Deutsch: Religion / Español: Religión / Português: Religião / Français: Religion / Italiano: Religione

Religion in psychology is the study of religious experiences, beliefs, and practices from a psychological perspective. This exploration aims to understand how these aspects influence human behavior and mental processes.


In psychology, religion is not only viewed as a system of faith and worship but also as a complex psychological phenomenon that impacts various aspects of human life, including emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Researchers in this field examine how religious beliefs can shape an individual's worldview, influence coping strategies, and contribute to a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Psychological studies on religion often address how religious engagement affects mental health, with findings suggesting both positive and negative outcomes. Positive aspects include the support networks often found in religious communities, increased resilience, and better stress management. Conversely, negative effects may involve religious guilt or conflict, which can contribute to anxiety and depression.

Religion's role in shaping moral reasoning is also a significant area of interest, as is the phenomenon of spiritual experiences, which are often reported as profoundly transformative moments that have lasting psychological impacts. Additionally, the concept of religious and spiritual struggles—conflicts about spiritual matters within oneself, with others, or with the divine—is an emerging field of study that reveals the complex nature of religious belief and its implications for mental health.

Application Areas

In psychology, religion is applied in various research and practical areas, such as:

  • Clinical psychology: Understanding religious beliefs can help therapists address religious conflicts or utilize religious strengths in therapy settings.
  • Developmental psychology: Examining how religious upbringing affects personal and social development throughout different life stages.
  • Health psychology: Investigating how spirituality and religiousness can affect health outcomes and coping mechanisms in the face of illness.

Well-Known Examples

Notable examples within the study of religion in psychology include:

  • William James’ "The Varieties of Religious Experience": This book is a foundational text that explores the psychological underpinnings of various religious experiences.
  • Carl Jung’s analysis of religious symbols and the collective unconscious: Jung’s work significantly contributed to the understanding of the psychological functions of religious imagery and rituals.

Treatment and Risks

In psychological contexts, religion can sometimes be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, religious beliefs can provide immense support, improved life satisfaction, and positive mental health outcomes. On the other hand, they can also lead to psychological distress, particularly when individuals face religious conflicts, whether internally (doubting one's faith) or externally (conflicts with religious teachings or communities).

Symptoms, Therapy, and Healing

  • Common symptoms associated with religious or spiritual struggles might include existential anxiety, moral guilt, and interpersonal conflicts based on religious beliefs.
  • Treatment options often involve spiritually integrated psychotherapy, where therapists incorporate an individual's spiritual beliefs into the healing process.
  • The healing process might focus on reconciling internal religious conflicts, strengthening spiritual identity, and utilizing religious practices as resources for coping and resilience.

Similar Terms

In psychology, terms similar to religion but distinctly different might include "spirituality" (a broader concept often emphasizing personal experiences of the divine or the sacred) and "secularism" (a perspective prioritizing non-religious views and often used in contrast to religious belief systems).

Articles with 'Religion' in the title

  • Dionysiac-Orphic religion: Dionysiac-Orphic religion is defined as a religion whose major belief was that the soul becomes a prisoner of the body because of some transgression committed by the soul
  • Olympian religion: Olympian religion refers to the religion based on a belief in the Olympian gods as they were described in the Homeric poems. Olympian religion tended to be favored by the privileged classes, whereas peasants, laborers, and slaves tended to . . .
  • Mystery religions: Mystery religions refers to ancient religions/cults which were characterized by secret rites of initiation- ceremonies designed to bring initiates closer to a deity or deities, to symbolize death and rebirth, to offer purification and forgi . . .


Psychology views religion as a multifaceted phenomenon influencing various aspects of individual and communal life. Its study can unveil insights into the psychological functions of religious beliefs and practices, highlighting both their therapeutic potentials and possible risks.