Human spiritual qualities: Integrating psychology and religion

Fraser Watts, Kevin Dutton, Liz Gulliford

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Positive psychology is largely concerned with human qualities that have long been the subject of religious discussion and been encouraged through spiritual practices. We suggest that, rather than seeing positive psychology as replacing this earlier religious approach, it should be pursued in dialogue with it. We illustrate this with reference to work on forgiveness, gratitude, and hope in the Psychology and Religion Research Programme in the University of Cambridge. Though the recent upsurge of interest in therapeutic forgiveness has brought a welcome rigour to its investigation, there are still aspects of forgiveness that are better handled in the religious literature, such as the importance or receiving forgiveness. Building on recent psychological work on gratitude, we have been particularly interested in the hypothesized relationship between gratitude and subjective well-being, and have initiated research to investigate more rigorously whether there is indeed a causal connection between the two. Concerning hope, we suggest that the distinction between hope and optimism, often made by religious thinkers, could usefully be imported into the psychological literature, as much of what is called hope may really only be optimism. We have also considered, using Snyder's theory of hope, how religious faith can contribute to human hope. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-289
Number of pages13
JournalMental Health, Religion and Culture
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jan 2007


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