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Psychology and religion are two fields of study that have intricate relationships in that a study of another requires understanding of the other. Across all centuries, psychologists have developed numerous theories that are applicable in the study of human ideas, beliefs, and traditions that make them behave in certain ways.
Since religions have fundamental beliefs and doctrines, they have a significance influence on human behavior, and thus have certain interests of psychologists. Hence, psychology of religion provides basis where people can understand religion from a scientific point of view. Carl Gustav Jung is one of the prominent psychologists who contributed to the understanding of psychology from the scientific point of view, since he believes that religion has a psychological aspect.
According to Jung, “the fact is that certain ideas exist almost everywhere, and at all times, and they can even spontaneously create themselves quite apart from migration and tradition,” (504). In essence, it is impossible to divorce psychology from religion since they have intricate relationships with common beliefs, ideas, and traditions that shape human behavior. Therefore, this essay examines religious issues that influence human behavior and define values and beliefs that the society holds.
Freedom is a religious issue in which many religions have formed different interpretations depending on their beliefs and doctrines. Essentially, religions grapple with the issue of freedom because it provides liberty for people to transgress divine laws that define human existence. The freedom provides room for people to do right or wrong depending on their perception of the divine laws, which form the foundation of any given religion.
In his psychological perspective, Jung argues that, “religion is a relationship to the highest or strongest value, be it positive or negative” (505). The relationship happens due to freedom, as people can build either good relationships or bad ones. Moreover, the relationship entails voluntary and conscious choice that people can take depending on their perceptions and understanding of religious beliefs and teachings.
Inherent attributes of relationships that people display indicate that they have their basis on the religious beliefs and doctrines, which vary from one religion to another. This means that freedom is a fundamental need of humans so they can make informed choices basing on religious beliefs and doctrines.
Since humans require freedom so that they can define their religious orientations, they are at liberty to do what is wrong or right depending on their interests. Mahatma Gandhi believed that freedom that does not allow people to err is a limited freedom because it restricts them, hence, an unworthy freedom. According to Parel, Mahatma Gandhi holds that economic, political, and religious aspects of the society are indispensable in freedom, for they help people to exercise their power and attain their dreams (133).
If people have no freedom to choose religious beliefs and doctrines that they follow, it then means that everybody will belong to a certain religion by birth. In this view, freedom bestows opportunity for people to choose what they believe in or not. Thus, contemporary religions have adopted freedom as part of their doctrine lest they appear like dictatorial regimes that command people to obey certain decrees that they make and enforce.
Freedom is an important aspect of religion that has its basis on the divine will since the creation of the world. Given that all religions believe in God, which has supernatural powers, they attribute their existence as creative works of the Supreme Being. Jung argues that, “psychological fact which is the greatest power in your system is the god, since it is always the overwhelming psychic factor which is called god” (505).
The God is a psychic factor because it influences how humans think and perform certain activities. Religious believers behave in a given manner because their religious beliefs and doctrines influence their perceptions and behavior. The diversity of religions across the world shows that people have the freedom to believe in religious beliefs and doctrines that they consider having divine origin.
Destruction of Humanity
Religious beliefs and doctrines enlighten humans and prevent them from indulging in destructive vices. Mahatma Gandhi once said that, “there are seven sins in the world: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, and politics without principle” (Robinson and Strain 60). Wealth without work is one of the vices that destroy humanity because it breeds greed.
Greed is a vice that has infiltrated into capitalism and deny the poor right to access wealth, leaving them to suffer in poverty. Major religions such as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism advocate for equality in the distribution of resources among the poor as a way of reducing poverty in the society (Parel 132). Modern democracies have also adopted religious views about human life and have adopted same beliefs and doctrines that preserve the sanctity of humanity.
Since politics has a significant impact on human life, leaders need to have principles that guide them in their leadership. Lack of principles in politics is a vice that destroys humanity. Poor leadership always emanates from the lack of the principles in politics as leaders exercise their selfish interests without following laws and regulations that govern their responsibilities.
Dictatorial regimes that have dominated history did not respect the rule of law for their decrees were binding whether good or bad for the humanity. Additionally, immorality is also an aspect human behavior that has great potential of destroying the society. According to Gandhi, ethics and truth are inseparable elements that morality for he holds “the conviction that morality is the basis of things, and that the truth is the substance of all morality” (44).
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Hence, norms and traditions usually dictate the nature of morality that a given society upholds for they have an overwhelming influence on human development. In modern society, the destructive effect of immorality is evident in the realm of worship, science, commerce and politics as people fail to comply with relevant ethics. Thus, from the perspective of religion, immoral activities and behaviors destroy humanity because they deprive people their dignity and lower the value of humanity.
Love and Hatred
Love and hatred are antagonistic passions that humans harbor in their hearts and exhibit, especially in the nature of relationships and activities that they perform.
Different religions advocate for love amongst diverse populations across the world, but the evil persons advocate for hatred amongst people. Jung asserts that, “a religion is a peculiar attitude of the human mind … a careful consideration and observation of certain dynamic factors, understood to be ‘powers,’ spirits, demons, gods, laws, ideas, ideals, or whatever name has given to such factors” (504).
Thus, the attitude of love and hatred emanates from dynamic factors that have their basis on religious beliefs and doctrines. When love dominates in the society, people do not experience acts of violence and loss of lives. This implies that love is an important virtue that is essential for a peaceful society that respects human dignity.
Although love dominates the society, hatred exists amongst people and is responsible for the occurrence of violence and loss of lives. Despite the fact that modern society understands the essence of peace and love, different religions and nations continue to use violence as a means of achieving their ends. What matters most to people who harbor hatred and cause violence is their selfish interests, and not human dignity.
Crapps states that, “a mature religion enhances the ordering of life without blinding persons to residues of the chaotic, demonic, and irrational” human (365). If a religion matures and advocate for its beliefs and doctrines in a rational manner, people will never fight based on religious differences. Additionally, modern democracies will mature because religions are the custodians of morality and peace, which many nations are struggling to preserve for posterity.
Religion is a wide field of knowledge as it encompasses many religions with different beliefs and doctrines regarding human life and existence of God. Hence, psychology of religion is integral to the understanding of humanity and issues that it faces. Since religion has a significant impact on human life, psychology offers a scientific view of understanding it.
On the issue of freedom, virtually all religions provide sufficient freedom for its members to adopt certain beliefs and doctrines. With sufficient freedom, people have a responsibility to adhere to laws, regulations, and ethics for them to promote humanity. However, despite the existence of laws, regulations, and ethics, violent activities occur due to hatred. Hence, for the modern society to overcome hatred, it must advocate for love amongst the people.
Crapps, Rober. An Introduction to Psychology of Religion. New York: Mercer University Press, 1986. Print.
Gandhi, Mahatma. The Essentials Writings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.
Jung, Carl. “Psychology and Religion.” American Journal of Psychiatry 95.2 (1938): 504-506. Print.
Parel, Anthony. Gandhi, Freedom, and Self-Rule. Jakarta: Lexington Books, 2000. Print.
Robinson, Simon, and John Strain. Ethics for Living and Working. New York: Troubador Publisher. Print.