How does God answer back?

Bender, Courtney

A central question in the study of prayer is how people determine God’s response. Much of the literature in cognition and religion answers this question by using a particular understanding of the divine agent (God), as superhuman, agentic, transcendent, and anthropomorphic. But not all religious traditions articulate the divine in this way, and religious people do not pray to abstractions or general ideas. This paper takes seriously the consideration that people pray to divine interlocutors whom they understand and experience as
having specific capacities and interests, which are shaped both in practice and in theological traditions. Different types of divinities demand different kinds of listening on the part of those who pray, and religious traditions are active producers of different religious schema that shape cognitive possibilities for hearing the divine. This essay explores how some modern Americans are taught to listen for and hear the response of an immanent, non-anthropomorphic God. It explores the practices and techniques through which individuals learn to hear God, and considers the implications for cognitive studies of religion. It argues that scholars concerned about religion and cognitions should pay more attention to the specific practices that emanate from and reproduce dissimilar theological understandings of God.



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July 27, 2015