History of International Psychology and Religion

The August issue of History of Psychology has just been released online. The focus of this issue is the history of psychology and religion. Notably, much of the history of psychology and religion featured in this issue involves histories outside of the North American context. Among the non-American, national psychologies discussed in  this issue are those of Spain, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The articles featured in this issue include:

“Historical intersections of psychology, religion, and politics in national contexts” by Robert Kugelmann and Jacob A. Belzen. The abstract reads:

Various types of psychology have come into existence in and have been interacting with a plurality of contexts, contexts that have been radically varying in different states or nations. One important factor in the development of psychology has been the multiple relationships to the Christian religion, whether understood as an institution, a worldview, or a form of personal spirituality. The articles in this issue focus on the intertwinements between institutional religion and national political structures and on their influence on developing forms of psychology in four different national contexts: Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Within these four settings, aspects of the ways in which varying forms of Christian religion coconstituted, facilitated, and shaped psychology, theoretically, practically, and institutionally, are examined. The formative power of the religions was not independent of the relationships between religion and political power, but rather mediated by these.

“The soul of Spain: Spanish scholastic psychology and the making of modern subjectivity (1875–1931)” by Jorge Castro, Enrique Lafuente, and Belén Jiménez. The abstract reads:

The aim of this article is to provide an approach to the study of the relations between psychology and Roman Catholic Scholasticism in the making of Spain as a modern nation-state. The crucial period in this process—extending from the beginning of King Alfonso XII’s reign in 1875 to the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931—is considered. Attention is focused on Ethics textbooks published by Spanish Scholastic authors throughout the period. Through these school manuals, young students were trained in the ideas of citizenship and social coexistence held by the Catholic Church. An analysis of these didactic, programmatic works shows the central role played by the theory of faculties and modern psychological technologies (psychopedagogy, psychopathology, psychotechnics) in the Scholastic outlook. Thus, an attempt is made to show that psychology was used by Spanish Scholasticism as a way of legitimating a reactionary view of Spain, which eventually led to the emergence of National-Catholicism as the official ideology of the Franco regime (1939–1975).

“Ideology, politics, and personality: Shaping forces in Dutch psychology of religion, 1907–1957” by Jacob A. Belzen. The abstract reads:

Although the academic establishment of the psychology of religion in the Netherlands has been stronger than in any other Western country, the start of these developments has been remarkably late (in 1957), especially when taking into account that Dutch academic life: (1) before World War II modeled itself after Germany (where psychology of religion flourished); and (2) was to a considerable extent included in the system of pillarization, which characterized Dutch society at large. The general factors that can be distinguished as having played an important role in the shaping of the situation for psychology of religion in the Netherlands had different impacts in the several universities under consideration.

“Goodwill in the valley of the shadow: Religion, psychotherapy, and politics in Britain from 1945 to the early 1960s” by Graham Richards. The abstract reads:

The author hypothesizes that the British psychological climate following World War II, from 1945 to approximately 1960, created the conditions for an unusually frank, honest, and collaborative debate on matters related to religion and spirituality generally as well as broader social and political issues. The author first sketches the nature of this climate, before looking more specifically at the interrelationships among religion, psychotherapy and, very briefly, politics during this period. Suggestions regarding the dissipation of this phase after 1960 are examined. The final section considers some qualifications to the case previously outlined and identifies issues and questions that the author feels need addressing further.

“Out of the ghetto: Integrating Catholics into mainstream psychology in the United States after World War II” by Robert Kugelmann. The abstract reads.

The American Catholic Psychological Association (ACPA) was a voluntary association that formed and then transformed itself during a distinctive period of American history. Socially, American Catholics were primed to emerge from what they called their “ghetto,” as this formerly largely immigrant group began to enter the economic and social mainstream. Institutions of higher education and psychology were recipients, moreover, of federal funding in the wake of World War II, and some of this money flowed to Catholic institutions. The ACPA began in 1947 as a way to bring Catholics in greater numbers into psychology and also to bring a Catholic perspective to bear on psychology. This article describes and analyzes the major initiatives of the ACPA: the establishment of undergraduate and graduate programs in psychology at Catholic colleges; placement services for members; and the development of psychological assessment programs for candidates for the religious life. In these ways, empirical psychological categories became part of Catholic discourses about psychological life. The ACPA voluntarily restructured itself in the late 1960s in response to a changed social environment and to a consensus that its first aim had been achieved. New issues were surfacing, making a denominational group irrelevant. The ACPA became Psychologists Interested in Religious Issues (PIRI) in 1970.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.

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