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William James’ Views on the Origin of Religions

One of the greatest American philosophers of the 19th century, Willian James, believes that religion is closely related to psychology. James’s theory is based on the fact that every person has psychological needs, including the need for attachment, control, pleasure, and self-development. At first sight, it seems that these needs have little in common with the concept of religion. However, for James, religions originated from the necessity to fulfill the aforementioned psychological needs (Molloy, 2013). From James’s point of view, a person’s life will become unharmonious, unsafe, and intimidating (Molloy, 2013).

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What is more, the theory proposed by William James suggests that people need religion because they are helpless (Locatelli, 2018). In other words, religions appeared as a source of moral strength and support for people.

In the academic community, there are numerous explanations of the origins of religions. Some scholars argue that religions appeared as an attempt to explain natural phenomena or escape from reality. However, the theory about the origins of religions proposed by Willian James seems to be the closest to the truth and the most realistic one. This judgment is based on James’s belief that religion is closely related to psychology.

Personal experience shows that most people of various faiths turn to God during arduous periods of their lives. A person prays to convince themselves that everything will be fine and receive support from the community to like-minded people of the same faith. This way, a religious person feels that he or she is not alone. Besides, a person shifts responsibility for everything that is going on from himself to God’s will. In this case, religions serve as protection and a source of safety for a helpless person.

References

Locatelli, A. (2018). Emotions and/in religion reading Sigmund Freud, Rudolph Otto, and William James. In I. Jandl., S. Knaller, S. Schonfellner & G. Tockner (Eds.), Writing Emotions: Theoretical Concepts and Selected Case Studies in Literature (pp. 77-96). transcript-Verlag.

Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the world’s religions: tradition, challenge, and change. McGraw-Hill.

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StudyCorgi. "William James’ Views on the Origin of Religions." October 21, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/william-james-views-on-the-origin-of-religions/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "William James’ Views on the Origin of Religions." October 21, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/william-james-views-on-the-origin-of-religions/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'William James’ Views on the Origin of Religions'. 21 October.

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