Religion, Spirituality, and Meaning in the Wake of Disasters

  • Daryl R. Van TongerenEmail author
  • Jamie D. Aten
  • Edward B. Davis
  • Don E. Davis
  • Joshua N. Hook


Disasters are a considerable threat to meaning. People often turn toward religion and spirituality in times of adversity as a way to make sense of their situation, maintain a sense of significance, and discover a sense of purpose. Thus, in this chapter, we review how religion/spirituality (R/S) serves as a potential source of meaning in the wake of disasters. First, we explain how variations in religious cognitions, orientations, and attributions affect meaning making processes. Next, we explicate some of the reasons why some disaster survivors turn toward R/S, and how R/S meaning may have an unintended dark side. Finally, we describe how positive psychology interfaces with disasters and conclude by providing a framework to guide future research.


Disasters Meaning Religion Virtues Positive psychology Supernatural attribution 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daryl R. Van Tongeren
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jamie D. Aten
    • 2
  • Edward B. Davis
    • 3
  • Don E. Davis
    • 4
  • Joshua N. Hook
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHope CollegeHollandUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and Humanitarian Disaster InstituteWheaton CollegeWheatonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyWheaton CollegeWheatonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Counseling and Psychological ServicesGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA

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