The Problem of the Origin of Religion in the Mirror of Psychology: from Classics to Contemporaries



Objective. To present the classical points of view on the problem of the origin of religion and give an overview of modern views. Acquaintance with the described approaches will make it possible to better represent the current state of this problem and develop the own position on the basis of the directions developed in domestic psychology. Background. The problem of the origin of religion — the important socio-psychological phenomenon — was not in the focus of attention of domestic psychologists, therefore, with rare exceptions, the approaches to its solution proposed abroad were not highlighted in the scientific literature. In the spring of 2020, the international journal “Archive of Psychology of Religion” prepared a special issue dealing with the stated problem. It was another proof of the interest of foreign scientists in this topic and demonstrated the main approaches that have been formed to date on this issue. Methodology. Descriptive and comparative analysis methods. Conclusions. It is shown that at the present stage the main opposition on the problem of the origin of religion is observed between the supporters of the cognitive direction, who consider the emergence of religion exclusively as a result of the work of cognitive processes, as an accidental by-product of evolution, and supporters of cultural evolutionists, who consider religion a useful adaptation in the process of evolution. The examples of the works of the leading representatives of these areas demonstrate the most characteristic features of these approaches and the main discussion points. In this article we also discussed the work of researches who were trying to build a bridge between these opposing points of view and bring them closer together.

General Information

Keywords: psychology of religion, origin of religion, culture, cognitive processes, evolution

Journal rubric: Theoretical Research

Article type: scientific article


Received: 03.09.2020


For citation: Pavlenko V.N. The Problem of the Origin of Religion in the Mirror of Psychology: from Classics to Contemporaries. Sotsial'naya psikhologiya i obshchestvo = Social Psychology and Society, 2022. Vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 40–54. DOI: 10.17759/sps.2022130204. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Valentina N. Pavlenko, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Chair of Applied Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Kharkiv, Ukraine, ORCID:, e-mail:



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