Branden Thornhill-Miller is a lecturer in psychology at Hertford and Harris Manchester Colleges, University of Oxford.
Although the psychology of religion has yet to receive the institutional support it needs to fulfil its promise, few disciplines are as important today for our self-understanding and collective future. Touching upon topics that range from the perennially fascinating - including prayer and healing, the neuroscience of mystical encounters, dreams, and near-death experiences - to the socially critical - such as fundamentalism, intergroup conflict, and terrorism - this talk will introduce the psychology of religion as a field whose time has come.
What are Unitarian Universalists really like? What might theists, mystics, pagans, and scientifically inclined atheists who identify themselves as UUs hold in common? Little is actually known about the personal experiences, individual differences, and psychological variables that have led people to this eclectic tradition. This talk will report some preliminary research revealing the nature of Unitarian Universalism in a new way, on a different level.
Since 9/11 few of us have been able to look at religious and cultural differences in the same way. But what can psychology tell us about how we got from the burning bush to creationism, Al Qaeda, and George Bush? While critically evaluating fundamentalism this talk will also challenge us to recognize some of its shortcomings in ourselves. No matter what our theological stance, the mentality of terrorism may not be entirely alien to some of our own, very human impulses.
At least since Plato some kinship of spirit has been assumed between the poet, the madman, and the seer But how could the noblest expressions of our humanity and of our greatest genius be related to the disintegration of mind? This talk presents some of my research developing the Extraordinary-Ordinary Noticing (EON) theory of personality, creativity, and religious experience. It shows how psychology may now offer a more satisfying, less pathology-oriented explanation of this definitively human relationship.