The Cognitive Science of Imagination and Religion


  • Valerie van Mulukom Coventry University



Imagination, religion, cognition, fiction, belief, narrative, parasocial, mentalizing, absorption, creativity


Religion and imagination both deal with what is beyond theempirical here and now. In this article, I will argue that imaginationas a capacity is highly important for the development, maintenance,and evolution of religion and the variety of componentsthat together make a religion: (Religious) belief, religious cognitionbroadly, religious events such as miracles, religious agentssuch as deities, religious rituals and experiences, religious textsand narratives, and finally religious art and creativity. I will arguethat the cognitive science of imagination can crucially shed lighton various aspects of religion that previously may have seemedunrelated, and that in fact, perceiving, remembering, and imaginingmay not be as distinct processes from each other as wemight have thought, and indicate what consequences these suggestionsmay have for beliefs as we understand them.

Author Biography

Valerie van Mulukom, Coventry University

Valerie van Mulukom completed her doctoral studies at the School of Psychology, the University of Auckland, New Zealand in 2014. There, she did work on the cognitive neuroscience of episodic memory and future event imagination. After her PhD, she completed a postdoctoral project at Aarhus University, Denmark, where she investigated the intersection between religious ritual and episodic memory. She then joined the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, where she worked on religion, memory, and group processes as part of the Ritual, Community, and Conflict project. Valerie joined the Brain, Belief, and Behaviour group at CABS, Coventry University, as Research Associate at the beginning of 2016. Research Interests: Belief; Cognitive science of religion; Imagination; Episodic memory; Creativity; Unbelief.


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How to Cite

van Mulukom, V. (2020). The Cognitive Science of Imagination and Religion. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 5(1), 5–20.




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