Psychology professor examines science and religion in new book

Grove City College professor of Psychology Dr. Kevin S. Seybold’s new book examines how contemporary psychological science interacts with religion.

In “Questions in the Psychology of Religion,” Seybold applies the empirical methods used in psychology to religious experiences, which are determined, at least in part, by natural physical processes. His study of the natural mechanisms that influence behavior, thought and emotion provides important insights into the fundamental and universal phenomena of religion.

The book takes on some big questions: What does it mean to be human? Why are we moral creatures? Are religious experiences different from everyday ones? Is the brain involved in experiencing God? What is a soul and do we have one? Is religion the result of evolutionary processes? How might psychology and religion relate? 

Writing for students, pastors and “people in the pews,” Seybold said his work addresses common issues in the field and others unique to his own research and scholarship, such as the cognitive science of religion – which is becoming a dominant perspective in the field – and the soul and morality. Seybold also covers new ground in the area of cultural cognition, examining why those on opposite sides of the political spectrum differ so widely in how they think and process information.

“These differences contribute to the polarization that is seen in much of contemporary American culture and society,” Seybold said. “Why do Christians differ over such issues a gay marriage, immigration, evolutionary theory or climate change? The psychological principles uncovered in the book are applied to trying to understand how Christians can set a better example in the way we interact with each other, even when we disagree over these kinds of issues.”

Seybold said one of his objectives is to help readers develop “the ability to see ways that science and religion, both very important in our culture, can work together instead of seeing them as fundamentally incompatible or in conflict, a view, unfortunately, that many people hold.”

Advance critics of “Questions in the Psychology of Religion” applaud Seybold’s approach. 

"Willing to consider what we can learn from evolutionary theory, cognitive science, and neuroscience, Kevin Seybold is not afraid to tackle such tough questions as what is morality, where do my religious beliefs come from, and why Christians can differ on such social issues as immigration or gay marriage. Neither a theological apologetic nor critique, Seybold convincingly provides a look at religious faith that many Christians quite simply have not considered before. Well worth the read," Peter C. Hill, professor of psychology at Biola University and editor of Journal of Psychology and Christianity, said.

Randall Bush, senior pastor at East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh said, “Even as the religious landscape is changing across America, there are fresh insights daily being gained through research targeting ‘the hard questions’ of what is the nature of human consciousness and what is the basis for morality, religiosity, and empathy. Seybold’s text navigates this critical terrain, offering compelling reflections on the cognitive science of religion grounded in the latest research and theories of psychological science.”

"If you have ever wondered whether religion is 'all in the brain' or whether the soul is real, this book will help you explore how psychologists study these and related fascinating questions. Seybold not only guides readers through the research, he also provides tools for a thoughtful critique, enabling readers to take seriously both the science and their faith,” according to Heather Looy, professor of psychology at The King's University.

“Questions in the Psychology of Religion” is published by Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers (ISBN 978-4982-3881-6) and is available online at​

Seybold is the author of numerous academic articles and the book “Explorations in Neuroscience, Psychology and Religion.” He has been on the faculty at Grove City College for 31 years.​

Psychology professor examines science and religion in new book

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