© 2009

Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality

  • James M. Nelson

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages I-XVIII
  2. Fundamentals

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. James M. Nelson
      Pages 43-75
    3. James M. Nelson
      Pages 77-100
  3. Dialogue—Past, Present, and Future

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 101-101
    2. James M. Nelson
      Pages 143-174
    3. James M. Nelson
      Pages 175-208
  4. Human Development

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 209-209
  5. Applications

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 309-309
    2. James M. Nelson
      Pages 311-345
    3. James M. Nelson
      Pages 347-390
    4. James M. Nelson
      Pages 391-433
    5. James M. Nelson
      Pages 435-473
    6. James M. Nelson
      Pages 507-512

About this book


The past century has seen the relationship between psychology and religion progress from wary antagonists to strange bedfellows to complementary worldviews. Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality is designed as a text that reflects this history while illuminating the robust dialogue that continues to accompany it.

The elegant, accessible coverage ranges from early psychological critiques of religion and responses from major religious thinkers to positivist and constructivist philosophies; from Jung’s archetypes to neurobiological research into the religious brain; from scientific constructs of prayer, meditation, and mindfulness to collaborative interventions for mental health. The book’s distinctive teaching/learning presentation:

  • Discusses non-Western religious traditions in addition to Christianity.
  • Balances theoretical literature with empirical research on each topic.
  • Reviews contemporary research and debates in psychology and religion.
  • Examines developmental approaches to religious and spiritual growth.
  • Provides a variety of practical applications.
  • Includes review questions, exercises, and other student materials.
  • Encourages readers to develop their own ideas on this subject

These are valuable perspectives for graduate or undergraduate courses in the psychology of religion, and a rich resource for graduate courses in psychology and counseling. In addition, Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality makes an inviting text for seminary courses in spiritual and pastoral counseling.


Erikson Freud Jung Kant William James buddhism christianity evolutionary psychology hinduism human development identity learning positivism psychology transcendence

Editors and affiliations

  • James M. Nelson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyValparaiso UniversityValparaisoUSA

About the editors

Professor James M. Nelson (B.A. Eastern Washington University, M.Div. Fuller Theological Seminary, M.S. & Ph.D. Washington State University) is a clinical psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychology at Valparaiso University.  He has been a faculty member at Valparaiso since 1987 and has served as director of graduate counseling programs and chair of the psychology department.  In 1990 he began a major research project with colleagues in China, focusing on the study of cultural differences in depression and personality.  In addition to this research, Dr. Nelson's background includes two stints as Director of the VU Hangzhou China program and a year as a visiting scholar in the National Research Center for Asian-American Mental Health at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Last fall he lead the first VU group visit to Tibet.  He teaches courses in cross-cultural psychology and the comparative psychology of Christianity and Buddhism.

Bibliographic information

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From the reviews:

"James Nelson’s book … is explicitly offered in the tradition of dialogue. … The great strength of this book lies in the impressive array of topics it covers … . those interested in delving further into a particular topic will surely welcome this surfeit of citations … . Nelson’s postmodern and pluralistic perspective, and the final emphasis on practical applications will … make it attractive for potential adoption as a textbook in courses on psychology and religion, especially when a religion-friendly approach is desired." (David M. Wulff, PsycCRITIQUES, Vol. 54 (39), 2009)

“The book … will be a valuable resource for graduate students taking courses in the psychology of religion. Counseling professionals, especially those in spiritual and pastoral counseling, theologians, and religious practitioners and others taking seminary courses will find this book to be beneficial and enlightening. … This book is alone in offering a rich, in-depth, and fascinating dialog among psychologists, theologians, and religious practitioners on the fundamental questions of human existence and our place in the world. … will serve academics and counseling practitioners well.” (Michael S. Goldsby, Doody’s Review Service, January, 2010)