Book review:

Stríženec, Michal: Súčasná psychológia náboženstva (Contemporary Psychology of Religion). Iris, Bratislava 2001.

A textbook for univerisity students on the psychology of religion was published in a country (Slovakia) where a few years ago atheism was the buffer against the religion of the commuist party´s dictatorship. It was written by a top psychologist of the Slovak Republic - the director of the Research Institute of Experimental Psychology, one of the basic research institutes of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. This book is the third one he has published in recent years on the subject of psychology of religion not to speak about 30 articles published to this topic (acording to bibliography in the given book) by this author in the years after the velvet revolution. The aim of the author was to give the young generation a reliable source for the study of a hopeful topic. The seriousness of the study is seen as well in the list of literature quoted by the author with more than 250 bibliographical sources given.

Comparing the table of contents of this textbook with the English written textbooks on the psychology of religion we see several differencies. There is a relatively good review of the literature to the topic published in the Middle and Eastern Europe - esp. in Poland, Russia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Austria, Czech and Slovak Republic (and the previous Czechoslovak Republic). This review of work done in the the sphere of psychology of religion was enabled by the personal contact of the author with the institutes and research workers in the neighborhood and thanks to his knowledge of their languages.

There is not only a relatively good knowledge of the literature on the psychology of religion published in the English, French and German language but as well a review of the research work done by the author and his institute e.g. on religious coping (p.165), on glosolalia (p.99) etc.

Stress is laid on topics which need to be known more in the given region than in the western countries - thanks to what happened here in the previous times. The so called scientific concept of the world manufactured by the marxist ideology was the basic ideological weapon of the leading communist ideology. There is therefore more place given just to the problem of the religion´s concept of the world and human existence. Much more place than in the other textbooks of psychology of religion is given to the clarification of the basic terms both in religion and religious psychology - with respect to the readers who were given misleading meaning and explanation of these terms for such a long time. The same intention is possible to be seen in author´s stress on giving a rather enlarged place to the problem of the evolution of religiosity during the centuries.

Respect to the situation of the country for which the textbook on psychology of religion was written is seen as well in giving more space to the topics which could help the younger generation to get a rather more positive view on religion. The topic of religious coping could be a visible example. Religious aspects of personality are elaborated with the same intention. There are 30 pages in a book of 237 pages dedicted to this topic which has a priority in the interest in the middle European general psychological community. The same could be said of the psycho-social aspects of religiosity not to speak about the health psychology problems and the religious influence on both physical and mental health.

There are on the other side some remarcable white places according to the expectation of the western readers. Threre is a chapter on religous experience in the book reviewed but conversion - one of the key religious experience is lacking there. It is possible that the catholicism of the writer was the reason of this ommittment as catholics do not stress conversion so much as protestants do. It is nevertheless good to say that the reader is a old catholic not a new made one and his religious affiliation, his attitudes and his christian faith was clearly pronounced during the whole previous 40 years of the communist rule. Another topic relatively lacking in the book are the life-span religious problems elaborated in western textbooks of psychology of religion (see. it e.g. in The Invitation to the Psychology of Religion by R.F. Paloutzian). The reason may be in the financial problems of publishing books in the author´s country leading to the writing of as short books as possible. This shortage has on the other side a very positive side: the style of the author is of mighty sinews - as compact as possible so that he should have been payed for what he has left out.

Problems in the contemporary psychology of religion seen by the author: there is first and formost a lack of a good theoretical base and a reliable concept of religion giving place and meaning to all the problems studied by the psychology of religion. On the other side with all respect to the enormous amount of psychological scales and schedules used and results won by them more attention has to be payed to qualitative measures. Faith is sometimes better tapped by paying attention to the activity - what the given person does than what it says.

Prof. Jaro Křivohlavý
Nad Cementárnou 18
Praha - 4, Podolí
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phone: +420/2/61213863