|By Prof. Dr., Kenneth I. Pargament
Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Ohio
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In times of trial and tribulation, we often find religion. This is not to say that people become religious in a knee-jerk response to stressful situations. The old adage is incorrect; there are at least some atheists in foxholes-but perhaps not too many. Empirical studies reveal that many people look to their faith for help in coping with critical life situations. Given the prominent role of religion in stressful times, it is puzzling that for many years, theorists and researchers largely ignored the role of religion in coping or viewed religion through jaundiced eyes as a defense mechanism, a form of denial, or a way to avoid the direct confrontation with reality. These stereotypes may still live on, in spite of empirical studies that challenge these oversimplified religious views.
The situation has begun to change. Over the past decade, hundreds of studies have appeared that deal with religion, stress, and coping. What have we learned? This paper reviews the current state of knowledge about religion and coping. As a prelude to this review, the paper will begin with a definition and theoretical model of religion. It will then make several thematic points: (1) Religion can be embedded in every part of the coping process. (2) Religion adds a distinctive dimension to the coping process. (3) The role of religion in coping is determined by the availability of religion and perceptions that it offers compelling solutions. (4) Religion can be both helpful and harmful in coping. (5) Religion can be integrated more fully into the prevention and treatment of human problems. This paper concludes with a critique and discussion of future directions for research in this area of inquiry.