In the introduction of this review it is necessary to clarify what kind of a book about the psychology of religion it is. It i not a monograph of the whole subject as are the textbooks of psychology of religion written e.g. by Wolf, Hood-Spilka-Hunsberger-Gorsuch, Spilka-Hood-Gorsuch, Johnson, Meadow -Kahoe, Oates, Scobie, Havens or Stříženec in the Slovak Republic etc.
It is not a monograph of a special elected topic of the psychology religion as are e.g. the books written by Schumacher Religion and mental health., Ader et al. Psychoneuroimmulology, Batson et al. The religious experience, Malony-Southhard Handbook of religious conversion, Malony-Lovekin Glosolalia, Argyle et Beit-Hallahmi The social psychology of religion, Hood Handbook of religious experience etc.
It is not a a philosophical essay of the kind of the book written by C.G. Jung Psychologie und Religion or G. Lenski The religious factor .
It is an Invitation to the study of the given subject - psychology of religion. It is basically a captatio benevolentiae - an attempt of influencing the attitude of the reader in a positive way to the given subject and attracting him to the subject discussed in this book. This targeting of the book led the author to pay enormous attention to the clarification of the subject discussed - to explain what does religion or spirituality mean and to show what is the relation between this subject and psychology. It led him as well to the election of the main topics discussed in the book. These subjects are then discussed in a brilliant way.
There is a review of the attempts to define religion in the introductory chapter - e.g. in the way Batson et al. does it: Religion is what one does to come to grips with existential questions (p. 12) or Actions can be considered religious to the extent to which they can be related to one´s conception of religion. Gorsuch´s way or defining religion is given as well: Religion includes the notion that it is a generalized, abstract orientation through which people see the world. (13). The concept of religion as a an attempt to satisfy our need for wholeness and the deep inner peace (shalom) is prevalent in the whole book. According to the author religion can supply our life with meaningfulness, influence our perception of the world we live in and interpret what is going on. It can lead us to a special kind of moral behavior, show us what could be taken as a good or bad behavior, thanks to forgiveness and reconciliation it can help us with our sins and guilts, it brings a posibility to come nearer to a concept of truth etc. Religion and spirituality studied in this book are not concentrated on Christianity or any other classical religious systém. Religion is conceived in the broad general sense. The personal concept of religion is more stressed than the social one.
This concept of religion is the base for the main topic of the book - for the psychology of religion. We read there : The psychology of religion is the field that studies religious beliefs and behavior from a psychological perspective. That means that we attempt to understand the psychological processes affecting both religious behavior and religious experience. (28). Our task is to learn how religion works in people´s lives. Psychology of religion has to help reveal psychological processes mediating religiosity. Conceptualizing religion along a series of dimensions facilitates its analysis from a psychological perspective (29).
R. F. Paloutzian expresses his own position: We proceed on the premise that psychological methods, concepts, and perspectives can be validly applied to the understanding of religion. But this does not mean that we believe psychology has any corner truth about religion. (31)
Psychological way of looking at religion is only one of the many possible ways. (32).
Topics. 304 pages of the book are divided in 10 chapters. The first one shows five basic aspects of the study of the religious life and their combinations: beliefs, practices, feelings, knowledge, and effects. (14). The author comes then to the psychological processes which could be diagnosed behind these phenomena: unconscious factors, social factors, value priorities, personal needs esp. of progressive personality maturation and fulfilling the life with a meaning (e.g. in the sense of V. E. Frankl´s concept).
The topic of the book reviewed could be described by the classsic term religion when the cognitive aspect of it is stressed or spirituality when the emotional and experiencial side is taken as the most important one. The religious life of the given person is not seen as a onedimensional one but on the contrary as a polydimesional one (28). When the different overt signs of the religious life are taken into account it is the behavior (e.g. helping behavior) which is given priority in the studies over the verbal activity registered e.g. in different interviews (221 - 223). Behavioral variables are stressed as well when unerlying studies are discussed. The author tries to see the religious life from diffetent points of view and to see it critically. Reasoable critique is one of the outstanding point of the book - both in the conceptual and methodological topics. Nevertheless the author is audatious enough to put down his own personal standpoint and opinion.
R. F. Paloutzian is not only reviewing the enormous amount of work done in the given sphere but he is as well looking for the underlying psychological theories - e.g. giving review of the harmony between the results of the psychological studies of religious experience (Chapter No. 7) and atribution theory, attachment theory and religion-as-schema theory. He brings us at the verge of contemporary research - e.g. in the religious personality problem discussing not only the quest-concept but going up to the probable personality trait of the right-wing- authoritarianism (229).
To whom this book concerns? First of all to the contemporary psychologists and theologicians or specialists in religionistics. Its mission is nevertheless much broader. Anybody to whom the problems of the human existence, purpose of life and meaningfulness of life´s activities are of personal importance is given here a really good and solid orientation base. The task of the book - to be an invitation is brillantly realized. This book could be a kind of opening the windows in a sphere without which the anthropology is never whole for all people but especially for the czech reader for whom the subject is relativelly new. For those who take the time and endeavour to read it thoroughfully this book brings many new things, stimulating hints and enriching treaures.