Psychology of Religion
(Psy 370 - Special Topics)

Dr. John Suler

Science and Technology Center, Rm 320
Rider University - (609-895-5430)

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 (on the four required books) and on a journal. You will do A LOT of writing in this 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


  1. Introduction: What is "religion?"
  2. Joseph Campbell on religion (video)
  3. The Religious Experience: East, West, Everywhere
  4. Meditation
  5. The Empty Mirror (EXAM on book and discussion)
  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 (EXAM on book and discussion)
  11. Proselytizing
  12. "Moonchild" (video in library)
  13. The Teachings of Don Juan (EXAM on book and discussion)
  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 (EXAM on book and discussion)
  20. "Gimme that Big Time Religion" (video)
  21. Creating Rituals
  22. Enacting Rituals
* The instructor reserves the right to make changes in this course.

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