The most common definition of psychology states it is the science that studies human behavior. It is a very wide definition, and based on it psychology could be applied to any discipline, including religion (Smith 2009).
This field in psychology consists in its application to the interpretation of the religious contents viewed from a natural- scientific and human scientific approach. In a natural- scientific point of view, the individual will try to prove hypothesis in an objective, quantitative and experimental way (Argyle 2000). On the other hand, in a humanistic approach, a person will try to choose a religious practice that in an interpretive way shows to be meaningful to their way of life, all this done valuing the religious experience in a qualitative method, that shows a connection to their inner self.
Psychology of religion seeks three major purposes:
Systematic descriptions of religious contents, attitudes, experiences and expressions. A psychologists will try to provide the individual with all the relevant information of each religion, a framework of its basic concepts, way of life to follow, experiences lived by its followers and expressions included (Argyle 2000).
2. Explaining of the religion’s origin and impact in history as well as in the person’s life. Understanding a religion’s origin is necessary in order to have a clear vision of what it represents in human history; knowing this an individual can value if its role in history matches their beliefs and personal set of moral values. The impact religion will have in the individual will then be based in the connection of the religion’s history.
3. Understanding the consequences of attitudes and behavior of the individual himself as well as for society. Religion is an important aspect in society, for this reason an individual needs to know if his affiliation to a certain religion can affect how their public behavior is seen.
In conclusion applying psychology to religious beliefs tries to find a way to help the individual connect his values and attitudes to the religion chosen, always seeking the objective of the individual living a life at peace within hims