Psychology of Religion and Spirituality


Psychology of Religion and Spirituality was created to make sense of the conflicts clearly occurring among religious groups today. These conflicts have been happening for centuries but appear to have become more personalized due to the instantaneous delivery and presentation of information via social media. Distinguishing the terms of religion and spirituality relies on form where religion seems to be tangible, and spirituality intangible. Both involve a search, but religion provides structure to the search for significance within the confines of institutions, (Sisemore, 2016). Spirituality involves the search and/or witnessing of the inviolable - those entities that are to be unequivocally venerated, honored and respected due to the true good (and love) that exists. As we search and learn, we fail (or some would say sin), and failures are our best teachers. The question is what do we do with our failures (behavior), and how do we think about our failures (mental processes)? Many times there are discrepancies between our thoughts and actions, like for example claiming to be religious but the individual's actions betray those beliefs. Yet, there are those who have documented their or others' quests and have said to arrive at a sense of peace and/or enlightenment, like Gloria Anzaldua, Lillian Comas-Diaz, Thich Nhat Han, William James and Carl Jung.


I enjoyed teaching this course very much because I was intrigued by students' beliefs and actions being atheist, agnostic, religious nones, Christian and Buddhist. We had such interesting conversations about discrepancies that existed among ourselves in what we believed, and consequently what we did, and witnessing these cycles manifested for different groups and individuals. We were fascinated most with the Orthodox and lesser known traditions including the Gnostic, Odinist and Unity churches. Students initially thought that we were learning about each of the major religions and faith traditions, but they quickly realized that the course was designed to recognize why people look towards religion and/or spirituality in the first place. The course took on a different form halfway into the semester as it fostered reflection and contemplation. We saw that religion was (and is still used) to bring order and direction while spirituality seems to be highly personalized and can be characterized as chaotic and irrational from an outsider's perspective.


This is my syllabus for the course. If you need a copy, please contact me.


Here is the link to the evaluation for this class for Fall 2019.