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

144 found
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Studies in Religious Philosophy and Mysticism.Alexander Altmann - 1969 - London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
    The twelve studies here are arranged in three distinct groups – Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic philosophy, Jewish mysticism, and modern philosophy. One theme that appears in various forms and from different angles in the first two sections is that of ‘Images of the Divine’. It figures not only in the account of mystical imagery but also in the discussion of the ‘Know thyself’ motif, and is closely allied to the subject-matter of the studies dealing with man’s ascent to the vision of (...)
  4. 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, (...)
  5. The Finite I Am: Reason and Imagination in Coleridge's Religious Thought.Wayne C. Anderson - 1986 - Ultimate Reality and Meaning 9 (4):243-261.
  6. Possibility and Permission? Intellectual Character, Inquiry, and the Ethics of Belief.Guy Axtell - 2014 - In Pihlstrom S. & Rydenfelt H. (eds.), William James on Religion. (Palgrave McMillan “Philosophers in Depth” Series.
    This chapter examines the modifications William James made to his account of the ethics of belief from his early ‘subjective method’ to his later heightened concerns with personal doxastic responsibility and with an empirically-driven comparative research program he termed a ‘science of religions’. There are clearly tensions in James’ writings on the ethics of belief both across his career and even within Varieties itself, tensions which some critics think spoil his defense of what he calls religious ‘faith ventures’ or ‘overbeliefs’. (...)
  7. Blind Man's Bluff: Examining the Basic Belief Apologetic.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 (...)
  8. 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 (...)
  9. Review of Stuart Rosenbaum, Ed. Pragmatism and Religion: Classical Sources and Original Essays. [REVIEW]Guy Axtell - 2004 - Contemporary Pragmatism 1 (2):182-191.
  10. Courage, Caution and Heaven's Gate.Guy Axtell - 1999 - The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 1999:77-89.
    The criteria of “forced, live, and momentous options,” as William James utilized them in his pragmatic defense of religious belief, cannot, I argue, both support religious pluralism and acknowledge lessons about failure of epistemic responsibility in Heaven’s Gate-followers. But I attempt to re-vitalize the pragmatic argument, showing it capable of walking this narrow line. I proceed (1) by developing the distinction and relationship between a commitment to a particular religious system or community, and a commitment to the generic “religious hypothesis” (...)
  11. Hume and Miracles.Matthew C. Bagger - 1997 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 35 (2):237 - 251.
    "Hume and Miracles" relates Hume’s essay "Of Miracles" to the Port-Royal ’Logic’ and John Locke. It argues that Hume did not, as is often supposed, intend to suggest that well-attested miracle reports defeat themselves by undermining the laws of nature they defy. Instead, Hume argues that the specifically ’religious’ nature of the testimony relating to miracle claims rules out their acceptance because of the frequency of fraud in religious matters. Hume’s views are too austere because one might wish to reject (...)
  12. 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.
  13. Ebion at the Barricades: Moral Narrative and Post‐Christian Catholic Theology.Michel René Barnes - 2010 - Modern Theology 26 (4):511-548.
  14. The Marriage of Imitation and Imagination.J. Robert Barth - 1985 - Renascence 37 (3):162-165.
  15. God and the Creative Imagination.Barbara Baumgarten - 2004 - Tradition and Discovery 31 (3):45-46.
  16. The Key to the Brescia Casket: Typology and the Early Christian Imagination. [REVIEW]Karen Blough - 2003 - The Medieval Review 3.
  17. 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..
  18. The Politics of Imagination and the Public Role of Religion.C. Bottici - 2009 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 35 (8):985-1005.
    The aim of this article is to show that, in order to understand the new public role of religion, we need to rethink the nexus, often neglected by contemporary philosophy, between politics and imagination. The current resurrection of religion in the public sphere is linked to a deep transformation of political imagination which has its roots in the double process of the reduction of politics to mere administration, on the one hand, and to spectacle, on the other. In an epoch (...)
  19. The Logic of Mystery.Steven D. Boyer - 2007 - Religious Studies 43 (1):89-102.
    This paper proposes an analytical taxonomy of ‘mystery’ based upon what makes a mystery mysterious. I begin by distinguishing mysteries that depend on what we do not know (e.g. detective fiction) from mysteries that depend on what we do know (e.g. religious mysteries). Then I distinguish three possible grounds for the latter type. The third and most provocative ground offers a mathematical analogy for how rational reflection can be appropriate to mystery without compromising its intrinsically mysterious character. I conclude with (...)
  20. Analogy and Philosophical Language.David B. Burrell - 1973 - New Haven: Yale University Press.
  21. Differential Relationships Between Experiential and Interpretive Dimensions of Mysticism and Schizotypal Magical Ideation in a University Sample.Greg Byrom - 2009 - Archive for the Psychology of Religion 31 (2):127-150.
    This study applied a body of knowledge derived from the common core thesis of mysticism to investigate the hypothesis that similarities in belief significantly contribute to the appearance of overlap between mystical and positive dimension schizotypal phenomena. Data from 211 university students who completed Hood's Mysticism Scale and Eckblad and Chapman's Magical Ideation Scale were submitted to correlational analyses. Contrary to the hypothesis, results indicated that positive schizotypy correlates more strongly with the experiential dimensions of mysticism than with the interpretive (...)
  22. Religious Imagination in a Late Secular Age: Extending Liberal Traditions in the Twenty-First Century.Linell E. Cady - 2011 - American Journal of Theology and Philosophy 32 (1):23 - 42.
    These are not easy times for extending liberal religious traditions. I am struck by how much has changed in the past two decades, how differently I now imagine the challenges and possibilities of constructive religious thought. What's happened? What are the salient features of our current moment, and the constraints and opportunities for religious reflection that it affords? These are, of course, large and complex questions. But my charge to reflect upon future directions in liberal religious thought must inevitably begin (...)
  23. Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue.Laura Frances Callahan & Timothy O'Connor (eds.) - 2014 - Oxford University Press.
    Is religious faith consistent with being an intellectually virtuous thinker? In seeking to answer this question, one quickly finds others, each of which has been the focus of recent renewed attention by epistemologists: What is it to be an intellectually virtuous thinker? Must all reasonable belief be grounded in public evidence? Under what circumstances is a person rationally justified in believing something on trust, on the testimony of another, or because of the conclusions drawn by an intellectual authority? Can it (...)
  24. 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 (...)
  25. 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 (...)
  26. After Freud: Phantasy and Imagination in the Philosophy of Religion.Beverley Clack - 2008 - Philosophy Compass 3 (1):203-221.
    Philosophers of religion have tended to focus on Freud’s dismissal of religion as an illusion, thus characterising his account as primarily hostile. Those who wish to engage with psychoanalytic ideas in order to understand religion in a more positive way have tended to look to later psychoanalysts for more sympathetic sources. This paper suggests that other aspects of Freud’s own writings might, surprisingly, provide such tools. In particular, a more subtle understanding of the relationship between illusion and reality emerges in (...)
  27. The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination.Adam Cohen - 2015 - Common Knowledge 21 (2):334-335.
  28. From Models of God to a Model of Gods: How Whiteheadian Metaphysics Facilitates Western Language Discussion of Divine Multiplicity.Monica A. Coleman - 2007 - Philosophia 35 (3-4):329-340.
    In today’s society, models of God are challenged to account for more than the postmodern context in which Western Christianity finds itself; they should also consider the reality of religious pluralism. Non-monotheistic religions present a particular challenge to Western theological and philosophical God-modeling because they require a model of Gods. This paper uses an African traditional religion as a case study to problematize the effects of monotheism on philosophical models of God. The desire to uphold the image of a singular (...)
  29. NON-PHILOSOPHY OF THE ONE Turning Away From Philosophy of Being.Ulrich de Balbian - forthcoming - Oxford: Academic Publishers.
    A study of the methods, approaches, prayers, etc to realize the 'unity experience' with THE ONE REAL SELF (Vedanta, Hinduism, ) God (Judaism), Gottheit (Christianity), Buddha mind (Buddhism), The Beloved (Sufism, Islam) of a number of mystics from several religious traditions. I wrote about this in a number of books and articles, for example about methods, techniques, practices and methodology here: as well as exploring and illustrating the subject-matter of philosophizing here: Explorations, questions and searches not put down on paper (...)
  30. 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 (...)
  31. 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 ...
  32. Religion and the Philosophical Imagination.Irwin Edman - 1928 - Journal of Philosophy 25 (25):673-685.
  33. The Integrity of Biblical Narrative Story in Theology and Proclamation.Mark Ellingsen - 1990
  34. The Power of Humility in Sceptical Religion: Why Ietsism is Preferable to J. L. Schellenberg's Ultimism.James Elliott - 2017 - Religious Studies 53 (1):97-116.
    J. L. Schellenberg’s Philosophy of Religion argues for a specific brand of sceptical religion that takes ‘Ultimism’ – the proposition that there is a metaphysically, axiologically, and soteriologically ultimate reality – to be the object to which the sceptical religionist should assent. In this article I shall argue that Ietsism – the proposition that there is merely something transcendental worth committing ourselves to religiously – is a preferable object of assent. This is for two primary reasons. First, Ietsism is far (...)
  35. Review: Henry Duméry, Imagination Et Religion. Eléments de Judaïsme, Éléments de Christianisme, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2006, 468pp. [REVIEW]M. Emery - 2008 - Diogenes 55 (1):143-144.
    This is a review of H. Duméry’s volume Imagination et religion. Éléments de judaïsme, éléments de christianisme. The author studies biblical religion and the origins of the Christian religion, classifying and recording the imaginative element that feeds the narratives of piety: hence the rehabilitation of the myths that frame the functioning of religious representations. The author suggests that the imagination, in its deepest resources, forges the human social, has the power to invent all social roles, and causes the emergence of (...)
  36. Narrative Theology From an Evangelical Perspective.Gabriel Fackre - 2001 - In Keith E. Yandell (ed.), Faith and Narrative. Oup Usa. pp. 188--201.
  37. 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.
  38. Imagination and Religious Pluralism.José Faur - 1992 - New Vico Studies 10:36-51.
  39. Repetition, Concreteness, and Imagination.M. Jamie Ferreira - 1989 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 25 (1):13 - 34.
  40. “The Holy One Sits And Roars”: Mythopoesis and the Midrashic Imagination.Michael Fishbane - 1992 - Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 1 (1):1-21.
  41. 5. Sources and Resources: The Catholic Imagination of Flannery O'Connor.Sally Fitzgerald - 1997 - Logos. Anales Del Seminario de Metafísica [Universidad Complutense de Madrid, España] 1 (1).
  42. When the Goddess Speaks Her Mind: Possession, Presence, and Narrative Theology in the Gaṅgamma Tradition of Tirupati, South India.Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger - forthcoming - International Journal of Hindu Studies.
  43. The Problem of Pure Consciousness: Mysticism and Philosophy.R. Forman (ed.) - 1990 - Oxford University Press.
    Are mystical experiences primarily formed by the mystic's cultural background and concepts, as modern day "constructivists" maintain, or do mystics in some way transcend language, belief, and culturally conditioned expectations? Do mystical experiences differ in the different religious traditions, as "pluralists" contend, or are they identical across cultures? Twelve contributors here attempt to answer these questions through close examination of a particular form of mystical experience, "Pure Consciousness"--the experience of being awake but devoid of intentional content for consciousness. The contributors (...)
  44. Two Types of Narrative Theology.Comstock Gary L. - 1987 - Journal of the American Academy of Religion 55 (4):687-717.
    This paper argues that there are two camps in narrative theology, "pure" (e.g., Hans Frei) and "impure" (e.g., Paul Ricoeur) narrative theologians.
  45. Toward a Theology of Acts Reading and Rereading.Beverly Roberts Gaventa - 1988 - Interpretation 42 (2):146-157.
    To see in Acts only the triumphalist theology of a God who overruns all opposition is to miss the equally strong emphasis in this narrative on the rejection of the gospel and the persecution of its apostles; both are needed if Acts' theology is to be correctly understood.
  46. The Hebrew Bible and Philosophy of Religion.Jaco Gericke - 2012 - Society of Biblical Literature.
    This study pioneers the use of philosophy of religion in the study of the Hebrew Bible. After identifying the need for a legitimate philosophical approach to Israelite religion, the volume traces the history of interdisciplinary relations and shows how descriptive varieties of philosophy of religion can aid the clarification of the Hebrew Bible’s own metaphysical, epistemological, and moral assumptions. Two new interpretative methodologies are developed and subsequently applied through an introduction to what the biblical texts took for granted about the (...)
  47. Blake's Religion of Imagination.Robert F. Gleckner - 1956 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 14 (3):359-369.
  48. 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.
  49. D. Sloan, "Insight-Imagination ".H. Gordon - 1984 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 16 (2):184.
  50. A Note on Imagination and Thought About God.Thomas Gornall & J. S. - 1963 - Heythrop Journal 4 (2):135–140.
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