The American Psychological Association has over 50 divisions including interests such as teaching of psychology, psychotherapy, psychological testing, neuropsychology, psychology of peace and many other interesting areas. Recently Division 36—Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality—held their 10th Annual Conference on Religion and Spirituality at Loyola University Maryland. One of my Marist College students, Lindsay Blevins, was first author on a presentation titled “Monocrhromatic versus Chromatic Images of Spirituality.” Lindsay conducted a study in which college students were shown different Vatican postage stamps, some containing traditional images of biblical events whereas others offered more impressionistic theological themes. Lindsay explained her research in this manner:
“It is vital that we find ways to inspire young people to become knowledgeable and informed in all aspects of life, including religion and spirituality. The 10th Annual Mid-Year Conference on Religion and Spirituality brought a very diverse group of people together and covered a variety of topics relating to religion and spirituality. The poster session was especially interesting as subject matter ranged from the development of spiritual identity to belief in the paranormal. I believe that the multitude of ways of looking at religion and spirituality represented at the conference should be carried over into classroom instruction and would certainly keep students engaged in learning.
“The results of our study show that college students do, in fact, consider religious imagery to be inspiring. This concept is noteworthy considering the drift from religion in today’s generation due to differences in opinion and scandal. In terms of the images found to be inspirational, strong similarities were found among the more inspirational images, as well as among the less inspirational images. Concrete images of religious tradition were rated more inspirational. In other words, the more specific the representation—with characters present and an identified historical dimension—the more inspiring the visual milieu when contrasted with more abstract, impressionistic, or strictly-theological phenomena represented by the images to be the least inspirational.
“The main purpose of this research is to find a better way to inspire young people and revive their interest in religion and spirituality. The goal is not necessarily to make them adopt religious beliefs, though that wouldn’t be a bad thing, but rather to at least make them see religion and spirituality has something relevant to modern society. My hope is that they realize that simply having knowledge about religion and spirituality could benefit them in some way or another, if only to prevent ignorance. By making the study of religion and spirituality more inspirational, relatable to younger generations, and fun, we can attract more young people to classes in which these topics are taught and discussed openly. Change does not have to mean radically diverting from the principles that different religions value. It just means keeping up with a fast moving society that young people will soon be leading”
Each year the Loyola Maryland Conference brings together psychologists who are interested in studying religion and spirituality. Lindsay Blevins concluded: “Personally, I especially enjoyed being able to talk to Dr. Ralph Piedmont, Director of the Mid-Year Conference, and Dr. Chris Boyatzis, President of Division 36 of the American Psychological Association. It was great to see the leaders of the organization interested in issues affecting young people.”