Advanced search
1 file | 196.09 KB

In mysterious ways: on petitionary prayer and subtle forms of supernatural causation

Maarten Boudry (UGent) and Johan De Smedt (UGent)
(2011) RELIGION. 41(3). p.449-469
Author
Organization
Abstract
The psychology of prayer and supernatural causation has received surprisingly little attention from empirical researchers. This paper discusses implicit belief patterns about the causal mechanisms by which God effects changes in the world. We offer a psychological account of belief in supernatural causation based on the existing empirical literature on petitionary prayer, incorporating mechanisms of psychological self-correction and rationalization, confirmation bias, and folk physics. We propose that religious believers ‘prefer’ modes of divine action that are subtle and indistinguishable from the natural course of events: given that the causal structure of our world is partly inscrutable, beliefs in subtle and unascertainable modes of supernatural causation will be compelling and cognitively appealing because they are more susceptible to occasional confirmation and less vulnerable to repeated disconfirmation. In other words, believers who request supernatural interventions that are subtle and indistinguishable from the natural course of events will have a better chance of finding themselves in a situation in which they can attribute the events in question to God answering their prayers. We argue that such individual psychological factors play a role in the cultural transmission of prayer practices as well, leading to culturally widespread beliefs in subtle forms of supernatural causation.
Keywords
cultural transmission, theological incorrectness, psychological self-correction, cognitive science of religion, GOD, TRANSMISSION, KNOWLEDGE, EVOLUTION, RELIGION, petitionary prayer, supernatural causation, divine intervention, epidemiology of religious representations

Downloads

  • (...).pdf
    • full text
    • |
    • UGent only
    • |
    • PDF
    • |
    • 196.09 KB

Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

Chicago
Boudry, Maarten, and Johan De Smedt. 2011. “In Mysterious Ways: On Petitionary Prayer and Subtle Forms of Supernatural Causation.” Religion 41 (3): 449–469.
APA
Boudry, M., & De Smedt, J. (2011). In mysterious ways: on petitionary prayer and subtle forms of supernatural causation. RELIGION, 41(3), 449–469.
Vancouver
1.
Boudry M, De Smedt J. In mysterious ways: on petitionary prayer and subtle forms of supernatural causation. RELIGION. 2011;41(3):449–69.
MLA
Boudry, Maarten, and Johan De Smedt. “In Mysterious Ways: On Petitionary Prayer and Subtle Forms of Supernatural Causation.” RELIGION 41.3 (2011): 449–469. Print.
@article{1948332,
  abstract     = {The psychology of prayer and supernatural causation has received surprisingly little attention from empirical researchers. This paper discusses implicit belief patterns about the causal mechanisms by which God effects changes in the world. We offer a psychological account of belief in supernatural causation based on the existing empirical literature on petitionary prayer, incorporating mechanisms of psychological self-correction and rationalization, confirmation bias, and folk physics. We propose that religious believers {\textquoteleft}prefer{\textquoteright} modes of divine action that are subtle and indistinguishable from the natural course of events: given that the causal structure of our world is partly inscrutable, beliefs in subtle and unascertainable modes of supernatural causation will be compelling and cognitively appealing because they are more susceptible to occasional confirmation and less vulnerable to repeated disconfirmation. In other words, believers who request supernatural interventions that are subtle and indistinguishable from the natural course of events will have a better chance of finding themselves in a situation in which they can attribute the events in question to God answering their prayers. We argue that such individual psychological factors play a role in the cultural transmission of prayer practices as well, leading to culturally widespread beliefs in subtle forms of supernatural causation.},
  author       = {Boudry, Maarten and De Smedt, Johan},
  issn         = {0048-721X},
  journal      = {RELIGION},
  keyword      = {cultural transmission,theological incorrectness,psychological self-correction,cognitive science of religion,GOD,TRANSMISSION,KNOWLEDGE,EVOLUTION,RELIGION,petitionary prayer,supernatural causation,divine intervention,epidemiology of religious representations},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {449--469},
  title        = {In mysterious ways: on petitionary prayer and subtle forms of supernatural causation},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0048721X.2011.600464},
  volume       = {41},
  year         = {2011},
}

Altmetric
View in Altmetric
Web of Science
Times cited: