The Science of Religion, Spirituality, and Existentialism - Chapter 20: Meaning, religious/spiritual struggles, and well-being

Elsevier, The Science of Religion, Spirituality, and Existentialism 2020, Pages 287-303
Nick Stauner, Julie J. Exline, Joshua A. Wilt

Theoretically, religions and spirituality (R/S) can help people maintain well-being and meaning in life, but these relationships are not simple or without conflict and ambivalence. This chapter first provides an overview of theories and research linking the psychology of religion to positive psychology. A theoretical reevaluation of supernaturalism as an ambivalent aspect of R/S meaning systems follows. Then, the chapter turns to R/S struggles, which may involve conflicts with deities, supernatural evil forces, and R/S people, as well as intrapersonal turmoil about morality, R/S doubts, and a lack of meaning in life. We reframe these constructs in terms of existential threats, explaining how each R/S struggle may affect meaning through known existential challenges. A brief review of recent research connecting R/S struggles to health, well-being, and R/S meaning supports the relevance of R/S struggles to positive and existential psychology. Finally, the chapter discusses the potential for growth through R/S struggles.