Sunday, March 29, 2015


Religion & Spirituality | Meaning | Why? |
 Psychology of Palm Sunday

Nearly 2,000 years ago Jesus of Nazareth went public as a king. It was the first Palm Sunday. The crowd of supporters cheered as he rode into Jerusalem.  They honored him as a king ought to be honored with palm fronds and clothes before him and sang part of an old psalm (118). And the Jewish people welcomed him with expectations of salvation from Roman oppression. But what they got a week later didn't match their expectations. It didn't make sense. Jesus never does.

New religious movements pose threats to established religions. People identified as kings or leaders pose threats to national leaders. Then as now; people in power use their power to quash minority movements by attacking their leaders. Then as now; religious leaders join with political leaders in a combined effort to maintain their way of life. The words of Jesus were taken as a threat to both those who interpreted the Jewish religion for the Jews and those who governed the political state. The sign on the cross, King of the Jews, makes it clear why the Romans joined the religious leaders to end this threat. A psychological perspective on Palm Sunday and the aftermath invites us to consider the meaning of a threat in religious, cultural, and political situations. But it also important to appreciate threats in any relationship.

Who would believe that from this inauspicious start Christianity would become the world’s largest religion with over 2 billion followers? Psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and others who study religion offer different definitions for religion and spirituality. Christianity in one of its many forms provides a comprehensive meaning system for many people. It is one way people transcend nationalism. The same is true for Islam, Judaism, and other religions. Religion as a meaning system has considerable support. It’s the view I take.

In recent years, people are fed up with organized religion and identity as spiritual or none. None can mean they are atheists or spiritual in their own way. Although most Christians identify as Catholic, there are numerous Christian groups—some very old like the Orthodox groups and some very new like Pentecostals and Charismatics. Each offers a different worldview—a way of making sense of life.

When people are faced with their own threats they often turn to their faith for answers. Psychotherapists, counselors, and clergy often hear the cry of people surviving disasters: “Why?” “Why me?” Sometimes they echo Jesus words: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Christians want to know God’s whereabouts or purpose when disaster strikes. If you want someone else’s answer, go on the internet or turn to some religious TV channel. There’s all kind of folks willing to explain the mind of God to you—makes you wonder if there are as many gods as there are clergy.

Serious theologians and clergy have responded in many ways to these difficult questions. The problem of evil is not easily answered. Most draw on the perspective of their individual Christian tradition to explain evil in the world. Other religions have different answers. Philosophers have considered the problem as well—within and apart from a religious tradition. Others make their own way.

There’s something about human nature that demands an answer to the question, “why?” Life needs to make sense. 

Making sense of things has survival value.

Find causal connections among events and you are better prepared for the future.

There’s an incredibly funny scene in the movie Home Alone. Kevin, the child in the story, is home alone. One method of protecting himself from the threat of two thieves is to heat a metal doorknob. As expected, a thief grabs the knob and a letter is seared into the palm of his hand. The thieves learn quickly. The next time one reaches for the door they test the knob before grabbing it. 

If you know the cause of a painful act then you can eliminate the source of pain or avoid it. You gain a valuable lesson for the future. Your pain meant something—you learned a survival lesson. But sometimes things don't make sense. 

The problems of life don’t always offer easily understood connections. And sometimes complex schemes don’t make sense either. As children my wife and I saw impressive layouts of the end times—someone’s interpretation of the Bible. Those didn't make sense either. They just scared the hell out of you. Maybe that's what they were meant to do?

Palm Sunday is rich with meaning. The symbols would have meant one thing to the Jews and another to the Romans. Today they mean other things to Christians.  Packed in one week are lessons about love and betrayal, the fickleness of human nature and its capacity for cruelty, fears of death, pain and suffering, and mourning turned to joy.

We all create meaning in our own way. Some draw more heavily on what leaders teach than others do. Some speakers are brilliant—others not so much. But for most human beings, meaning is not just about a sensible set of explanations. Meaning affects our whole being. A meaningful spirituality is tied to reality
Easter procession, Antigua 2001 by Geoff Sutton
and affects our feelings, actions and even our health. What we believe can make a difference in how we enjoy life. And how we connect to other people.

Some faiths help people cope with tragedy and celebrate life. Others weigh down the faithful with burdensome rules and rituals. People leave one faith system and take on another—conversion. Sometimes it’s for financial reasons. Sometimes it’s for marriage. Sometimes it’s to find a more meaningful faith. And of course, some give up.

If you are a health or mental health provider I hope you know that most human beings are religious or spiritual—more than 90%. Unless you are patient and supportive you may never know the role faith plays in their reason for seeing you. A simple question about their religion doesn't help much. This increased sensitivity to spirituality is especially important during times of tragedy. I’ll list two books as reference works. The handbook (Paloutzian & Park) will introduce you to the psychology of religion. The book about spirituality and trauma (Walker et al.) offers sample questions and measurement tools along with treatment recommendations for integrating faith into the recovery process.

Does your spirituality make sense?

(For clinicians)

Does your patient's spirituality make sense to them?


Does your spirituality hinder or help you help them?


Palm Sunday symbolism. There is a treasure trove of symbols in the Palm Sunday story as well as the other stories leading up to Easter. For starters, Jesus did not come as a warrior king on a war horse. Donkeys were more peaceful animals. The palm fronds and clothes were different ways to show honor. Christians continue these traditions today. Jesus coming out as a king put him at risk as does the coming out that exposes the true identities of people throughout history.  Take off the mask, take off  the covering, come out of the closet-- people who reveal their identities risk rejection. The religious leaders argued with the Romans about the words on the cross-labels have meaning. There's more.

Bible References
Palm Sunday story: Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19; John 12. Jesus as a Jewish king Zechariah 9:9. “Why have you forsaken…” Matthew 27:46 ESV.

Disclosure: I’m a Christian. I most closely identify with the progressive movement as I understand it. I’m also a psychologist. I attempt to treat people of all faiths and no faith with respect. 

Connect or follow

Twitter @GeoffWSutton


Paloutzian, R.F. & Park, C.L. (Eds.) (2013). Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality (2nd ed.). New York, Guilford.

Walker, D. F., Courtois, C.A., and Aten, J.D. (2015). Spiritually oriented psychotherapy for trauma. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Do the shackles of slavery haunt Christian moral teaching?

Slavery, Women’s Rights, and Same-Sex Marriage: Is There a Connection?

Recent news stories continue to highlight struggles of African Americans, women, and LGBT persons. 

  • One event garnered a lot of press as strong emotions were evoked and the recent troubles in Missouri were featured. The Blaze.
  • Franklin Graham caused a stir over comments calling for obedience and listing “Blacks” in his list of ethnic groups. Sojourners posted an open letter of response.
  • Universities have taken steps to deal with ongoing sexual assaults of women on their campuses. ABC news.
  • The Presbyterians joined other mainline Christian groups supporting same-sex marriage. Huffington Post  Franklin Graham condemned the act. Gospel Herald.
  • Bob Jones III apologizes for comments suggesting homosexuals should be stoned. CNN 
  • This week marks the one-year anniversary of the World Vision decision to hire Christians in Same-Sex marriages and their quick reversal. Christianity Today.

 Not infrequently advocates for LGBT rights in the U.S. connect their quest for nondiscrimination to the struggles of African-Americans and women. All three groups have dealt with biblical quotations and interpretations of biblical texts used to justify the moral basis for discrimination.

A variety of psychological, sociological, economic, and political factors are also at work but when it comes to morality substantial numbers of the U.S. population turn to the Bible to support the righteousness of their position. Consequently, the disenfranchised group finds itself in a position of mounting a biblically-based rebuttal to gain freedom in communities where attitudes are framed by the Bible rather than judicial decisions.

Despite progress since the 1960s, the chains of enslavement continue to rattle through the halls of justice. 

Regardless of whatever benign treatment some master’s may have shown, the voices of slaves beaten, raped, and lynched will never be silent.

Add to the horrors of African slavery, the voices of girls and women who for centuries could do little else in society but serve their masters in the kitchen and the bedroom. Failures in either space often led to abuse. 

And following a measure of liberation women still find themselves unable to safely live on a college campus or serve in the U.S. military. And of course, they cannot minister as equals with their male counterparts in most places of worship. 

In this psychosocial-religious context, LGBT persons ask for rights as well. And as before, some religious leaders cite the scriptures in their arguments supporting or limiting the rights of sexual minorities. If you have followed the arguments closely, you are likely familiar with the arguments about why the push for same-sex marriage and LGBT rights is similar to or different from the horrors of African American slaves or the repression of women. And you are probably well aware of the way Christians have analyzed biblical texts.

From a psychological perspective, changes in attitudes are hard to come by. Change in psychotherapy often occurs in small increments until there is some sort of breakthrough for those who persevere. On a societal level, the breakthrough for African Americans and women occurred in the past five decades but the pace of change for LGBT persons has been much more rapid—I suspect much faster than most would have predicted. As in successful psychotherapy, a substantial breakthrough often leads to freedom in other areas of life. It is akin to spiritual transformation.

For many, the chains linking slavery to women also connect to LGBT persons. Because the chains binding slaves and women were forged with the blessings of Christians, theological arguments against same-sex marriage and rights for LGBT persons will suffer from a lack of credibility. The more strident the voices of condemnation, the more they will resemble the preaching of clergy who blessed slavery and wrapped the cords of biblical guilt around women in abusive relationships.

As more Christian leaders and groups join the trend in secular society, opponents of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights will find themselves at a greater distance from societal norms. Though disavowed by some, support for LGBT persons and same sex marriage from people like Rob Bell and Rachel Held Evans creates a challenge for Evangelical groups who wish to expand their outreach rather than serve smaller congregations of those who remain faithful to traditional teachings.

No comparison is ever perfect in all respects so those who wish to find differences among the groups will have an easy time of it. But I suspect people are more likely to take a superficial glance at negative remarks and respond based on feelings rather than do the hard work of thinking about nuanced arguments. Besides, few have an indepth understanding of the linguistic issues often cited in discussions of controversial Bible texts. 

But there is one more comparison that might be relevant. The traditional teaching of the church held marriage in high regard and divorce in low regard (at best). For centuries, people who got divorced were sinners and remarriage was out of the question. Such people could not become clergy nor serve in leadership positions if they even felt comfortable in churches. That's changed in a lot of churches, including evangelical congregations. As usual, Bible sleuths wrangled with the texts and found justification for divorce. And having justified divorce it was an easy step to support remarriage. 

To close, I looked up those old biblical justifications for slavery. I found an article by Larry Morrison who summarized three common biblical arguments supporting slavery. The reference is at the end of this post. I've included it to encourage a look back at the way Christians have used the Bible to support an unimaginable evil. 

The Bible and U.S. Slavery
1. "The first element of this biblical defense of slavery was the concept of divine
decree, that is, through the curse of Cain God had decreed slavery before it had
actually come into existence."(p. 17)

2. Writers used Leviticus 25:44-46 to support slavery (p.18).
The following text is from Morrison's article.
 In the midst of the debate over Missouri, one proslavery Missourian used this
passage to draw a parallel between slaveholders and the Israelites. The Southern
people, he wrote,
move like patriarchs of old, at the head of their children and grandchildren, their flocks and their herds, their "bondmen" and "bond maids" to be an inheritance for their children after them," to be "their bond men forever." They cannot go where they are to hold this property by an uncertain tenure. (St. Louis Enquirer, 29 April 1820.)
(p. 19)
3. Referring to the Apostle Paul’s letter to Philemon. . .

One South Carolinian, writing in 1823, maintained that
All the sophistry in the world cannot get rid of this decisive example.
Christianity robs no man of his rights, and Onesimus was the property of his
master, under the laws of his country, which must be obeyed, if not contrary to
the laws of God.
 He went so far as to claim that this Epistle really sanctioned the fugitive slave law
because "slaves should not be taken or detained from their master, without their
master's consent." ([Dalcho], Practical Considerations, pp. 20-21. See also Richmond Enquirer, 3 December 1819.)
 p. 20


Morrison, L. R. (1981). The religious defense of American slavery before 1830. Journal of Religious Thought, 37(2), 16-29.

A related npr story.

Friday, March 13, 2015

10 Beliefs about Forgiveness & Reconciliation


In a previous post (20 February), I reported the results from two studies, which examined some nuances about forgiveness and reconciliation. This weekend, I follow up on that post with an additional set of 5 beliefs.

As you study the questions, I hope you find the variations a useful starting point for considering the topic of forgiveness and reconciliation in more depth.

As before, I will list the belief statement so you can think about your own opinion. Then I will post the response of the sample at the bottom of this blog post.


I will use the numbers 6-10 as a reminder that this is  Part 2 of 2 Parts. Please see the February 20 post for Part 1.

6. It is easier to forgive a friend or family member than a stranger for the same offense.

7. People need to admit what they have done and change before you forgive them.

8. If someone lost their job or position of leadership because of wrongdoing, then forgiveness means 
they must be restored to their former position.

9. People must forgive others in order to obtain God’s forgiveness.

10. If you forgive someone it means you start trusting them again.

Here are the findings from the two samples.

The numbers and text at the left refer to the questions above. Ignore the numbers on the slide, which were from the presentation. A link below takes you to the presentation.

6. Forgiving a friend

7. Admitting to wrong doing

8. Forgiving and restoring

9. Forgiving others and God's forgiveness

10.  Forgiving and trusting

Publication site:



twitter @GeoffWSutton

Facebook Page

Related Posts

Allman, J. Sutton &  G. W., (2009, April). Forgiveness, reconciliation, and spirituality: empirical findings regarding conceptual differences. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, International Conference, Orlando, FL.

You will find details about the sample and other questions in our presentation.

Friday, March 6, 2015

What are the top 10 prayers for healing?

Top 10 Prayers for Healing

Have you ever asked God to heal you of a condition? 
What happened?

Scientists have studied prayer in different ways and do not find a great deal of support for its effectiveness. There are testimonies of healing. And sometimes you will find medical evidence that a condition has suddenly improved without medical intervention or despite medical opinion that a condition was not expected to improve.

What do people pray for?

A Lifeway Survey reported 1 October 2014 identified the following Top 5 things people pray about.
1. Family or friends 82%
2. personal problems or difficulties 74%
3. Good things that recently occurred 54%
4. Personal sin 42%
5. People in natural disasters 38%

See their survey for their language and more details. It's pretty impressive that people care about others.

Pew Report on Prayer 
             Published on the U.S. National Day of Prayer, May 1, 2014

    Many people pray every day 55% (2013)
    Those not affiliated with a religion pray too; 21% every day (2013)
     In 2012, 76% agreed: “Prayer is an important part of my daily life.”

    Those Pew numbers indicate a lot of praying is going on.

What about healing prayer?

In 2012, Candy Gunther Brown, wrote a book about healing prayer: Testing Prayer: Science and Healing. This is where I found the top 10 prayers for healing (page 178). Her list is quite lengthy so you will have to get the book if you want more details. What’s interesting about the table is that she reports the findings from a pre- and post-conference survey. People expressed their need for healing then reported back on whether or not they were healed. I was curious about the percentages of people saying they were healed so I looked at the percentage of reported healings.

What about mental health?

Well, those concerns were down the list.

I reviewed Candy Gunther Brown’s Book. Here’s a couple of links to copies.
Testing Prayer on   on ResearchGate

 She’s speaking at a conference this week so I hope to go and learn more.


Let’s state the obvious, a survey isn’t going to cut it when we want to know if a person was genuinely healed of a diagnosed condition. Fortunately, Dr. Brown has done research to collect some pre-post prayer data using medical tests. There is some evidence of healing.

I suspect the low rates of healing have been known to those Christian groups who teach prayer for healing but do not tell people to ignore their doctor’s advice. And I noted a change since those old days of revival meetings—people now pray that God will be with the physician during diagnosis or surgery. Although, some still do pray for direct interventions from God. And some continue to report positive results.

I’ll leave it to the theologians to address what is going on in terms of divine intervention. From a psychological perspective, I’m interested in how people cope with the lack of healing, their level of hope, and what happens to their faith. I think it would be helpful if clergy and health care providers considered how to help people who have prayed but do not obtain a healing or who believed they were healed only to find out the problem returned.

And finally, I wonder why mental health get’s short shrift. Is it just not that important? For those 11 who reported some general difficulty, the 82% healing is pretty high. Obviously, that category of mental/ emotional... needs some work to be more precise.

I’ll probably come back to this topic with more data so, stay tuned.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hell is for Real? Psychology and Belief in Hell

Psychology of Hell
Bronzino, Descent of Christ into Limbo, 1552

A Christian nurse said she preferred to work with children because if they died they would go to heaven.

An evangelical Christian chaplain explained he was ethically bound to minister to all persons regardless of their faith. He gave examples of being with people who were dying. I asked him how he handled a situation (given his belief about hell) that in a few hours a person would enter hell for eternity unless he made an attempt to offer salvation. He seemed genuinely perturbed by the question as he indeed believed in a literal hell for those who were not born again.


According to Harris Interactive (2013, December 6), 58% of U S adults believe in hell (25% don’t and 18% aren’t sure).

More Republicans (74%) than Democrats (53) believe in hell. (I am sure those affiliated with either party could make a lot of jokes about the political rift.)

Of course, the polls do not tell us what kind of hell believers imagine. And we do not know their beliefs about who goes to hell. We do know that fundamentalist Christians attempted to scare people into the faith by warning of an eternity in hell often portrayed as burning forever. In this context, salvation meant being saved from a certain hell-bent afterlife unless one accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior. In simple terms, children followed a leader in a prayer that will guarantee an afterlife in heaven and salvation from hell. That's the old time religion of Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists.

Heaven has better odds in survey data (USA). The same poll found that 68% believe in heaven (16% don’t believe, 15% aren’t sure). (Republicans are big on heaven, 80%, Democrats 66%).


Hell & Counselor Beliefs. My colleague, Chris Arnzen, and I surveyed Christian counselors and psychotherapists to discover the components of what they consider Christian counseling. Following the trend in psychology of religion research, we asked several questions to gauge their spirituality. Like others, we asked about beliefs in hell but we tailored the question to counseling by asking their agreement with a statement:

“Clients who do not accept Jesus as their personal savior will spend eternity in hell.”

It turns out this was the better of a few spirituality questions from a psychometric perspective. In other words, most people believed Jesus is the Son of God (83.7%) and reported being “born again” (78.5%) but when it came to their clients going to hell, a diversity of response was more evident: 52.9% agreed or strongly agreed whilst 29.5% were neutral or disagreed (17.5%) did not respond.

Belief in Hell was a key marker to identify conservative counselors in the sample. And you will find other research linking this belief in hell to conservatism. In other analyses belief in hell was a good predictor of conservative social values, which is also consistent with other data in this post.

Hell linked to distrust. Hempel, Bartkowski and Matthews (2012) found that a commitment to a set of conservative beliefs was linked to lower trust in unknown persons. The conservatism was measured using a three-factor model. A belief in hell was a key component of the sin factor (the other two factors were belief in the authority of the Bible and the need to be born-again to be saved).

Hell is linked to negative well-being. “We find that a belief in Heaven is consistently associated with greater happiness and life satisfaction while a belief in Hell is associated with lower happiness and life satisfaction at the national (Study 1) and individual (Study 2) level. (Shariff & Aknin, 2014).

Scared of hell. In a recent study of Turkish children (n = 1,315), Going to Hell, was in the top three of lists of fears—just behind fear of God and losing friends (Serim-Yildiz, Erdur-Baker, & Bugay,2013).

High crime is more likely in cultures promoting heaven than those cultures where hell is emphasized (Shariff & Rhemtulla, 2012). A related idea is that God is like a supernatural set of eyes-on parent who always knows what a person does and will administer punishment. Also, forgiveness may encourage immoral behavior. People primed with ideas of a forgiving God stole more than others (DeBono, Shariff, & Muraven, 2012).  The devil may be in the details. Blaine Robbins identified the problem of highly correlated predictors (heaven and hell) in the Shariff and Rhemtulla 2012 article. You can find a detailed presentation of the Shariff & Rhemtulla article at this PT link.

Hell & Donations. Hell and Heaven won’t help your church budget. A study of Christian giving found that immediate factors were better predictors of religious participation and donations.

“Our data suggest that immediate sanctions (e.g., community, fellowship, criticism) may be considered relatively more certain to congregation members than future sanctions (Heaven and Hell), and that positive immediate sanctions in particular are most effective.  (Borch et al., 2011).

There isn't much in the way of empirical studies linking beliefs about hell to behavior.

 THEOLOGY (Christian)

Christian theologians have interpreted the biblical verses about hell in various ways. Of course that is not surprising even taking a nonskeptical stance—it is not easy work to understand ideas presented in ancient languages. It’s hard enough understanding contemporary communication. My focus is on the psychology of religion rather than theology. However, it seems that when you look at the few biblical texts about hell, you do not get a clear picture of what it might mean. Christians appear to have been influenced by Dante’s Inferno more than the Bible. Even ardent believers wonder if some form of separation from God is the nature of death after death.

Many Evangelicals are enraptured with the writings of a nonevangelical Irishman, C. S. Lewis, who portrayed The Ransom Theory in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. At this point it's important to consider that the idea of hell is connected with beliefs about sin, salvation, and judgment. People naturally sin and are in bondage to the devil with whom they will dwell in hell forever unless they are freed by the payment of a ransom. The penalty for sin is death. Jesus paid the price of redemption in his death on a cross. By connecting with Jesus, his death cover's the believers payment of the death penalty thus saving the believers from hell and ensuring everlasting life/heaven/paradise. (You'll just have to read classical Christian theology or doctrine if you want more details.)

There are logical problems with beliefs in hell. A common problem in theology: Why did a loving God create such a horrid place? And why doesn’t God just save everyone? Now enters the problem of free will—are people free to choose how they will live their lives now and presumably, where they will spend eternity? There’s much more to the centuries old concern. For example, many Christians teach that God’s love is unconditional but that is not obvious for those who believe people must do or say certain things to access that love and avoid whatever form eternal punishment-hell-might take.

According to Beth Davies-Stofka, “Muslims believe in the Day of Judgment and heaven and hell.” You can read more by following the link to her summary.


Speaking of hell. A lot of U.S. people believe in heaven and hell. If you randomly encounter 5 people in the USA, 2-3 of them will believe in hell. If you know a person is a Republican, it’s a good bet the person believes in hell. If you are in business or health care, what you say about the afterlife may be a turn-off or basis for a positive connection to a customer so be careful. If you are a psychotherapist, it might make sense to investigate this marker of conservatism related to morality and grief. Until more research is done, you will just have to be alert to how a particular Christian or Muslim links belief in hell or heaven to their behavior.

Counseling and Psychotherapy. It will be obvious to some that Christian counselors could believe a variety of things about their faith and social values just like Christians in general; however, people seeking treatment may not know what to expect from a Christian therapist. You cannot predict much from the term Christian but if you know a few beliefs, such as beliefs about hell, you will have a better sense of their position on many social values like abortion, premarital sex, women having authority over men, and same-sex marriage. Anecdotally, I see clinicians report one reason clients won't commit suicide is because they don't want to go to hell. The value of this belief in prevention needs empirical support.

Chaplains & Hospice workers. There’s not much empirical research on beliefs about hell and it’s relationship to behavior or other beliefs. One study looked at hell along with other factors in people approaching death. But the study did not provide much in the way of a clear link so I did not include it. It’s probably a good idea for chaplains and other folks who help the dying to learn more about the link between beliefs in heaven, hell, and peace near the end of life.

Self-control. I’m writing a book about morality. Beliefs about heaven and hell may be relevant to morality for some persons. The idea of being monitored seems like something parents would make-up to control a child’s behavior. The well-known researcher Roy Baumeister has studied self-control. He and Anne Zell think the God as "divine monitor" may be a helpful belief in moral behavior (2013). Researchers have found that the placement of eyes and mirrors reduce immoral acts. Anecdotally, many fundamentalists can recall stories of being afraid of what they did in case they died and went to hell before they could repent.

Hell for Muslims. Hell and heaven are linked with Christianity based on a long tradition. But the study of children in Turkey offers a reminder that the afterlife is a part of many religious traditions. About 99% of Turks identify as Muslim. And, as noted above, Muslims also believe in heaven and hell.

Cite this blogpost in APA style

Sutton, G.W. (2015, March 1). Hell is for real? Psychology and belief in hell. [Blog post].


Borch, C., Thye, S. R., Robinson, C., & West, M. R. (2011). What predicts religious participation and giving? Implications for religion in the United States. Sociological Spectrum, 31(1), 86-113. doi:10.1080/02732173.2011.525697

DeBono A, Shariff AF, Muraven M (2012) Forgive Us Our Trespasses: Priming a Forgiving (but not a punishing) God Increases Theft. Manuscript under review.

Hempel, L. M., Matthews, T., & Bartkowski, J. (2012). Trust in a 'fallen world': The case of Protestant theological conservatism. Journal For The Scientific Study Of Religion, 51(3), 522-541. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2012.01662.x

Serim-Yildiz, B., Erdur-Baker, Ö., & Bugay, A. (2013). The common fears and their origins among Turkish children and adolescents. Behaviour Change, 30(3), 199-209. doi:10.1017/bec.2013.18

Shariff, A. F., & Aknin, L. B. (2014). The emotional toll of Hell: Cross-national and experimental evidence for the negative well-being effects of Hell beliefs. Plos ONE, 9(1), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0085251

Shariff AF, Rhemtulla M (2012) Divergent Effects of Beliefs in Heaven and Hell on National Crime Rates. PLoS ONE 7(6): e39048. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039048

Sutton, G. W., Arnzen, C. A. (2015, April). Evidenced-Based Religious Accommodative Psychotherapy: Practice and Belief. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, International Conference, Denver, Colorado. (Accepted for presentation).

Zell, A., & Baumeister, R. F. (2013). How religion can support self-control and moral behavior.
In R. F. Paloutzian & C. L. Park (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of religion and

spirituality (2nd ed., pp. 498-518). New York: Guilford.