Origins of religions

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GORDON ALLPORT (1897–1967)

Allport (1950), in, “The Individual and His Religion” illustrated how people may use religion in different ways. He makes a distinction between mature religion and immature religion. Mature religious sentiment is how Allport characterized the person whose approach to religion is dynamic, open-minded, and able to maintain links between inconsistencies. In contrast, immature religion is self-serving and generally represents the negative stereotypes that people have about religion. More recently, this distinction has been encapsulated in the terms "intrinsic religion", referring to a genuine, heartfelt devout faith, and "extrinsic religion", referring to a more utilitarian use of religion as a means to an end, such as church attendance to gain social status. These dimensions of religion were measured on the Religious Orientation Scale of Allport and Ross (1967). A third form of religious orientation has been described by Daniel Batson. This refers to treatment of religion as an open-ended search (Batson, Schoenrade & Ventis, 1993). More specifically, it has been seen by Batson as comprising a willingness to view religious doubts in a positive manner, acceptance that religious orientation can change and existential complexity, the belief that one's religious beliefs should be shaped from personal crises that one has experienced in one's life. Batson refers to extrinsic, intrinsic and quest respectively as Religion-as-means, religion-as-end and religion-as-quest, and measures these constructs on the Religious Life Inventory (Batson, Schoenrade & Ventis, 1993).

ERIK H. ERIKSON (1902–1994)

Erik Erikson is best known for his theory of psychological development, which has its roots in the psychoanalytic importance of identity in personality. His biographies of Gandhi and Martin Luther reveal Erikson's positive view of religion. He considered religions to be important influences in successful personality development because they are the primary way that cultures promote the virtues associated with each stage of life. Religious rituals facilitate this development. Erikson's theory has not benefited from systematic empirical study, but it remains an influential and well-regarded theory in the psychological study of religion.

ERICH FROMM (1900–1980)

Fromm modified the Freudian theory and produced a more complex account of the functions of religion. In his book, Psychoanalysis and Religion, he responded to Freud's theories, by explaining that part of the modification is viewing the Oedipus complex as based not so much on sexuality as on a "much more profound desire", namely, the childish desire to remain attached to protecting figures. The right religion, in Fromm's estimation, can, in principle, foster an individual's highest potentialities, but religion in practice tends to relapse into being neurotic.

Fromm said humans have a need for a stable frame of reference. Religion apparently fills this need. In effect, humans crave answers to questions that no other source of knowledge has an answer to, which only religion may seem to answer. However, a sense of free will must be given in order for religion to appear healthy. An authoritarian notion of religion appears detrimental.

Emmons offered a theory of "spiritual strivings" in his 1999 book, The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns. With support from empirical studies, Emmons argued that spiritual strivings foster personality integration because they exist at a higher level of the personality.

JAMES HILLMAN (1926 – 2011)

Hillman, at the end of his book Re-Visioning Psychology, reverses William James' position of viewing religion through Psychology, urging instead that we view psychology as a variety of religious experience. He concludes: "Psychology as religion implies imagining all psychological events as effects of gods in the human soul."

JULIAN JAYNES (1920 – 1997)

Julian Jaynes, primarily in his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, proposed that religion (and some other Psychological Phenomena such as Hypnosis and Schizophrenia) is a reminant of a relatively recent time in human development, prior to the advent of consciousness. Jaynes hypothesized that Hallucinated verbal commands helped non-conscious early man to perform tasks promoting human survival. Starting about 10,000 BCE, selective pressures favored the Hallucinated verbal commands for social control, and they came to be perceived as an external, rather than internal, voice commanding the person to take some action. These were hence often explained as originating from invisible gods, spirits, ancestors, etc.


In response to the religious transformation hypothesis, Ronald Inglehart piloted the renewal of the secularization hypothesis. His argument hinges on the premise that religion develops to fill the human need for security. Therefore the development of social and economic security in Europe explains its corresponding secularization due to a lack of need for religion. However, religion continues in the third world, where social and economic insecurity are rampant. The overall effect is expected to be a growing cultural disparity.


James W. Fowler, a developmental psychologist at the Candler School of Theology, in his Stages of Faith developed the most well-known stage model of spiritual or religious development. He follows Piaget and Kohlberg and has proposed a holistic staged development of faith (or spiritual development) across the lifespan.

The book-length study contains a framework and ideas which have generated a good deal of response from those interested in religion, so it appears to have face validity. James Fowler proposes six stages of faith development: 1. Intuitive-projective 2. Symbolic Literal 3. Synthetic Conventional 4. Individuating 5. Paradoxical (conjunctive) 6. Universalising. Although there is evidence that children up to the age of twelve years do tend to be in the first two of these stages, adults over the age of sixty-one show considerable variation in displays of qualities of Stages 3 and beyond, most adults remaining in Stage 3 (Synthetic Conventional). Fowler's model has generated some empirical studies, and fuller descriptions of this research (and of these six stages) can be found in Wulff (1991).

Arthur Pinker, an American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and linguist, is Johnstone Family Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, known for Evolutionary Psychology and the computational theory of mind.

Evolutionary psychology is based on the hypothesis that, just like the cardiac, pulmonary, urinary, and immune systems, cognition has a functional structure with a genetic basis, which therefore appeared through natural selection. Like other organs and tissues, this functional structure should be universally shared among humans and should solve important problems of survival and reproduction. Evolutionary psychologists seek to understand cognitive processes by understanding the survival and reproductive functions they might serve.

Pinker in an advocacy of evolutionary Psychology, noted that the universal propensity toward religious belief is a genuine scientific puzzle. He thinks that adaptationist explanations for religion do not meet the criteria for adaptations. An alternative explanation is that religious psychology is a by-product of many parts of the mind that evolved for other purposes.


Boyer’s Cognitive Psychology of Religion, accounts for the psychological processes that underlie religious thought and practice. In his book Religion Explained, Boyer shows that there is no simple explanation for religious consciousness. Boyer is mainly concerned with explaining the various psychological processes involved in the acquisition and transmission of ideas concerning the gods. Boyer builds on the ideas of cognitive anthropologists, Dan Sperber and Scott Atran, who first argued that religious cognition represents a by-product of various evolutionary adaptations, including folk psychology, and purposeful violations of innate expectations about how the world is constructed (for example, bodiless beings with thoughts and emotions) that make religious cognitions striking and memorable.

JAMES H. LEUBA (1868 - 1946)

The American Psychologist James H. Leuba, in A Psychological Study of Religion, accounts for mystical experience Psychologically and Physiologically, pointing to analogies with certain drug-induced experiences. Leuba argued forcibly for a naturalistic treatment of religion, which he considered to be necessary if religious psychology were to be looked at scientifically.



Thomas Oden (around 1984) severely criticized mid-20th century Pastoral care and the Pastoral Psychology that guided it as having entirely abandoned its classical and traditional sources, and having become overwhelmingly dominated by modern psychological influences from Freud, Rogers, and others. One application of the psychology of religion is in Pastoral Psychology, the use of Psychological findings to improve the Pastoral care provided by Pastors and other Clergy, especially in how they support ordinary members of their congregations. Pastoral Psychology is also concerned with improving the practice of Chaplains in healthcare and in the military. One major concern of Pastoral Psychology is to improve the practice of Pastoral counselling.


Psychology of religion is the discipline that studies religion and religious Phenomena using Psychological theories, concepts, and methods. It is interested in how religion interacts with Personality, Biology, and Culture and with the multiple dimensions of human beings and their development in society (i.e. cognitive, affective-emotional, relational, social, and moral dimensions). This discipline considers religion as influenced by Psychological realities and as having an impact on these realities.

Psychology of Religion flourished until the 1930s, but then remained dormant for about three decades. In the last several decades, a renewed interest in psychology of religion has emerged. A number of books and a host of empirical studies suggest that it is once again a viable area in the discipline of psychology (Batson, Schoenrade, and Ventis, 1993; Hood and others, 1996; Paloutzian, 1996; Wulff, 1997). Psychologists involved in the psychology of religion today work in a wide variety of settings, including colleges and universities, hospitals, clinics, counselling centres, churches and synagogues, schools, research institutes, and private practice.

  • Psychology of religion is the discipline that studies religion and religious phenomena using psychological theories, concepts, and methods.

  • Psychology of religion consists of the application of psychological methods and interpretive frameworks to religious traditions, as well as to both religious and irreligious individuals.

  • American psychologist and philosopher William James is regarded by most psychologists of religion as the founder of the field. In the psychology of religion, James' influence endures. His Varieties of Religious Experience is considered to be the classic work in the field, and references to James' ideas are common at professional conferences.

  • Continued dialogue between psychology and theology may foster greater understanding and benefit both fields.

Batson, C.D., Schoenrade, P., & Ventis, W.L. (1993). Religion and the individual. New York: Oxford University Press.

Belzen, Jacob A., ed. (2012). Psychology of religion: autobiographical accounts. New York: Springer. ISBN 978-1-4614-1601-2.

Emmons, Robert A. (1999). The psychology of ultimate concerns: Motivation and spirituality in personality. New York: Guilford. ISBN 978-1-57230-935-7.

Fromm, Erich (1950). Psychoanalysis and Religion. New Haven, CT, USA: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-00089-8. Retrieved 10 February 2010.

Hood, R.W., Jr., Spilka, B., Hunsberger, B., & Gorsuch, R. (1996). Psychology of religion: An empirical approach (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

Kenneth I. Pargament (1997). The psychology of religion and coping: Theory, research, practice. New York: Guilford. ISBN 978-1-57230-664-6

Paloutzian, R. (1996). Invitation to the psychology of religion (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Starbuck, (1899). The psychology of religion. London: Walter Scott.

Wulff, D.M. (1997). Psychology of religion: Classic and contemporary. New York: Wiley.



Charles Ogundu Nnaji

Department of Philosophy and Religions

Faculty of arts

University of Abuja


This presentation search lights not just the role, but the relevance of Religions and Philosophy in our contemporary societies,. Our objective is to identify and present how Religion and philosophy can be useful in contemporary human societies. The method of study is deductive, which means consulting relevant literature (or books) while also highlighting the Vox-Populi, The study found out that Religion and Philosophy have common grounds in their moral and Skeptical Sopherim (i.e. teachings) while the study recommends the improvement of ethical standards among Theologians and Philosophers, rather than engaging in endless Sophistry.

Keywords: Role, Religion, Philosophy, Contemporary, Nigeria.


Hawkins (1995), that the word “Role” has something to do with what one has to offer or to do in particular situations, since human participations are required for concepts to be materialized into practical realities.


Eliade (1985) that Religion (as a Term) has Latin origins, i.e. “Religere”, which means to bind, to be attached or addicted to something one cannot do without. Hence Religion means “Habits” often senselessly practiced or adhered to without asking questions. Often Religion present spiritual moral teachings or doctrines, while many questionings or attacks on Religion are often Sophist, Sophiqu and senseless (Hebrew O.T. 2005; Gen.3:P15).


Robinson and Davidson (1996) defined Philosophy as “Human Judgments” (From the Hebrew “Philashapha”), or Human Teachings from the Old Testament Hebrew “Shophetim” of Judges 6:13 “Niphilosophru”, i.e. Wonders our fathers (Abbotenu) taught or told us (Sophru) see Hebrew O.T. (2005:; London, 1940): The word Philosophy was hence transliterated into Greek as “Philosophia” translated in the Goodnews Canon as “Epicurean and stoic Teachers” (i.e. Philosophers) and corroborated by the Amplified (2003) and NCB (2008) translators as “Human teachings” further proven as “Anti” or (Hephequ) Christian teachings by the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (see Brown and Comfort, 1990: Illnaze: and Metzger, (2001).


Simpson and Weiner, (1987) in the Encyclopedia Dictionary of current English presented contemporary to mean Contemporaneum, which adds to or means “Currently existing”, or something that is “In the Present”, rather than in the Anachaeos (i.e. in the past, or before its time, i.e. in the future), or Anachron.


Benton (1990) in the Britannica states that Nigeria is a country geographically situated on the western axis of the continent of Africa: thus, Nigeria as a west-African country has many ethnic and language groups such as Ibos, Yorubas, and Hausas; (with an English Lingua).


  1. Study synthesia involves polling together our definition of terms into a study Nucleus able to answer innate questions presented by the study topic and objective.

  2. From our clarification or definition of terms, the roles of Religion and Philosophy in contemporary societies include the following

    1. Religion often becomes a community or social bond, which holds together a people living together in multi-cultural societies: egs. (i) Christian Doctors Association. (ii) Muslim Lawyers Association (iii) Muslim and Christian Business men’s Associations etc.

    2. Religion and Philosophy teach morality or the science of “Dos and Don’ts” since societies which have no moral instructions that curtail or control human excesses or human bad conducts, end up in the anomie or anarchy.

    3. Religion infuses in man the fear and respect of Divinity, the supernatural (or God) these which can put into man fear of the unknown, hence fear of committing evil.

    4. Christian and Philosophical existentialism engender in man a self consciousness that he is not an accidental existing being; rather that his ability to rationalize means that he has a purpose for coming into existence; hence, he must conscientiously pursue that purpose given him by the ultimate creator, called God by Religion.

    5. Religion in a secular sense currently has employed thousands of people in Nigeria into its organizations and institutions, which include Schools, Hospitals, Rehabs, Banks, Transport Companies, Radio and Television Stations; also Printing and Publishing houses, Asylums etc.

    6. Religious bodies also play massive roles in controlling and keeping together marriage bonds and families: including controlling Juvenile excesses, and managing the dead and dying, often called “Hospices” etc.


Our conclusion of study comes from our research findings that:

(a) Though Religious spiritual observances and moral doctrines help to maintain social order, yet religious bondages and groupings often produces extremist behavior.

(b) Hence Philosophical reasoning can help moderate religious excesses, without necessarily abusing religion, since Philosophy often craftily abuses, ridicules and disrespects Religion in its claim of investigating Religion


(i.e African-Philosophy)

African Ontonomics states that traditional Africans do not argue the existence of God, rather Africans largely believe that God and divinities exist, and that the most important issue in the African psyche is harnessing transcendent and mysterious powers which are (clearly evident in nature) in solving or resolving human miseries and human predicaments. From Kant, cited by Ogundu (2000)1, people who have never encountered problems are likely going to contemplate suicide when real problems appear. Hence, does philosophy have mental strategies for solving human problems?

Keywords: African, Ontonomics, Philosophy

  1. One major problem in African Philosophy is that scholars in African Philosophy are still Busy discussing and arguing European and Ancient Greek themes in sophistry ( i.e Themelion) rather than philosophically addressing indigenous (pseudo superstitious ) African cultic belief systems which consistently retrogrades the average African reasoning power and the general socio-economic development of Africa. Hence, African Ontonomics tackles underdevelopment and social-misery (i.e. human problems) from the point of view of awakening African philosophers to the need to carve out and develop a structure and distinct identity for African philosophy not tailored towards senseless arguments and overemphasizing what Plato and Aristotle said 2,400 years ago, but streamlined on how human reasoning can best solve people’s problems in Africa. Thus, African Ontonomics rather than aimlessly questioning the existence of God, unreservedly believe in the indisputable existence of God and Spirits as living realities who have endowed humanity with the mental and reasoning capacities capable of helping man resolve his legionic trailer- loads of imposed and self- imposed problems.

  2. While the general public stereotypically views philosophy as a field which creates unnecessary and confused arguments, African Ontonomics seeks ways of producing a distinct African philosophy able to use man’s (God-given) reasoning powers to solve human problems of all ramifications.

  3. Simply put, African Ontonomics without apologies, states that philosophy and philosophers are misusing man’s God-given reasoning abilities in generating senseless debates called “Dialegeto” in the Greek New Testament”. (Brown and Comfort; 1990; Interlinear Greek- English New Testament: Illinois: Tyndale)2.


  1. African Ontonomics primarily aims to create an African philosophy which uses man’s powerful reasoning abilities to solve human problems, rather than engaging in crafty (Ophis) and senseless arguments called “Sophion” in Hebrew (i.e. Sophoteros or Sophistry). See Aland and Newman, 1983, p 194.3

  2. African Ontonomics also aims at breaking the mentality of an average African philosopher, away from extreme citations and dependence on ancient Greek and European philosopher’s views and methods, for a much more indigenous and independent African method and sense of reasoning.


  1. African: the word “African” is from the Arabic “Ifriqiya” which means dark or black “continent”, this which gave us the words “ Africa and Africans” i.e. people who originated from or were born in Africa, particularly people with dark or black skins (Nnaji: 2012) pp 113- 126)4. See also Simpson and Weiner, 1989, Vol 1.5

  2. Ontonomics: Ontonomics coined by this author is from the New Testament Greek “Ontos”, “Onta” or “Ons” which means “really or being (not Being)”, not necessarily the “reality” of Ontology in Philosophy, but the adverbial “really”. The real Greek words for reality are “Upostasis- to hypostasis”, which means “existence”, reality or supporting evidence (H. Koster in Bromiley, 1985, PP 1237- 1239)6.

See also Greek “Aletheias”- “Truth” or “Reality” 1 John 3:18 compared to Ontos. The New Testament Greek word for “real” is Ontos; see Galatians 3:21, the Greek “Ontos” (really) e.g. I came yesterday; “really”, can be translated “indeed or certainly, while Col 4:11 “Ontes is translated “being” (i.e. I have being sleeping) not “Being” as in deity or spirit etc. see Brown and Comfort (1990) Greek English Interlinear New Testament, Tyndale).

  1. Philosophy: Philosophy traditionally comes from Greek “Philos” (love) and Sophia (wisdom) hence; philosophy is love for wisdom (Ugwuanyi and Oyeshile, 1997)7. However, Nnaji (2012)8 challenged that etymology by arguing through linguistic etymology that philosophy is from “Greek philos” ( friend not love) and Greek “Ophis” or the Hebrew “Sophis” ( i.e a snake or snakish- craftiness) which gave us “Sophos” Mtt 10:16 “Jesus said, “be ye as wise as serpents” (Ophis- Sophis); while according to W. Forester in Bromiley, 1985, p 750, ancient philosophy especially Gnostic Ophites called wisdom a serpent (Ophis)- which gave us ‘sophos’9 (see also Metzger, 2001, p 32)10. Also Forester, (book v1) stated that ‘puthon’ (python- Pythagoras) was the snake spirit of divination (Hebrew ’sophis’) which was the guardian of the oracle of Delphi where Socrates received his inspiration to wisdom (See Bromiley, 1985, p 973)11. See also Asaju, 1999, p 3612, where Socrates said nothing will stop him from going to the Daimon- god of Delphi which gave him his inspiration. See also Andrew Skinner, 200113 (serpents and symbols in the ancient East) on the serpent and ancient wisdom religions etc. See also Aland and Newman, 198314, on the puthon or python- the snake- spirit of divination or fortune telling. Heraclitus said he was led by the gods to the gates of the sun; hence he was called the fire philosopher. Also Boetus recounted how the spirit of divination gave him oracles in his dreams.

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