Religious Imagination

Edited by Guy Axtell (Radford University)
Assistant editor: Katelyn Dobbins (Radford University)
About this topic

The role of religious imagination in religious consciousness/ideas is a topic of interest to psychologists, theologians, religious studies scholars, and philosophers of religion. Study of religious imagination often goes together with phenomenology of religious experience, with the study of religious art, and with model-theoretic and narrative theologies. Because imagination suggests human construction, its role and extent is especially controversial, and a special concern for epistemology of religion is its implications for debate between realists vs. fictionalists about the aims of religious discourse.

Key works Sigmund Freud (1927), Jeanine Diller&Asa Kasher (2013), William James (1902), Amy Kind (2016), Ralph B. Perry (1904), H.H. Price (1965), David Tracy (1985)
Related categories

152 found
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  1. added 2018-12-10
    Dread Hermeneutics: Bob Marley, Paul Ricoeur and the Productive Imagination.Christopher Duncanson-Hales - 2017 - Black Theology 15 (2):157-175.
    This article presents Paul Ricœur’s hermeneutic of the productive imagination as a methodological tool for understanding the innovative social function of texts that in exceeding their semantic meaning, iconically augment reality. Through the reasoning of Rastafari elder Mortimo Planno’s unpublished text, Rastafarian: The Earth’s Most Strangest Man, and the religious and biblical signification from the music of his most famous postulate, Bob Marley, this article applies Paul Ricœur’s schema of the religious productive imagination to conceptualize the metaphoric transfer from text (...)
  2. added 2018-12-10
    Re-Imagining Text — Re-Imagining Hermeneutics.Christopher Duncanson-Hales - 2011 - Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts and Contemporary Worlds 7 (1):87-122.
    With the advent of the digital age and new mediums of communication, it is becoming increasingly important for those interested in the interpretation of religious text to look beyond traditional ideas of text and textuality to find the sacred in unlikely places. Paul Ricoeur’s phenomenological reorientation of classical hermeneutics from romanticized notions of authorial intent and psychological divinations to a serious engagement with the “science of the text” is a hermeneutical tool that opens up an important dialogue between the interpreter, (...)
  3. added 2018-11-28
    An Archaeology of Disbelief.Edward Jayne - 2017 - Hamilton Books.
    An Archaeology of Disbelief traces the classical origin of secular philosophy in ancient Greece based on a close examination of its few relevant texts still available today. More than a dozen pre-Socratic philosophers are examined as well Aristotle and such later figures as Strato, Carneades, Lucretius, and Cicero.
  4. added 2018-11-28
    Forms of Reflection, Imagination, and the Love of Wisdom.Douglas Hedley - 2012 - Metaphilosophy 43 (1-2):112-124.
    This article reflects upon the relationship between philosophy and theology. It further considers the persisting relevance of the specifically Hellenic inheritance of philosophy as contemplation and the Delphic exhortation, “Know thyself!” It concludes with reflections upon the role of imagination in relation to the philosophical idea of God as the supreme and transcendent causal principle of the physical cosmos.
  5. added 2018-11-28
    Sacrifice Imagined: Violence, Atonement, and the Sacred.Douglas Hedley - 2011 - Continuum International Publishing Group.
    ’Sacrifice Imagined’ is an original exploration of the idea of sacrifice by one of the world’s pre-eminent philosophers of religion. Despisers of religion have poured scorn upon the idea of sacrifice as an index of the irrational and wicked in religious practice. Nor does its secularised form seem much more appealing. One need only think of the appalling cult of sacrifice in numerous totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century. Yet, sacrifice remains a part of our cultural and intellectual ’imaginary’. Hedley (...)
  6. added 2018-11-28
    Living Forms of the Imagination.Paul J. Griffiths - 2011 - Faith and Philosophy 28 (4):460-464.
  7. added 2018-11-28
    Douglas Hedley Living Forms of the Imagination . (London: T. & T. Clark, 2008). Pp. X+308. £65.00 (Hbk); £24.99 (Pbk). Isbn 0567032949 (Hbk); 0567032957 (Pbk). [REVIEW]Tim Chappell - 2009 - Religious Studies 45 (2):241-247.
  8. added 2018-11-26
    Concrete Infinity: Imagination and the Question of Reality.René Rosfort - 2017 - In K. Brian Söderquist, René Rosfort & Arne Grøn (eds.), Kierkegaard's Existential Approach. De Gruyter. pp. 193-214.
    This essay examines the ambiguous role of imagination in Kierkegaard's work, arguing that the concept of imagination is fundamental to his existential transformation of the question of reality.
  9. added 2018-10-05
    Does "Think" Mean the Same Thing as "Believe"? Insights Into Religious Cognition.Larisa Heiphetz, Casey Landers & Neil Van Leeuwen - forthcoming - Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.
    When someone says she believes that God exists, is she expressing the same kind of mental state as when she says she thinks that a lake bigger than Lake Michigan exists⎯i.e., does she refer to the same kind of cognitive attitude in both cases? Using evidence from linguistic corpora (Study 1) and behavioral experiments (Studies 2-4), the current work provides evidence that individuals typically use the word “believe” more in conjunction with statements about religious credences and “think” more in conjunction (...)
  10. added 2018-09-22
    Are You There, God? It’s Me, the Theist: On the Viability and Virtue of Non-Doxastic Prayer.Amber Griffioen - forthcoming - In Oliver Crisp, James Arcadi & Jordan Wessling (eds.), Reaching for God: New Theological Essays on Prayer. Oxford, UK:
    In this article, I explore the possibility of what I call “non-doxastic theistic prayer”, namely prayer that proceeds without full belief in God – or in the kind of God who could be the recipient of such prayer. After developing a working definition of prayer, I proceed to discuss a few prominent forms of prayer and explore the ways in which such prayer might legitimately be performed non-doxastically. I conclude by examining the possibility that some forms of what I call (...)
  11. added 2018-09-22
    Religious Experience Without Belief? Toward an Imaginative Account of Religious Engagement.Amber Griffioen - 2016 - In Thomas Hardtke, Ulrich Schmiedel & Tobias Tan (eds.), Religious Experience Revisited: Expressing the Inexpressible? Leiden, Netherlands: pp. 73-88.
    It is commonly supposed that a certain kind of belief is necessary for religious experience. Yet it is not clear that this must be so. In this article, I defend the possibility that a subject could have a genuine emotional religious experience without thereby necessarily believing that the purported object of her experience corresponds to reality and/or is the cause of her experience. Imaginative engagement, I argue, may evoke emotional religious experiences that may be said to be both genuine and (...)
  12. added 2018-09-22
    Prolegomena zu einer jeden künftigen '(Nicht-)Metaphysik' der Religion: (Anti-)Realismus, (Non-)Kognitivismus und die religiöse Imagination.Amber Griffioen - 2016 - In Rico Gutschmidt & Thomas Rentsch (eds.), Gott ohne Theismus. Münster, Germany: pp. 127-147.
    In this chapter, I first explore the possible meanings of the expression 'non-metaphysical religion' and its relation to the realism and cognitivism debates (as well as these debates' relation to each other). I then sketch out and defend the germs of an alternative semantics for religious language that I call 'religious imaginativism'. This semantics attempts to move us away from the realism-antirealism debates in Philosophy of Religion and in this sense might count as 'non-metaphysical'. At the same time, it allows (...)
  13. added 2018-09-01
    Theorizing About a Mystical Approach.Ulrich De Balbian - 2018 - Oxford: Create Space.
    The theme of the work concerns the so-called ‘unity experience’ of these mystics. The unity or oneness or the realization of ‘being oned’ with, can be referred to the beatific vision. In the case of Christian mystics it is unity experience of The Gottheit (or Godhead) of Meister Eckhart, in Sufism it is being united with The Beloved, in Buddhism it could be said to realize The Buddha mind or Cosmic Buddha’s consciousness and in Vedanta, the realization of The One (...)
  14. added 2018-08-29
    Bridging Science and Religion: "The More" and "the Less" in William James and Owen Flanagan.Ann Taves - 2009 - Zygon 44 (1):9-17.
    There is a kinship between Owen Flanagan's The Really Hard Problem and William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience that not only can help us to understand Flanagan's book but also can help scholars, particularly scholars of religion, to be attentive to an important development in the realm of the "spiritual but not religious." Specifically, Flanagan's book continues a tradition in philosophy, exemplified by James, that addresses questions of religious or spiritual meaning in terms accessible to a broad audience outside (...)
  15. added 2018-08-12
    Hope and the Longing for Utopia: Futures and Illusions in Theology and Narrative Ed. By Daniel Boscaljon.Ellis Cameron - 2016 - Utopian Studies 27 (3):656-659.
    Hope and the Longing for Utopia is Daniel Boscaljon’s second edited collection, following his earlier Resisting the Place of Belonging: Uncanny Homecomings in Religion, Narrative and the Arts and his solo-authored Vigilant Faith, both of which I am now very excited to read! A welcome contribution to the postsecular discourse on utopian studies in the twenty-first century, the twelve interdisciplinary essays contained in this volume achieve what its editor sets out in the introduction: “contribute toward a revitalized sense of the (...)
  16. added 2018-07-23
    Genocide and the Religious Imaginary in Rwanda.Christopher C. Taylor - 2013 - The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence:268-279.
    This chapter, which concentrates on the violent imaginaries that informed the reports and deeds of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, reviews the perseverance of pre-colonial notions of a sacred king whose “wild sovereignty” and inability to promote the flow of imaana earns him fateful sacrifice. The term imaana denotes a supreme being and, in a more generalized way, a “diffuse, fecundating fluid” of celestial origin whose activity upon livestock, land, and people brought fertility and abundance. As imaana's earthly representative, the king (...)
  17. added 2018-07-23
    Mimetic Theories of Religion and Violence.Wolfgang Palaver - 2013 - The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence:533-553.
    This chapter concentrates on the mimetic theory of Rene Girard in evaluating foundational myths of violence. It shows Girard's notion of the scapegoating mechanism, whereby a substitute victim absorbs the mimetic animosities of the entire group and thereby promotes peace, as applicable to the disturbing tendency to direct violence outward toward exogenous groups. According to Girard, competition is the main source of human violence. His explanation, that violence has its roots in competition or mimetic rivalry, contributes to Thomas Hobbes, who (...)
  18. added 2018-07-23
    Violent Death in Religious Imagination.Margo Kitts - 2013 - The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence:351-360.
    This chapter reviews the selected religious myths of violent death under three rubrics: when death is primordially wrong; when violent death is cosmically right; and when violent death, particularly in the form of suicide, is enshrined as martyrdom. A brief speculation on religious imagination and its peculiar obsessions is given. There are few themes in religious studies that justify a sweeping overview, but violent death is recurrent enough to be one of them. The biblical Chaoskampf theme needs death, rescue, and (...)
  19. added 2018-07-23
    Divergent Models of Religiosity and Armed Struggle.Harvey Whitehouse & Brian McQuinn - 2013 - The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence:597-619.
    This chapter investigates one of the most powerful mechanisms by which groups may be formed, inspired, and coordinated—ritual—which may be defined as normative behavior with an irretrievably opaque causal structure. The divergent modes of religiosity (DMR) theory is applied to armed groups engaged in civil conflicts, some of which explicitly incorporate “religious” traditions while others vehemently repudiate supernatural beliefs of any kind. It is argued that the DMR theory can be extended to explain recurrent features of ritual traditions which lack (...)
  20. added 2018-06-26
    The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion.William J. Wainwright - 2007 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 61 (2):119-122.
  21. added 2018-06-26
    Jonathan Edwards and the Hiddenness of God.William J. Wainwright - 2002 - In Daniel Howard-Snyder & Paul K. Moser (eds.), Divine Hiddenness: New Essays. Cambridge University Press. pp. 98--119.
  22. added 2018-06-26
    Reason and the Heart: A Prolegomenon to a Critique of Passional Reason.William J. Wainwright - 1995 - Cornell University Press.
  23. added 2018-06-26
    Philosophy and Miracle.William J. Wainwright - 1989 - Faith and Philosophy 6 (1):110-113.
  24. added 2018-06-26
    Mysticism: A Study of Its Nature, Cognitive Value and Moral Implications.William J. Wainwright - 1984 - Philosophy East and West 34 (3):337-339.
  25. added 2018-06-26
    Natural Explanations and Religious Experience.William J. Wainwright - 1984 - In J. Houston (ed.), Is It Reasonable to Believe in God? Handsel Press.
  26. added 2018-06-20
    William James the Varieties of Religious Experience.Daniel Bonevac - manuscript
    Here is my copy of William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience . This classic book was first published in 1902, and has remained in print ever since. The basic issues James discusses here remain of vital concern to people in psychology and religion today. I encourage you to go to your local bookstore and buy a copy of this interesting book. (It is in the public domain, and quite reasonably..
  27. added 2018-06-20
    So What If Horses Would Draw Horse Gods?Scott F. Aikin - 2016 - Sophia 55 (2):163-177.
    Xenophanes famously noted that if horses could draw, they would draw their gods as horses. This connection between those who depict the gods and how the gods are depicted is posed as part of a critical theological program. What follows is an argumentative reconstruction of how these observations determine the extent and content of Xenophanes’ theological reforms. In light of the strength of the critical epistemic program, it is likely Xenophanes posed ambitious theological reforms.
  28. added 2018-06-20
    Narrative Theology and the Hermeneutical Virtues: Humility, Patience, Prudence.Jacob L. Goodson - 2015 - Lexington Books.
    In Narrative Theology and the Hermeneutical Virtues, Goodson offers a philosophical analysis of the arguments and tendencies of the narrative theologies of Hans Frei and Stanley Hauerwas. Goodson concludes that the movement of narrative theology needs the language and logic of the virtues in order for it to survive within the modern academy.
  29. added 2018-06-20
    Models of God and Alternative Ultimate Realities.Jeanine Diller & Asa Kasher (eds.) - 2013 - Springer.
    James E. Taylor As the title of this book makes clear, the essays contained in it are unified by their focus on models of God and alternative ultimate realities. But what is ultimate reality, what does 'God' mean, and what would count as a model ...
  30. added 2018-06-20
    Open Theism and Other Models of Divine Providence.R. Alan - 2013 - In Jeanine Diller & Asa Kasher (eds.), Models of God and Alternative Ultimate Realities. Springer. pp. 287.
  31. added 2018-06-20
    Five Models of God and Evolution.Ian G. Barbour - 2009 - In F. LeRon Shults, Nancey C. Murphy & Robert J. Russell (eds.), Philosophy, Science and Divine Action. Brill.
  32. added 2018-06-20
    Self and Other: The Limits of Narrative Understanding.Dan Zahavi - 2007 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 60:179-.
    If the self – as a popular view has it – is a narrative construction, if it arises out of discursive practices, it is reasonable to assume that the best possible avenue to self-understanding will be provided by those very narratives. If I want to know what it means to be a self, I should look closely at the stories that I and others tell about myself, since these stories constitute who I am. In the following I wish to question (...)
  33. added 2018-06-20
    Feminist Challenges to Conceptions of God: Exploring Divine Ideals.Pamela Anderson - 2007 - Philosophia 35 (3-4):361-370.
    This paper presents a feminist intervention into debates concerning the relation between human subjects and a divine ideal. I turn to what Irigarayan feminists challenge as a masculine conception of ‘the God’s eye view’ of reality. This ideal functions not only in philosophy of religion, but in ethics, politics, epistemology and philosophy of science: it is given various names from ‘the competent judge’ to the ‘the ideal observer’ (IO) whose view is either from nowhere or everywhere. The question is whether, (...)
  34. added 2018-06-20
    Transcendence and Feminism: Response to Anderson's “Feminist Challenges to Conceptions of God”.Charles Taliaferro - 2007 - Philosophia 35 (3-4):371-373.
    An argument that Pamela Sue Anderson’s critique of Irigaray commits her to a version of the Ideal Observer Theory, a theory Anderson rejects. This paper was delivered in the APA Pacific 2007 Mini-Conference on Models of God.
  35. added 2018-06-20
    Blind Man’s Bluff: The Basic Belief Apologetic as Anti-Skeptical Stratagem.Guy Axtell - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 130 (1):131-152.
    Today we find philosophical naturalists and Christian theists both expressing an interest in virtue epistemology, while starting out from vastly different assumptions. What can be done to increase fruitful dialogue among these divergent groups of virtue-theoretic thinkers? The primary aim of this paper is to uncover more substantial common ground for dialogue by wielding a double-edged critique of certain assumptions shared by 'scientific' and 'theistic' externalisms, assumptions that undermine proper attention to epistemic agency and responsibility. I employ a responsibilist virtue (...)
  36. added 2018-06-20
    William James and the Varieties of Religious Experience: A Centenary Celebration.Jeremy R. Carrette (ed.) - 2005 - Routledge.
    William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience was an intellectual landmark, paving the way for modern study of parapsychology and religious experience. In this indispensable new companion to the Varietie s, key international experts in the fields of religious studies, psychology and mysticism offer contemporary responses to James's book, exploring its historical importance and modern relevance. As the only critical work dedicated to the cross-disciplinary influence of The Varieties of Religious Experience , it stands as a testament to James's genius (...)
  37. added 2018-06-20
    Nirvana as the Last Thing? The Iconic End of the Narrative Imagination.Paul J. Griffiths - 2000 - Modern Theology 16 (1):19-38.
  38. added 2018-06-20
    Religion and Practical Reason New Essays in the Comparative Philosophy of Religions.Frank Reynolds & David Tracy - 1994
  39. added 2018-06-20
    Myth and Philosophy.Frank E. Reynolds & David Tracy - 1990
  40. added 2018-06-20
    Models of God for an Ecological, Evolutionary Era: God as Mother of the Universe.Sallie McFague - 1988 - In Robert J. Russell, William R. Stoeger & George V. Coyne (eds.), Physics, Philosophy, and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding. University of Notre Dame Press [Distributor]. pp. 249--72.
  41. added 2018-06-20
    Plurality and Ambiguity: Hermeneutics, Religion, Hope.David Tracy - 1988 - Ethics 98 (4):864-865.
  42. added 2018-06-20
    Analogy, Metaphor and God-Language.David Tracy - 1985 - Modern Schoolman 62 (4):249-264.
  43. added 2018-06-20
    Narrative Theology An Overview.Gabriel Fackre - 1983 - Interpretation 37 (4):340-352.
    In the plot, coherence, movement, and climax that characterize a story, narrative theology sees a way to overcome the problems theology creates for itself through its subservience to discursive reason.
  44. added 2018-06-20
    Theological Pluralism and Analogy.David Tracy - 1979 - Thought: Fordham University Quarterly 54 (1):24-36.
  45. added 2018-06-20
    The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature.William James - 1929 - Cambridge University Press.
    The Gifford Lectures were established in 1885 at the universities of St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh to promote the discussion of 'Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term - in other words, the knowledge of God', and some of the world's most influential thinkers have delivered them. The 1901–2 lectures given in Edinburgh by American philosopher William James are considered by many to be the greatest in the series. The lectures were published in book form in 1902 (...)
  46. added 2018-06-07
    On Progressive Revelation: Some Thoughts.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    In this very brief piece I suggest the possibility of regarding the Bible as both revealed and fallible, by outlining a theory of revelation that sees it as conditioned by the limitations of those who receive it.
  47. added 2018-06-07
    The Fulfillment of a Polanyian Vision of Heuristic Theology: David Brown’s Reframing of Revelation, Tradition, and Imagination.David James Stewart - 2014 - Tradition and Discovery 41 (3):4-19.
    According to Richard Gelwick, one of the fundamental implications of Polanyi’s epistemology is that all intellectual disciplines are inherently heuristic. This article draws out the implications of a heuristic vision of theology latent in Polanyi’s thought by placing contemporary theologian David Brown’s dynamic understanding of tradition, imagination, and revelation in the context of a Polanyian-inspired vision of reality. Consequently, such a theology will follow the example of science, reimagining its task as one of discovery rather than mere reflection on a (...)
  48. added 2018-06-07
    Revelation and The Essentiality of Essence.Franck Lihoreau - 2014 - Symposion: Theoretical and Applied Inquiries in Philosophy and Social Sciences 1 (1):69-75.
    It is usually agreed that the Revelation Thesis about experience – the idea that the knowledge we gain by having an experience somehow “reveals” the essence, or nature, of this experience – only requires that we know the essence of the experience, not that we know, of this essence, that it is the essence of the experience. I contest this agreement. In the light of what I call the “Essentiality of Essence Principle”– the principle that whatever is in the essence (...)
  49. added 2018-06-07
    Emil Brunner Revisited: On the Cognitive Science of Religion, the Imago Dei, and Revelation.Taede Smedes - 2014 - Zygon 49 (1):190-207.
    This article aims at a constructive and argumentative engagement between the cognitive science of religion (CSR) and philosophical and theological reflection on the imago Dei. The Swiss theologian Emil Brunner argued that the theological notion that humans were created in the image of God entails that there is a “point of contact” for revelation to occur. This article argues that Brunner's notion resonates quite strongly with the findings of the CSR. The first part will give a short overview of the (...)
  50. added 2018-06-07
    Divine Self-Testimony and the Knowledge of God.Rolfe King - 2013 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 74 (3):279-295.
    A proof is offered that aims to show that there can be no knowledge of God, excluding knowledge based on natural theology, without divine self-testimony. Both special and general revelation, if they occur, would be forms of divine self-testimony. It is argued that this indicates that the best way to model such knowledge of God is on the basis of an analogy with knowledge gained through testimony, rather than perceptual models of knowledge, such as the prominent model defended by Plantinga. (...)
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