John Suler's Teaching Clinical Psychology

The Psychology of Religion

Course Outline

(PSY 370 - Special Topics) - Dr. John Suler
Science and Technology Center
Rider University

This course explores the psychological aspects of religious experiences and the social psychological dynamics of religious groups and organizations. Do not expect that we will answer such questions as "Does God exist" or "Which religion is right?" This is not what the course is about. We may, however, explore the psychological factors related to believing (or not believing) in "God" and to following particular religious traditions.

The course mostly involves small and large group discussions, experiential exercises, and some videos. There are few "lectures." You will be strongly encouraged to think about and share your opinions, beliefs, and experiences. Grades are based on four exams and a journal.


The Empty Mirror: Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery, by Janwillem van de Wetering

On Life after Death, by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, by Carlos Castaneda

When Prophecy Fails, by Festinger, Riecken, and Schachter

Outline of Topics: psychology of religion

  1. Introduction: What is "religion?"

  2. Joseph Campbell on religion and myth (video)

  3. The Religious Experience: East, West, Everywhere

  4. Meditation

  5. The Empty Mirror

  6. "Inherit the Wind" (video)

  7. "God is Dead" and Other Atheistic Views

  8. Images of God and Other Significant Others

  9. Death and Dying

  10. On Life After Death

  11. Proselytizing

  12. "Moonchild" (video)

  13. The Teachings of Don Juan

  14. "To be a Priest" (video)

  15. Synchronicity and the I Ching

  16. Myths

  17. The Spirit and Group Dynamics

  18. "Catholics in America" (video)

  19. When Prophecy Fails

  20. "Gimme that Big Time Religion" (video)

  21. Creating Rituals

  22. Enacting Rituals

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