The Psychology of Religion
Instructor: Sam McFarland
I. Course Description:
The course is a combination of lectures and discussions based upon classical theories
and contemporary research in the psychology of religion. Approximately one-half to two-
thirds of the course will be devoted to class discussion of assigned texts and readings. I will lecture on the non-discussion days. The last two weeks of the course will be largely devoted to presentations of student research reports.
II. Texts and Required Readings:
The following texts are required of all students.
Allport, Gordon. The Individual and His Religion.
Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion.
Fromm, Eric. Psychoanalysis and Religion.
Jung, Carl. Psychology and Religion.
Additional articles will be assigned as the class progresses. Each student is expected to read the assigned texts and articles by the designated dates and to be prepared to discuss them in depth.
Two exams will be given, tentatively scheduled for March 5th and for the final exam period. Each exam will be comprised of about eight definitions of terms, four short answer questions (which can be answered in 4 to 6 sentences), and one discussion question (chosen from a list of three). One choice for your discussion on each exam will be to "Write and answer your own discussion question on any material covered in this course." Each exam will have a maximum grade of 100.
IV. Book Critiques (or) Term Paper:
A. Extended Book Critiques (Optional with B):
Each student will select two books from the list provided by the instructor and prepare an 8 to 10 page typewritten summary and critique on each book. Approximately two-thirds of each paper should summarize the book's major contents. The remaining third should provide your own thoughtful and informed reactions. Each paper will be read to the class on a designated date, followed by a period for questions and discussion.
Each paper will have a maximum grade of 100 points. The majority of the grade will be determined by the accuracy and appropriateness of the summary and by the thoughtfulness of the critique. Intelligent, well-reasoned, and insightful reactions will receive higher grades than will more superficial ones. A minor portion of the grade will be determined by matters of style. Grammar, organization, neatness, and readableness will all be considered. The first critique will be due on March 19th and the second on April 16th.
B. Term Paper (Optional with A):
Each student will select a topic of his or her own interest in the psychology of religion and write a 12 to 18 page typewritten research paper. Topics must be approved by the instructor. The topic and an initial bibliography must be approved by March 16th. I will be happy to work with you in selecting your research topic. Each student will read (or summarize) his or her paper to the class on a designated date during the last three weeks of the course.
Each paper will have a maximum grade of 200 points. See the attached "Characteristics of an 'A' Research Paper" for general directions for writing the paper.
V. Class Discussions:
Each student's participation in the class discussions will be graded with a maximum grade of 200 points. While the grades assigned to students' participation in the discussions is somewhat subjective, the following general criteria will be used:
A - Discussant has a thorough knowledge of the required readings, careful organization for the discussions, and comments or questions which show significant insight. 180 - 200 points.
B - Discussant has a good working knowledge of the readings, but not as thorough an understanding as for 'A' discussants. He or she makes useful comments and asks good questions, but these lack the "penetrating insight" of those by the 'A' discussants. 156 - 179 points.
C - Discussant has significant gaps in his or her knowledge and understanding of the readings. Questions and comments are often limited in scope, peripheral to the readings, and reflect "free-association". 128 - 155 points.
D - Discussant has read only parts of the readings and doesn't really understand at all what they are saying. 100 - 127 points.
F - Discussant misses many discussions, refuses to enter into the discussions, or shows up without having read the assigned materials. 0 - 100 points.
VI. Course Grades:
With 600 possible points on the tests, critiques or term paper, and class discussions, term grades will be assigned on a point - accumulation basis on the following scale:
A = 540 or more points (90% or better)
B = 468 to 539 points (78% to 89%)
C - 390 to 467 points (65% to 78%)
D - 300 to 389 points (50% to 64%)
F = Fewer than 300 points (less than 50%)
VII. Tentative Class Schedule:
The course is divided into two broad sections:
I. Classical Theories in the Psychology of Religion
(January 13th to March 4th)
II. Current Theory and Research in the Psychology of Religion
(March 18th to May 1st)
The following class schedule will be followed:
January 15 Introduction to Course
A Brief History of the Psych of Religion
January 22 Lectures on James, Varieties of Religious
January 29 Discussion of Freud, Future of an Illusion.
February 5 Lecture on Otto, Idea of the Holy.
Discussion of Jung, Psychology and Religion.
February 12 Discussion of Allport, The Individual and
February 19 Discussion of Fromm, Psychoanalysis and
February 26 Lectures on contemporary extensions of the
March 5 Catch-up. First exam.
March 19 Current Methods in the Psychology of Religion
First Reading Critique Due; Readings
March 26 The Formation of Images of God
April 2 The Psychology of Conversion
The Psychology of Faith and Doubt
April 9 The Search for Mature Religion
April 16 Religion and Morality
Religion and Human Rights
(Assigned Readings; Student Presentations)
April 30 Complete Student Presentations
May 7 Final Exam