The Varieties of Religious Experience Summary & Review

Author: William James

The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) is a book by Harvard University psychologist and famous philosopher William James. The book debates that every human experiences religion differently, and the sum of these experiences matters. It sheds light on the innate need of a human to identify with a religion and the psychological influence religions have on us.
the varieties of religious experience summary

Detailed Summary of The Varieties of Religious Experience

The Varieties of Religious Experience provides the reader with a more personal look at religion. It argues that religions are the sum of the experiences faced by believers. Religion is not only about Jesus or Church and Allah or Mosque.

It is something that affects our physical world as well as our consciousness. What we believe informs our reality, which is why we cannot ignore the importance of our religious beliefs. This book will open up your mind to many possibilities that you can adopt in order to make your life meaningful, hopeful, and full of light.

It does not pass any judgment on whether you are a believer or not instead, it shows ways in which both believers and non-believers can follow.

Religion is an important part of most of our lives at one point or another other, so it is better to learn about different religions. Not only will it explain answers to the mystery of the universe, but it will also help us to find ease in our sufferings. The author puts much importance on how an individual experiences the different facets of religion so that his reader can relate and learn.

The Varieties of Religious Experience Summary Key Points

Want to know the nature of religion? What does religion mean to you? William James is widely known as the Father of Psychology, and he studies religion on a deeper level. His first lectures were based on religious experience, how it occurs, works, and what significance it has on human life. James found out that people with strong religious beliefs have better and more influential lives.

Therefore, I have taken out this book’s three most important key points so that you can have deep insight into the psychological aspect of religious experiences.

You might also like to read The Hero with a Thousand Faces Summary.

Why do People identify with a Religion

Religion has been a point of debate ever since humans have existed. Although Atheism prevails, the human mind cannot help but question if there actually is a God. Not everything we witness in our everyday lives can be explained by psychology or science.

Things that happen around us make us question if this is all there is to life. We are born, we live a certain amount of time on earth doing several activities, and then we die. But what happens after that? Is there an afterlife? How do humans die? Are we created as special life forms, or did we evolve?

These are probably some questions that still make people believe in religions. Because religions answer these questions, the answers may vary with every religion. According to the findings of the Washington Post, eight out of ten people identify and adhere to some kind of religious school of thought.

Religions have a Psychological Basis

If you think you know everything and do not follow or have not studied any religion, you are wrong. The author argues that there are certain emotions, perceptions, and thoughts that only religions can introduce inside the mind of a human being.

A human’s experiences when he associates himself with religion are immensely valuable. Institutional religion is how you perceive religion while living in a society. It comprises the prayers you say, or the religious greetings, but personal religion is why we believe in what we believe. It refers to our deep-rooted perceptions.

The personal experience and feelings we suffer from when we feel connected to the divine or the almighty. We believe in things that can be seen with our eyes, but surely, we think about them and feel them. This is the base where psychology is connected with religion.

Believes can Cure us of many Mental Troubles

You might have heard about existentialism or existential crisis. It refers to the dread we feel when we believe our lives have no meaning and we only pass through each day to be dead soon. It makes you confused about life and your own identity. How can religion help you battle these feelings of utter hopelessness and despair, you may ask?

Well, the answers are simple. By giving hope. Every religion tries to give meaning to our lives. Religions show us that our lives matter. We exist because of something meaningful; whatever we do is not in vain or without purpose.

It gives hope that there is a reward for every struggle and that life is infinite and full of meaning. This is why keeping these beliefs that provide hope and light in our lives is important, even if we do not adhere to any religion.

The Varieties of Religious Experience Quotes

“Were one asked to characterize the life of religion in the broadest and most general terms possible, one might say that it consists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto.” ― William James

“At the bottom, the whole concern of both morality and religion is with the manner of our acceptance of the universe. Do we accept it only in part and grudgingly, or heartily and altogether?” ― William James

The Varieties of Religious Experience Summary Review

Whether you identify yourself with a religion or not. There are plenty of benefits that you can reap from several religious beliefs and practices. Religious practices have been thought to bring harmony, peace, and comfort; the Varieties of Religious Experience is your chance to use them to improve your mental and spiritual health.

The language is a bit hard to understand, and so many deep thoughts are packed in very small sentences, so make sure to give this book the necessary time and undivided attention. Nevertheless, it is an impactful text. Happy Reading!

To Whom I Would Recommend the Varieties of Religious Experience Summary

  • To the twenty-four-year-old student of psychology who wants to know if religion impacts the human mind.
  • To the forty-two-year-old guy who still questions his faith and religious beliefs
  • And to anyone curious about the different facets of religions.