The Religious Dimension of Coping: The Roles of Cosmologies and Religious Practices

  • Mechthild von VacanoEmail author
  • Silke Schwarz


To many people in the world, being able to turn to a transcendental sphere provides a key resource in coping with adversity. Religious beliefs shape the way humans face disaster, as they provide interpretative frames for meaning-making, values with which believers can face hardship, solace through religious practices, or support from religious communities. However, dominant coping and disaster theories have cultivated a negative stereotype of religion as fatalism, which tells us little about the religious context referred to, but a great deal about the implicit values of these approaches themselves, namely the notion of human control. Using the ethnographic context of post-earthquake Bantul, Java, this chapter provides an example of how belief in divine omnipotence and relative human weakness may serve as a consoling truth. Against this cosmological background, this chapter explores religious meaning-making processes in the aftermath of disaster, where survivors sought answers to “how” and “why” the destructive force had unfolded. It continues by discussing the coping resources provided by the belief in divine omnipotence, human fate, the notion of divine lessons, and instantiation of the triad of human acceptance, surrender, and effort. In concluding, we address religion as containing both vertical and horizontal relationships, where believers find support in their personal communication with God and their religious communities.


Religious coping Meaning-making Prayer Cosmologies Islam Javanism Kejawen Surrender Fatalism Disaster 



The editors would like to thank Robert Parkin for his assistance in editing this chapter.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social and Cultural AnthropologyFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.International Academy for Innovative Pedagogy, Psychology and Economics gGmbH at Freie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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