Grove City College Professor of Psychology Dr. Kevin Seybold will be adding Islam to the syllabus after securing a competitive grant to enhance the study of religion.
The Global Religion Research Initiative (GRRI) Curriculum Development Grant will allow Seybold to augment the innovative psychology of religion course that he teaches to include one of the world’s largest faith traditions.
“The course examines a psychological approach to the understanding of religious life and religious experience, emphasizing the Judeo-Christian tradition,” Seybold said. “Given that Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States and the world, it seems very appropriate to include Islam in a course that attempts to understand the psychological mechanisms underlying religion and religious experiences.”
“Revising the existing course will provide a useful comparison/contrast for students in the course, and will also offer students some exposure to Islam as it becomes increasingly important as the religious scene in the United States changes,” he said.
Seybold will be able to draw on substantial literature that exists examining traditional psychology of religion topics as applied to Islam, including the measurement of religiosity/spirituality among Muslims, religious orientation among Muslims, the role of Islam in mental and physical health, Islam as a meaning-making system and the psychological effects of the Sept. 11 attacks on Muslims in the United States.
Another topic that is covered in the existing course is religious fundamentalism, typically using examples coming from a variety of Christian groups. Adding fundamentalist Islam to this discussion will again provide a helpful example for comparison.
Seybold received one of just 12 curriculum development grants awarded annually by GRRI, which is part of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society within the Department of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind. Funded by the Templeton Religion Trust of Nassau, Bahamas, the grants are intended to build and enhance innovative courses that involve significant material that encourages students to study about non-Western religions. The $4,000 grant can be used for summer salary, the purchase of books and media and other reasonable expenses related to course development and revisions.
Seybold serves as chair of the Department of Psychology and Social Work at Grove City College. He recently published “Questions in the Psychology of Religion,” which examines how contemporary psychological science interacts with religion by applying the empirical methods used in psychology to religious experiences, which are determined, at least in part, by natural physical processes. His study of the natural mechanisms that influence behavior, thought and emotion provides important insights into the fundamental and universal phenomena of religion.