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The Sacred and the Search for Significance: Religion as a Unique Process


  • We are grateful to the Fetzer Foundation, Retirement Research Foundation, and Templeton Foundation for their support of research cited in this article.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kenneth I. Pargament, Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403 [e-mail:].


Although many social scientists have assumed that religion can be reduced to more basic processes, there may be something unique about religion. By definition, religion has a distinctively meaningful point of reference, the sacred. Empirically, studies also suggest that religion may be a unique: form of motivation; source of value and significance; contributor to mortality and health; source of coping; and source of distress. These findings point to the need for: theory and research on the sacred; attention to the pluralization of religious beliefs and practices; evaluation of individual and social interventions that address spiritual problems and apply spiritual resources to their resolution; and collaboration between psychological and religious groups that draws on their unique identities and strengths.