• Ward H. Goodenough

    1. Ward H. Goodenough is university professor of anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, University Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6398.
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  • He presented this paper at a symposium on “Issues in the Scientific Study of Religions: Devotions of Self-Maintenance in Contemporary America,” sponsored by the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 27 May 1986.


Abstract. Human concern with problems of being and becoming promotes conceptions of ideal states of being, exemplified by paragons and heroes and projected as Utopias or visions of salvation; it leads to regimens for cultivating and maintaining individual ability to meet social expectations; and it produces fantasies, as in myth and popular literature, that rehearse the problems and that offer escape from them and roles to emulate in dealing with them. Many of these regimens and fantasies appear in the rituals and teachings of organized religion. Many also figure in private devotions apart from established religions. The many forms they take constitute much of the religious life of ordinary people. From this viewpoint, there is much to examine in American life.