Conclusions, Hypotheses, Suggestions and a Stab at a Personal ‘Position Statement’
The validity of religious beliefs and the meanings of religious experiences are, as such, beyond Psychology’s remit. Psychology’s role is empirically to explore the ‘psychological laws’ which determine (perhaps too strong a word) the likelihood of a person becoming religious, the varieties of types of religious belief and their relationships to personality and motivation, the growth of religious belief in the child and the effects of variables such as age and social class on religious belief, and religious pathologies. Such explorations are of equal potential value to both believers and sceptics. The opening chapter, ‘Psychology and Religion’ of Michael Argyle’s Religious Behaviour (1958) is an excellent example of this. The key feature of this position, as I see it, is that religion is not held to be about psychological matters but about the nature of the universe and humanity’s place within and relationship to it. The psychological aspects of religion are thus akin to that of the perceptual process in relation to the external world—the psychologist of perception makes no claims at expertise regarding that world itself, only about the psychological processes by which it is known. Argyle’s position is, in effect, a slightly more sophisticated version of the ‘facts’ versus ‘values’ distinction widely invoked during the 1920s and 1930s to facilitate peaceful co-existence between the camps.