Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 66, Issue 3, pp 397–425 | Cite as

Western Cultural Psychology of Religion: Alternatives to Ideology

  • Al Dueck
  • Jeffrey Ansloos
  • Austin Johnson
  • Christin Fort


This essay is an extended reflection on Belzen’s (2010) groundbreaking book Towards Cultural Psychology of Religion: Principles, Approaches, Applications. We will critically examine the terms culture, psychology, and religion separately and in relation to each other. The question we address is whether unconsciously Western understandings underlie these concepts and then are exported into non-Western cultures. The concept of ‘culture’ may reflect a Western bias and may be injurious when exported if culture means de facto becoming self-consciously modern, remains an abstract idea, reinforces “othering,” and serves to colonize the other. It is proposed that we listen to voices of non-Western scholars as they reflect on what ‘culture’ means to them rather than assuming that the meaning of the word ‘culture’ is universally the same. Second, we examine briefly the ways in which our understanding of religion reflects our Western biases in terms of the presumption of secularization, the meaning of religiousness, the Christian influence on defining religion, the use of religion in Western colonization, and the degree to which religion is defined abstractly. Third, we are concerned that the psychology utilized in the emerging discipline of psychology of religion is Western in that it reflects a capitalist, industrialized, individualistic, and pluralistic culture that may be less present in other cultures and perhaps even eschewed. Further, we think that in various cultures of the world, psychological knowledge emerges less from scientific observation but from the local religious/cultural traditions themselves. Finally, we examine how cultural psychology intersects with religion. We propose a model in which the specific religious cultures nurture the attitudes, emotions, behaviors, and relationships that reflect their critical values.


Cultural psychology of religion Western religion Indigenous psychologies 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Al Dueck
    • 1
  • Jeffrey Ansloos
    • 2
  • Austin Johnson
    • 1
  • Christin Fort
    • 1
  1. 1.Fuller Graduate School of PsychologyPasadenaUSA
  2. 2.University of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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