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How Does the Psych of Religion Resolve Conflict Between Science and Religion?

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How does the Psych of Religion resolve conflict between Science and Religion?

In the past, both hard and soft sciences have been a link through which we could factually explain everything, down to the origins of life. Unfortunately, human behavior has proven itself to be far more complex than advocates of human sciences could imagine. The “brave new world” promised by new technologies has turned out to be just as dominated by war and injustices as those “primitive” religious cultures. Peace, many people have come to believe, can only be found through the beliefs of the individual. Religion often provides the perfect avenue on which to base those beliefs. The scientific world can show us how much and where brain activity occurs when people show kindness, make love or pray. However, those measurements can’t tell us what decisions are right, how kindness affects social relations, the meaning of love or why people pray. A relatively new area of psychology, the psychology of religion, has risen and helped to resolve some of the science vs. religion issues.

The psychology of religion addresses all those questions while putting the mind of the scientist at ease through use of the scientific method. This field of psychology deals with understanding the psychological processes and explanations of an individual’s religious actions, thoughts, and beliefs. It also incorporates and questions the reasons behind many controversial scientific theories and notions.

Many theories originate in religious thought. For example, Johannes Kepler tried to model the solar system according to his own religious inductions. That was eventually transformed into today’s heliocentric theories, but not without years of heavy debate. It wasn’t until recent years when religion was made separate from science and it was implied that one could not believe in science AND religion (and vice versa). This is not true. By looking at religious practices like meditation, prayer and worship through the eyes of the researcher, one can see that there is definitely a scientific and observable measurement imbedded in each act. This goes a very long way in explaining the reasons behind each motion and should prove to the scientist that religion and science (with the help of psychology) can go hand in hand.

As the first case in point, meditation is a widely shared practice among many religions. It is largely found in the eastern world, but spreading throughout western society very quickly. A variety of meditation techniques share the common goal of shifting attention away from habitual modes of thinking and perception, in order to permit experiencing in a different way. This aids the religious in experiencing their God and obtaining divine instruction. From the scientific standpoint, meditation has a very real biological factor. The release of certain chemicals in the body put a focus on certain areas of the brain while relaxing others. While this would explain the effects of meditation of the participant, it does not negate the original purpose of the act. To better clarify, here is an example of the interpretation of meditation from the viewpoint of the performer, then the scientist. Many religious and spiritual traditions that employ meditation assert that the world most of us know is an illusion. This illusion is said to be created by our habitual mode of separating, classifying and labeling our perceptual experiences. On the other hand, concentrative meditation can enable someone to reach an altered state characterized by a loss of sensory awareness of extraneous stimuli, one-pointed attention to the meditation object to the exclusion of all other thoughts, and feelings of bliss, all caused by the release of endorphins and other such chemicals. In the eyes of the psychologist, the person is experiencing the science as a result of a practice rooted in their religious tradition. They are including themselves in the meditation because it has religious meaning and the scientific effects of the meditation serve to confirm the fact that they are already doing it.

Pray also has a very real meaning to the religious individual. It is a form of communication between the person and their deity. The scientist’s interests would center on the fact that religious psychology has shown that people who pray are a lot happier. According to Dr. Nielsen of Georgia Southern University “When researchers



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