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The Coherence Hypothesis: Critical Reconsideration, Reception History and Development of a Theoretical Model

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SummaryIt is still largely unclear which pathways explain the religion-health connection and how these mechanisms work. One such intervening mechanism, coherence, is the focus of this article. Based on database searches and a review of the literature retrieved, I differentiate between six meanings of coherence in religion-related research: 1) consistency; 2) credibility; 3) congruence; 4) confidence; 5) character; and 6) cohesion. In this article, this classification is utilized to analyse the conceptualizations and operationalizations of coherence within a particular strain of research, namely the discourse on the so-called coherence hypothesis. In so doing, I accomplish three objectives: 1) the reconsideration of the classical coherence hypothesis launched by Idler in the mid-1980s; 2) the reconstruction of the history of the reception and modification of the hypothesis by using the example of the work of three influential scholars (Christopher G. Ellison, Linda K. George, and Sebastian Murken); and 3) the development of a new theoretical model of religion, coherence, and health. Since the review yielded that coherence was primarily used within the meaning of confidence and congruence and that personal and social factors have been widely neglected, one advantage of my model is the integration of all six conceptual varieties of coherence within a meaning-making coping framework.

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