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In the last several decades, especially among clinical psychologists, a preference for the terms "spirituality" and "spiritual" has emerged, along with efforts to distinguish them from "religion" and "religious." Especially in the United States, "religion" has for many become associated with sectarian institutions and their obligatory creeds and rituals, thus giving the word a negative cast; "spirituality," in contrast, is positively constructed as deeply individual and subjective, as a universal capacity to apprehend and accord one's life with higher realities.Pargament (1997) suggests that rather than limiting the usage of “religion” to functional terms, a search for meaning, or substantive terms, anything related to the sacred, we can consider the interplay of these two vantage points.His Varieties of Religious Experience is considered to be the classic work in the field, and references to James' ideas are common at professional conferences.James distinguished between institutional religion and personal religion.William James' hypothesis of pragmatism stems from the efficacy of religion.If an individual believes in and performs religious activities, and those actions happen to work, then that practice appears the proper choice for the individual.Many areas of religion remain unexplored by psychology.
Others, compiling and categorizing these writings in various ways, form the consolidated worldview as articulated by that religion, philosophy, social science, etc.
However, if the processes of religion have little efficacy, then there is no rationality for continuing the practice.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) described all systems of religion, philosophy, and social science as expressions of the basic urge of consciousness to learn about itself and its surroundings, and record its findings and hypotheses.
Although the psychology of religion first arose as a self-conscious discipline as recently as the late 19th century, all three of these tasks have a history going back many centuries before that.
In contrast to neurotheology, the psychology of religion studies only psychological rather than neural states.