive in terms of how culture reaches people’s minds.

Religion is a central basis for moral judgment

Morality has become an increasingly important topic. And much of the attention it has received of late has focused on the moral foundations of liberals and conservatives. Those related to harm and care, justice and reciprocity, purity and holiness, and authority (Haidt, 2007). Moral judgments are “evaluations (good vs. bad) of a person’s actions or character. Which are made in relation to a set of virtues held as mandatory by a culture or subculture” (Haidt, 2001, p. 817). But why do people become liberals or conservatives in the first place? And are there other important influences on moral judgment?

Understanding religion is critical here because the ancient teachings of religions have important and detailed effects on people’s moral judgments. You might imagine that people living in the same country share the most important aspects of a culture. Including what they think is moral and what isn’t, but even people living in the same country. Or even sitting in the same college class, differ greatly in their moral judgments, which is in line with the teachings of their religious traditions.

In various studies, my colleagues and I have found that there are notable differences between Jews and Protestants in the morality of thoughts and other internal states. Aligned with the theological differences between Judaism and Christianity. Judaism is much more focused on behavior, while Christianity sees thoughts as also important (“but I tell you, whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”; Matthew 5:28, new international version).

Religion has important consequences on the way we get along

Religion not only shapes people’s moral judgments but is also important in how individuals and groups relate to each other. This is an important ethical question as well as a research topic because psychology is not only an academic discipline but can make the world a better place by allowing us to use what we know to help people, as well as help others. groups to interact with each other. With the ever-present specter of intergroup conflict is often fueled by religion (Neuberg et al., 2014). Learning about religion and intergroup conflict is more important than ever. Of course, forgiveness is relevant not only in extreme examples of intergroup conflict and crimes against humanity.

When it comes to religion and interpersonal and intergroup relationships, there are many variables and viewpoints to consider. I have reviewed some of my research which suggests that some religions promote forgiveness almost universally (Protestantism). While others promote forgiveness most but not all times (Judaism). An influential theory regarding the role of belief in God is that God serves as a divine policeman. Monitoring cooperative behaviors in societies that are too large for individuals to effectively monitor each other (Norenzayan, 2013). Thus, religion (in this case, the belief in a God who monitors) can be beneficial. Moghaddam (2009) suggests that religious fundamentalism can be destructive and that abandoning fundamentalism in favor of a more universal vision (focusing on the common ground between people) can be beneficial. Consequently, some people theorize that some aspects of religion can be helpful while others think that it can be dangerous.

Religion strongly shapes self-concept

With the above two examples of moral judgment and forgiveness, I have argued that there are cultural differences between religions. Next, I will discuss another point – that religion shapes independent and interdependent self-conceptualizations. As any psychologist will tell you, Americans have relatively independent selves, while East Asians have independent selves.interdependent (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). This difference in the self-concept is critically important because these self-concepts affect a range of processes important to psychologists, including emotion, motivation, and cognition. This idea is so influential that the article I just mentioned has been cited more than 12,600 times (as of December 2014). Here I will argue that an important influence on self-concept is religion, so if we want to understand the self, we have to understand religion.

My idea is that American Protestants have particularly independent selves. In what ways are Protestant Americans independent? Because America was founded on the notion of religious freedom. And there is no state-sponsored religion, American Protestants have come to focus particularly on individually chosen religions. Many American Protestants feel that it is important to have an individual connection with God, reflected in an intrinsic motivation—feeling that religion is personally important (for a theoretical review, Cohen, Hall, Koenig, & Meador, 2005; for an empirical demonstration, Cohen & Hills, 2007).

Indeed, the view that personal religion is good, and collective religion less so, can be seen reflected in how psychology as a field has theorized about and measured, religion. As discussed by Cohen et al. (2005), Gordon Allport, advanced the most influential point of view about how to think about religion from psychology. Seems to have considered social motivations towards religion as extrinsic. As well as less mature and valuable than personal motivations. Which are considered more mature and intrinsic.

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