Religion and Spirituality
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleSOW-PSB2SP80E
Credits (ECTS)6
CategoryBA (Bachelor)
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Social Sciences; Psychology;
dr. C.P.M. van Halen
Other course modules lecturer
dr. H.T. van Schie
Other course modules lecturer
dr. H.T. van Schie
Other course modules lecturer
dr. H.T. van Schie
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
dr. H.T. van Schie
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2018
PER3  (04/02/2019 to 14/04/2019)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesNo
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
Why do people believe in God, life after death, reincarnation, contact with ancestors or the existence of a higher reality? This course aims to provide insight in the psychology of religion and spirituality in all of its variety. The aim of this course is not to deny or prove the existence of God or the supernatural but to understand man in its continuing quest for meaning. Following this course you will be able to:
  1. Understand and explain spiritual and religious behaviours, by using psychological mechanisms and neurobiological, evolutionary, individual and/or social-cultural theoretical perspectives.
  2. Identify an original question of personal interest in the domain of religion and spirituality, and answer this question using arguments and insights from the scientific literature and popular media.
  3. Cooperate with others in a scientific project through various phases of scientific research including brainstorming, literature search, conceptual study design, poster construction, verbal presentation, joint writing, proving feedback on written texts, accepting and incorporating feedback by others.
Whereas across the globe religious institutions continue to expand, in the Netherlands church membership and church attendance have been steadily declining for several decades. Praying for dinner is no longer commonly practiced but shopping on Sundays is getting ever more popular. Have the Dutch lost their faith with the increasing modernisation and have scientific discoveries replaced the religious worldview? The opposite appears to be true. Where traditional religion disappears, spirituality, mindfulness and the paranormal appear. Television personalities such as Char, Uri Geller and Derek Ogilvie appeal  to many with their remarkable abilities to contact the spirit world, and alternative medicine such as reiki, acupuncture and faith healing are getting more and more popular. 

The persisting character of religion and the continuing interest of humans in spiritual, divine, and supernatural matters suggest that religion is not simply transmitted culturally but that religion finds its origin in man itself. This course investigates the psychological mechanisms from which religion may arise and the principles that may be involved in religious experience and belief. The topic will be addressed from various scientific angles ranging from evolutionary psychology to recent discoveries in brain research and cognitive psychology.

The setup of the course is both dynamic and interactive. Class lectures will be given by a several experts from different universities in the Netherlands on topics such as supernatural agency, mystical experiences, evolution of religion, religion and health, paranormal belief, and religious conflict. In interactive classes you will be discussing self-constructed theorems and answer fundamental questions about religious and spiritual behaviour. In workgroups course participants will help each other with their poster presentation and will give feedback to each other’s work.

  • Poster presentation (group): 15%
  • Essay (group): 35%
  • Written exam about literature and lectures: 50%
Additional comments
Specialty Courses are admissible for Psychology students only. Further information: see Course enrolment in the General Information section.

First-year psychology programme or other first-year university programme

Required materials
Scientific papers or book chapters (see course manual).

Recommended materials

Instructional modes
Attendance MandatoryYes

Class lectures, interactive lectures and guest lectures

Attendance MandatoryYes

Poster presentations at the poster session.

Poster Presentation
Test weight15
Test typePresentation
OpportunitiesBlock PER3, Block PER4

Test weight35
Test typeEssay
OpportunitiesBlock PER3, Block PER4

Written exam
Test weight50
Test typeExam
OpportunitiesBlock PER3, Block PER4