There is as yet no comprehensive theory for understanding people’s relationships with God. What is needed is a single model that ties together the many ways in which people view God in the context of their daily lives: their moment-by-moment perceptions and attributions, feelings, behaviors moving toward (or away from) God and their motivation for doing so. We propose a motivated cognitive system, organized in the species-universal service of meeting environmental demands, and intend to build a computational model of this system to be validated by human data. This system is proposed as a composite of function-specific behavioral systems. The best known of these systems is the attachment behavioral system—research upon which has already shown marked insight into how people conceive their security-based functional relationship with God. But this is one of five proposed systems including also power, exploration, sexuality, and caregiving. We propose that people’s relationship with God may serve to aid evolutionarily adaptive functions for each system. In understanding how each system organizes experience (to its own end) and interacts with other systems we will come to a framework that comprehensively integrates many strands of research on religious cognition.

This work will produce three neural network models of how humans and gods are represented in terms of each of two behavioral systems (attachment and power). The third system integrates both of these systems. The latter two models will be the first of their kind. We will also conduct 2 experiments and 1 state-of-the-art longitudinal study to test these models with human data. In the course of these experiments we will generate a Taxonomy of Prayers and two implicit measures including an implicit measure of Attachment to God, an implicit measure of the Power of God, a Power of God Scale and Presence of God Measure.