by Dr. Stephen Diamond
Christmas is once more upon us, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Chanukkah too has started, celebrating a miraculous event occurring centuries before Christ (who, as a Jew, presumably celebrated Chanukkah) was born. Both--despite their commercialism--are prominent religious holidays in the Judeo-Christian tradition. So perhaps this is an apropos time of year to reflect here on the psychology of spirituality and religion.
Psychologically speaking, religion is conceived, created and perpetuated by virtually every culture throughout history to provide meaning, comfort and succor in the face of the stark, disturbing, anxiety-provoking existential facts of life: suffering, misfortune, meaninglessness, isolation, insecurity, disease, evil, loss, and ultimately, death. The impressive longevity, ubiquity and tenacity of religion in human affairs attests to its relative efficacy in this regard. Religion may be further understood as a means of seeking to acknowledge, comprehend and honor the "numinous" aspects of existence: fate; destiny; mystery; wonder, beauty or awe; the irrepressible powers of nature; the perception of some intelligent and loving grand design in the universe; the organic interrelatedness of all things; the insignificance and impermanence of the personal ego and transcendent immensity of the cosmic, transpersonal or spiritual realm beyond both ego and material reality; and the ineffable yet transformative subjective experience of oneness with the cosmos and its creator. Religion traditionally provides a container, language, symbolism, and structure for such archetypal spiritual experiences.
Read More Here: Psychology Today