Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version

Religion's role in adaptation consists largely of providing an ultimate meaning system that helps individuals deal with life's inevitable contingencies and frustrations. Although religion may not offer tangible resources to solve problems, all religions incorporate a theodicy that helps provide emotional and psychological support and assures individuals of the ultimate value and significance of their lives, despite the problems they face—illness, poverty, oppression, and even death itself—and ultimate release from these problems. At the collective level, the specific role of religion in adaptation varies in different societies. However, its meaning system and collective rituals typically help promote social integration and solidarity, at least for members of a religious in-group. At the same time, religion also may help support conflict between groups, which may decrease optimal adaptation.

Doyle Paul Johnson


P. Berger, The Sacred Canopy (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1964)

T. O'Dea and J. Aviada, Sociology of Religion , 2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1983).

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