God, Language and Diversity: Spiritual Flourishing in Neurodiverse and Multilingual Communities

Project: Standard

Project Details


Partners and collaborators: University of Leeds (lead), University of St Andrews, University of Edinburgh, University of Aberdeen, University of Cambridge, LaTrobe University (Australia).

Primary investigator: Dr Joanna Leidenhag
Co-investigators: Dr Hannah Nash, Dr James Eglinton, Dr Daniel Mirman, Dr Thomas Bak, Dr John Perry, Dr Leon van Ommen, Dr Katy Unwin, Prof Napoleon Katsos, Dr Daniel Weiss

Project Description: The use of language pervades every aspect of life within the Judeo-Christian faith traditions. The importance of language inreligion and ethics is well known, but the remarkable diversity of languages and types of speakers within  religious communities has been overlooked. Such neglect undermines current understanding because linguistic diversity is at the heart of many religious practices (e.g., using multiple languages in worship, training participants to interpret texts in unusual ways, and violating norms of communication to speak with a transcendent God). Implicit with such practices is the intriguing idea that linguistic diversity increases our ability to speak faithfully to and about God and that a linguistically diverse community is more likely to be a spiritually flourishing community.

This project investigates the relationship between linguistic diversity, religious language, and human flourishing by bringing together ten theologians, psychologists, and cognitive scientists to run five distinct, but coordinated, research projects. The project reaches across religious divides by including two Jewish, five Christian, and three agnostic researchers.

Together we will answer two big questions:

1) How does linguistic and cognitive diversity affect humanity’s ability to conceptualise and represent God in the Judaeo-Christian tradition?

(2) How do minority speakers thrive in religious communities, and what does this reveal about the relationship between language and human flourishing? The new methods and discoveries made will result in academic and popular-level publications, presentations at conferences and major science festivals, videos and a podcast series.

These outputs will inspire equal interdisciplinary collaborations between scientists and theologians and increase the flourishing of minority language users within religious communities. This project will make it impossible for credible research into religious language to again overlook the role that linguistic diversity places in the life of faith.

Effective start/end date1/03/2430/11/26


  • John Templeton Foundation: £256,958.00


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