Religion, Spirituality, and Positive Psychology

Understanding the Psychological Fruits of Faith

by Thomas G. Plante, PhD, Editor


People are drawn to religion or spiritual practice out of family tradition, curiosity, desire for fulfillment, or just the hope that it will make them feel better. Remarkably, they often get what they seek. Empirical research proves that such engagement brings with it numerous physical and psychological benefits, reflected in better marriages, sunnier outlooks, and longer lives.

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Cover image for Religion, Spirituality, and Positive Psychology

July 2012


Pages 291
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Psychology/General

A multidisciplinary team of scholars shows how spiritual and religious practices actually do power psychological, physical, and social benefits, producing stronger individuals and healthier societies.

In recent years, scholars from an array of disciplines applied cutting-edge research techniques to determining the effects of faith. Religion, Spirituality, and Positive Psychology: Understanding the Psychological Fruits of Faith brings those scholars together to share what they learned. Through their thoughtful, evidence-based reflections, this insightful book demonstrates the positive benefits of spiritual and religious engagement, both for individual practitioners and for society as a whole.

The book covers Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and other major traditions across culture in two sections. The first focuses on ways in which religious and spiritual engagement improves psychological and behavioral health. The second highlights the application of this knowledge to physical, psychological, and social problems. Each chapter focuses on a spiritual "fruit," among them humility, hope, tolerance, gratitude, forgiveness, better health, and recovery from disease or addiction, explaining how the fruit is "planted" and why faith helps it flourish.


  • Case studies and personal vignettes illustrate key points and discoveries


  • Addresses the positive effects of spirituality and religion on mental health, physical health, and the wellbeing of society as a whole
  • Provides a multidisciplinary perspective that includes traditions from across cultures and around the world
  • Scientifically applies psychological benchmarks rather than religious or spiritual ones to understanding the benefits of religious and spiritual engagement
  • Shares cutting-edge research and insights from top scholars
Author Info

Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP, is professor of psychology and director of the Spirituality and Health Institute at Santa Clara University, CA, and adjunct clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA. He is vice-chair of the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth for the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops and past president of the Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality (Division 36) of the American Psychological Association. Plante's 15 published works include ABC-CLIO's Contemplative Practices in Action: Spirituality, Meditation, and Health and Spirit, Science and Health: How the Spiritual Mind Fuels Physical Wellness; as well as Spiritual Practices in Psychotherapy: Thirteen Tools for Enhancing Psychological Health.



“Does religion do more harm or good? Kudos to Thomas Plante for inviting these diverse and distinguished scholars to offer evidence-based answers. Those interested in the roots of virtue and the fruits of faith need look no further than this splendid volume.”—David G. Myers, Hope College, Author, A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists: Musings on Why God is Good, and Faith isn’t Evil

“In Religion, Spirituality, and Positive Psychology: Understanding the Psychological Fruits of Faith, Professor Thomas Plante has brought together an all star team of leading experts who provide the reader with a readable, compelling, and evidence based understanding of the psychological benefits of spiritual and religious practice and engagement. The book is likely to become a classic in the field of positive psychology and the psychology of religion and spirituality and thus should be on the shelves of those who conduct research and practice in this area." —Harold G. Koenig, MD, Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Director, Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, Duke University Medical Center

"Uplifting and illuminating—the chapters in this volume will be of tremendous value to researchers, practitioners, and anyone else interested in the religious and spiritual dimension of positive psychology. These fruits of the spirit are ripe for the plucking." —Kenneth I. Pargament, PhD, Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center, Professor of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Author of The Psychology of Religion and Coping: Theory, Research, Practice and Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy: Understanding and Addressing the Sacred

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