Stories that Matter

A Narrative Approach to Implicit Religion


  • William A. Stahl University of Regina
  • Lisa L. Stenmark San Jose State University



narrative, myth


Human beings are story-telling animals. We create meaning, identity, and legitimacy—the core elements of culture—first and foremost through the use of narratives. Many of these narratives, particularly those we call myths, are explicitly or implicitly religious. In this paper we will present a model of the dynamic structure of narratives, in which the narrator is a moral agent who must exercise judgement and responsibility in mediating between the symbols embodying our temporal experience and actions and those institutional patterns we call culture and tradition. What is different in the modern world is the quality of our stories. Too many of our stories are shallow, and we are losing our ability to tell our own stories. The modern world has entered a crisis of meaning, and the study of implicit religion is a key tool to help us understand it. What this model of narrative and agency suggests is that the modern ‘crisis of meaning’ is a crisis of narrative. More than defining the problem, this suggests that through our stories we have the power to move beyond this crisis.



How to Cite

Stahl, W. A., & Stenmark, L. L. (2004). Stories that Matter: A Narrative Approach to Implicit Religion. Implicit Religion, 7(3), 256–275.




Most read articles by the same author(s)