The most recommended psychology of religion books

Who picked these books? Meet our 31 experts.

31 authors created a book list connected to psychology of religion, and here are their favorite psychology of religion books.
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Book cover of The Crossway

Stefanie Wilson Author Of The Backpack Years: Two Memoirs, One Story

From my list on the healing power of travel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love travelogues and wrote a dual POV travel memoir with my husband. Travel writing allows us to see the world through others’ eyes, and my favorites are by those who used travel as a way to escape or heal. I’m more invested when I know this person not just wants, but needs this journey. I understand this feeling. I empathize with them, I root for them, and I am happy for them when they reach their destination. I adore Eat, Pray, Love and Wild, and want to recommend five other memoirs that have stayed with me as examples of brave people who left home behind in search of something better.

Stefanie's book list on the healing power of travel

Stefanie Wilson Why did Stefanie love this book?

Guy left his demons in England and set out on a pilgrimage. After mental health issues and a year of being afraid to leave his home, Guy re-entered the world by trekking through 10 countries in 10 months, hoping the journey would heal him. He traveled down ancient paths through changing landscapes, and the charity of everyday strangers kept him and his hope alive.

He finally arrived in Jerusalem, and though neither his physical nor emotional journey ended in the climax he’d hoped, he’d gained understanding. I’ve experienced the clarity that can come with putting physical distance between you and your issues, and though they say not to run away from your problems, sometimes a really long walk can actually help.

By Guy Stagg,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Crossway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner - Edward Stanford Travel Memoir of the Year 2019.
Shortlisted - Rathbones Folio Prize, Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, and Somerset Maugham Award 2019.

'An extraordinary travelogue, strange and brilliant' - i

In 2013 Guy Stagg walked from Canterbury to Jerusalem. Though a non-believer, he began the pilgrimage after suffering several years of mental illness, hoping the ritual would heal him. For ten months he hiked alone on ancient paths, crossing ten countries and more than 5,500 kilometres. Travelling without support, he had to rely each night on the charity of strangers.

The Crossway is an account of…


Book cover of A Guide to Liberating Your Soul

Grant Tate Author Of Hand on the Shoulder: Finding Freedom in the Confluence of Love and Career

From my list on disillusionment and transformation.

Why am I passionate about this?

For years, I’ve asked myself why I crashed. What was the complex web of principles and circumstances that landed a successful, upstanding, highly qualified person into a psychiatrist’s office? And, further, what inner strengths led me to ultimate transformation and a better understanding of myself and my environment? This book has been a project of self-exploration, of the stories and decisions that helped me climb, fall, and recover—exploring the confluence of love and career.

Grant's book list on disillusionment and transformation

Grant Tate Why did Grant love this book?

Richard Barrett’s book is like the engineer's guide to self-enlightenment. Like David Brooks in the second mountain, the author describes a personal journey to discover one’s inner purpose and soul.

The book's first section explores ways to develop self-knowledge, even providing a variety of charts to explain the author's philosophical concepts: exploring consciousness, self-identity, and beliefs. Part two defines ways to discover one’s purpose and then articulates pathways and strategies to live that purpose.

Had I read and studied this book in my early life, my path might have been much different. That is, of course, if I had the mind to follow Barrett’s suggestions.

By Richard Barrett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Guide to Liberating Your Soul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Everything you need to know about personal transformation. Drawing on leading-edge theories of science, religion and psychology, Richard Barrett provides a detailed account of the interactions of the personality with the soul. He weaves together a comprehensive model of consciousness with the soul at the center. He teaches you ten strategies for attaining soul consciousness and how to see and live life from the perspective of the soul.


Book cover of The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin

Thomas Cathcart and Danny Klein Author Of Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (and Jokes!) to Explore Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything in Between

From my list on a taste of philosophy.

Why are we passionate about this?

Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein have been thinking deep thoughts and writing jokes for decades, and now they are here to help us understand philosophy through jokes, and jokes through philosophy. They like philosophy and they like jokes, not necessarily in that order. Best of all, they like combining them. 

Thomas' book list on a taste of philosophy

Thomas Cathcart and Danny Klein Why did Thomas love this book?

The acknowledged father of existentialism actually makes anxiety interesting (if you’re into that sort of thing.) Not for sissies.

By Alastair Hannay, Søren Kierkegaard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Concept of Anxiety as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1844, Soren Kierkegaard's concise treatise identified-long before Freud-anxiety as a profound human condition, portraying human existence largely as a constant struggle with our own spiritual identities.


Book cover of SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

Ginny Smith Author Of Overloaded: How Every Aspect of Your Life Is Influenced by Your Brain Chemicals

From my list on the amazing human brain.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been curious, but it wasn’t until university that I discovered my fascination with brain science. Here was a real challenge. An incredibly complex system, full of mysteries and unknowns, that needed breaking down, and understanding at the most fundamental level. And not only that, but it was something that affected us all, every day. I was hooked. Since graduating, I have worked as a science communicator, sharing my love of the brain with anyone who will listen- via podcasts, books, blogs, and on stage. I also founded Braintastic Science! which provides spectacular shows, workshops, and resources to help young people understand and get the best out of their amazing brains.

Ginny's book list on the amazing human brain

Ginny Smith Why did Ginny love this book?

Humans are inherently superstitious. Even those of us who think of ourselves as scientists will ‘touch wood’ after saying something, or avoid walking under ladders. But why? In this book, Hood argues that these behaviors, and more complex beliefs like religion, develop as a byproduct of something our brains do that is vital for human survival—finding patterns. This is one of the first pop-sci books on psychology I read, and I clearly remember seeing Hood deliver a talk about it while I was at University. It helped stoke my curiosity about the topic, and how our incredible brains can drive such complex and nuanced behaviours. It is still one of my favourites over 10 years later. 

By Bruce Hood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked SuperSense as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why is it that Tony Blair always wore the same pair of shoes when answering Prime Minister's Questions? That John McEnroe notoriously refused to step on the white lines of a tennis court between points? And that President-elect Barack Obama played a game of basketball the morning of his victory in the Iowa primary, and continued the tradition the day of every following primary?

Superstitious habits are common. Do you ever cross your fingers, knock on wood, avoid walking under ladders, or step around black cats? Sentimental value often supersedes material worth. If someone offered to replace your childhood teddy…


Book cover of The Search for the Beloved: Journeys in Mythology & Sacred Psychology

Karen Martin Author Of The Bringer of Happiness

From my list on writing about death, religion, and spirituality.

Why am I passionate about this?

Our history is spoken through the voice of the conqueror – notably white male. My work seeks to balance our narratives through insight from women’s perspectives. I support my creative writing with extensive research in history, archeology, and myths, and include in situ interpretations of the relevant landscape. There are many truths to be told, not simply one ordained story and I wish to shine the light on stories that have been hidden and/or silenced. The themed series title, Women Unveiled, pertains to this.

Karen's book list on writing about death, religion, and spirituality

Karen Martin Why did Karen love this book?

The Gospel of Mary is often interpreted as a Gnostic text. Gnosis is mystical and esoteric and refers to knowledge based on personal experience with the divine. It is an inward ‘knowing,’ and I was interested in interweaving a psychological approach. This book dived into spiritual aspects in an exploration of the soul’s journey and the spiritual heights attained from a psychological position and was instrumental in some components of Sara’s personal development. My character Sara is a messenger for Persephone, and I used this book to examine the deeper, mythical meanings of how our wounds can become the source of spiritual grace. 

By Jean Houston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Search for the Beloved as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Search for the Beloved, one of the most important books written on the creative and inventive mind, explains the theories that helped form the foundation of the human potential movement. In what has been called “an intellectual and spiritual feast,” Jean Houston explores the nature of spiritual yearning and teaches readers how to facilitate a personal quest by focusing on the four aspects of Sacred Psychology—the Great Wound, the Mythic Journey of Transformation, the Discovery of the Larger Story, and the Union with the Beloved of the Soul.

W. B. Yeats wrote, “There is but one history and that…


Book cover of The Varieties of Religious Experience

Andrew B. Newberg Author Of The Varieties of Spiritual Experience: 21st Century Research and Perspectives

From my list on the science of spiritual experiences.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by the question, “What is the nature of reality, and how can we know it?”  To engage this question, I have explored neuroscience throughout my career, trying to understand how our brain perceives reality. During that time, I have also come to recognize the profound importance of religious, spiritual, and philosophical approaches to this question. I have been particularly fascinated by the intense spiritual experiences that people throughout time and all cultures have described. My work in this book and throughout my career has looked at this intersection of spirituality and the brain, a field, sometimes referred to as Neurotheology.

Andrew's book list on the science of spiritual experiences

Andrew B. Newberg Why did Andrew love this book?

The Varieties of Religious Experience has not only been an inspiration to me throughout my career, but has laid the foundation for the entire exploration of the most powerful experiences people have.

By combining psychology and religion, James embarked on a journey to recount and organize our understanding of religious experiences. Importantly, he also related his analysis to religion itself providing a basis for exploring the field of neurotheology – linking the brain and spirituality – long before we had the technology of MRI or PET brain scans.

His remarkable combination of philosophy, psychology, religion, and spirituality

By William James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Varieties of Religious Experience as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1902, “The Varieties of Religious Experience” is William James’ philosophical and psychological examination of the nature of religion in human civilization. Based on James’s own Gifford Lectures given at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland between 1901 and 1902, James argues that “Scientific theories are organically conditioned just as much as religious emotions are; and if we only knew the facts intimately enough, we should doubtless see ‘the liver’ determining the dicta of the sturdy atheist as decisively as it does those of the Methodist under conviction anxious about his soul. When it alters in one way…


Book cover of The "God" Part of the Brain: A Scientific Interpretation of Human Spirituality and God

Oagis Revilo Author Of Spirituality Why Give a ****

From my list on helping to leggo that ego.

Why am I passionate about this?

Admittedly, I’m just a painfully average Joe, but therein lies the paradoxical aptness of my credentials. Like most people, I wasn’t raised specially educated or trained, fed by a spiritual spoon. Instead, my qualifications arise from transitioning out of the common, materialistically driven, atheistic perspective to see the contrasting light of the other side. What was originally a drive for self-development has evolved into a passion for spirituality, which inevitably arises if one introspects long enough. These past few years, I’ve been motivated to try and make more sense out of this senseless topic with the intent of sharing its value with others. 

Oagis' book list on helping to leggo that ego

Oagis Revilo Why did Oagis love this book?

This book offers an interesting perspective on the potential biological basis for religious experiences and beliefs, supported by scientific research.

Even without a background in neuroscience or psychology, I still found it to be a fully understandable book, well-written but not overly complicated. In the modern era where we need to provide a logical basis and justification, it adds to the overall endeavor to bridge science and spirituality.

While I can’t say this book has many practical tips, it has deepened my perspective on the subject of spirituality, allowing me to better comprehend and visualize physical correlates of certain esoteric experiences.

By Matthew Alper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The "God" Part of the Brain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Is Man the product of a God...or is "God" the product of human evolution?

From the dawn of our species, every human culture―no matter how isolated―has believed in some form of a spiritual realm. According to author Matthew Alper, this is no mere coincidence but rather due to the fact that humans, as a species, are genetically predisposed to believe in the universal concepts of a god, a soul and an afterlife. This instinct to believe is the result of an evolutionary adaptation―a coping mechanism―that emerged in our species to help us survive our unique and otherwise debilitating awareness of…


Book cover of The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature

Elaine Pagels Author Of Why Religion? A Personal Story

From my list on why religion and spirituality are still around.

Why am I passionate about this?

“And what do you do?” someone asked at a crowded reception at the NY Academy of Science. “Write—comparative religion.” Startled, he backed away, asking suspiciously, “Why religion? Are you religious?” Yes, incorrigibly—although I grew up among people who regarded religion as obsolete as an outgrown bicycle stashed in a back closet. While many of us leave institutions behind, identifying as “spiritual, not religious,” I’ve done both—had faith, lost it; then began exploring recent discoveries from Israel and Egypt—Dead Sea Scrolls, Christian “secret gospels,” Buddhist practices, asking, Why is religion still around in the twenty-first centuryWhat I love is how such stories, art, music, and rituals engage our imagination and illuminate our experience.

Elaine's book list on why religion and spirituality are still around

Elaine Pagels Why did Elaine love this book?

This book is full of stories, using case studies that include the lives of Walt Whitman, Saint Augustine, and Russian writer Leo Tolstoy—that I found fascinating. Here psychologist William James challenges what he—and I—were both taught: namely, that religions are primarily childish fantasies (the view of Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, in The Future of an Illusion). But after James, as a young man, experienced a terrifying depression, he describes his surprise at what felt to him like a spiritual breakthrough that enabled him to recover. James skips questions about dogma and belief, instead identifies a range of different “varieties of religious experience” that, far more than “belief,” can give rise to spiritual insight. 

By William James,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Varieties of Religious Experience as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Standing at the crossroads of psychology and religion, this catalyzing work applied the scientific method to a field abounding in abstract theory. William James believed that individual religious experiences, rather than the precepts of organized religions, were the backbone of the world's religious life. His discussions of conversion, repentance, mysticism and saintliness, and his observations on actual, personal religious experiences - all support this thesis. In his introduction, Martin E. Marty discusses how James's pluralistic view of religion led to his remarkable tolerance of extreme forms of religious behaviour, his challenging, highly original theories, and his welcome lack of pretension…


Book cover of Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book

Christopher Dale Author Of Better Halves: Rebuilding a Post-Addiction Marriage

From my list on couples recovering from addiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a husband, father, writer, and recovering addict – and not necessarily in that order. Early in my marriage, I became a full-blown, low-bottom cocaine addict. While it wasn’t surprising that active addiction nearly led to divorce, my wife and I were baffled and discouraged when my newfound sobriety brought its own existential marital issues. Frustratingly, there was a dearth of resources for couples in recovery, especially compared to the ample support available to recovering addicts. As an avid freelance writer, I decided to add to this sparse genre by sharing our struggles, setbacks, and successes en route to a happy, secure marriage. 

Christopher's book list on couples recovering from addiction

Christopher Dale Why did Christopher love this book?

You can’t stay married if you’re dead. Don’t die. Read this book. 

There’s a reason TIME Magazine included the central text of the world’s most prolific recovery organization on its list of Best 100 Nonfiction Books of All Time: the book that gave AA its name likely has saved more lives than any other singular narrative in the past century.

AA not really for you? Reading Alcoholics Anonymous does not mean joining Alcoholics Anonymous. The themes co-authors Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith discuss – and the Twelve Steps of Recovery in particular – have near-universal relevance to anyone attempting to break the grip of alcohol or drugs.

More than eight decades after its publication, the book offers timeless truths that captivate addicts via ironclad identification. 

By Bill W.,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Alcoholics Anonymous as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Many thousands have benefited from "The Big Book" and its simple but profound explanation of the doctrines behind Alcoholics Anonymous, which was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. This original 1939 edition outlines the famous 12 steps, and offers counsel for those who wish to join the program but doubt the existence of a higher power. It also contains encouraging personal stories, in which AA members relate their experiences with alcohol and how they found the path to sobriety.
"The Big Book" has gone through numerous editions and remains the most widely used resource for recovering…


Book cover of Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life

Jeff Davidson Author Of 60 Second Self-Starter: Sixty Solid Techniques to get motivated, get organized, and get going in the workplace.

From my list on to become a self-starter.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm the internationally recognized expert on work-life balance, harmony, and integrative issues, and since 2009, hold the registered trademark from the USPTO as the “Work-Life Balance Expert®." I'm the author of several popular books including Breathing Space; Everyday Project Management; Simpler Living; and 60 Second Organizer. Delivered with passion, I offer his cutting edge, hands-on strategies for a balanced career and life to audiences from Singapore to San Diego, with clients as diverse as Novo Nordisk, Worthington Steel, Lufthansa, American Law Institute, and the National Association of Realtors. I've been a guest on Late Night with Charlie Rose, CNBC, America in the Morning, the Australian Broadcasting Company, and USA Today Sky Radio.

Jeff's book list on to become a self-starter

Jeff Davidson Why did Jeff love this book?

I was immediately captivated by the refreshing, down-to-earth advice offered here. Put down the barbells (real and metaphorical), says the author, and stop beating yourself up for carrying more than the minimum body fat, and emotionally dependent, angry at your father after all these years, and less than perfect on the job or in a marriage. Stop trying to rid your existence of all its problems, which will never happen anyway, and relish life instead.

He laments that we try so hard to be healthy, to improve ourselves, to be something that we are not already, that we miss much of the pleasure found in the small details of everyday life. I found this to be too true!

 A vital message that I gleaned from Care of the Soul: our lives, families, marriages – however good or bad they are – don't require a complete, total reconstruction. There are…

By Thomas Moore,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Care of the Soul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times Bestseller With a new introduction by the author and additional material, this 25th anniversary edition of the #1 New York Times bestseller by Thomas Moore provides a powerful spiritual message for our troubled times. In this special 25th anniversary edition of Thomas Moore's bestselling book Care of the Soul readers are presented with a revolutionary approach to thinking about daily life-everyday activities, events, problems and creative opportunities-and a therapeutic lifestyle is proposed that focuses on looking more deeply into emotional problems and learning how to sense sacredness in even ordinary things. Basing his writing on the…