This chapter discusses whether, to which extent and in what way IAPR’s history can serve as an empirical basis for reflection on some of the theoretic basic issues in the psychology of religion. Attention is given to some enduring problems facing the discipline and to some different types of psychology of religion. A new hypothesis is formulated about IAPR’s founder suddenly leaving the field, followed by a brief introduction to the volume.
Jacob Belzen’s Religionspsychologie (Belzen, 2015) is a fascinating, deeply scholarly written book retracing a century of psychology of religion in Europe and its relation to the rest of the world. It both shows the anchorage of psychology of religion in the debates taking place around the development of psychology, and in the evolution of Europe since the beginning of the 20th century. In this brief commentary, I highlight the qualities of this work, and especially its ability to retrace the complex human network of relationships that accompanied the development of a scientific society and its publications. I then suggest two possible ways to complement this analysis. First, as a developmental, sociocultural psychologist, I reflect on the fact that this field of enquiry, that aimed to be inter-confessional, came to be led essentially by scholars of Christian origin or addressing Christianity. Second, observing the variety of approaches constituting psychology of religion today, as highlighted by Belzen, I emphasize the diverse epistemologies grounding these works. I finally argue in favor of a pragmatic stance, which might both guide the field into issues of societal relevance, and allow psychology of religion to contribute to the development of psychology as a whole.
This chapter provides a very short history of the International Association for the Psychology of Religion by following the structure of a recent German book analyzing IAPR’s past and international context.