2002 Religious experience answer

2 a) ‘Religious experience presents a convincing argument for the existence of God.’ Analyse this claim. [12]

Analysis of the claim that the argument based on religious experience is a convincing argument for the existence of God e.g. could draw on any number of versions of this argument but requires argument not just an account of religious experience e.g. similarities between principle of credulity in empirical context transferred to claims about experience of God including ideas about testimony.

What is religious experience? Rudolf Otto – the idea of the holy.

What forms does it take? Conversion, mystical,

Features? William James …

Give some examples? Real people.

What are the problems with it – objectivity and subjectivity?

What is the basis of it as an argument? Premise 1, 2, Conclusion…(see page 1 of pack)

Can it be regarded as an argument at all? Probability and proof? Principles of credulity and testimony (Richard Swinburne)?

Common elements?

Effect on the person’s life?


In what respects may this be the most persuasive argument of all? (personal experience not second-hand)


2 b) Discuss the criticisms of this argument. [8]

Discuss criticisms such as reasons to doubt the notions of credulity / testimony such as their applicability to religion; issues about the interpretation of experience; alternative explanations to religious experience etc.

The nature of experience in general, the cognitive and affective.

Is it really God? If not what else could it be?

Why are they interpreted as religious?

How are they different from other forms of experience?

What else could they be?

Why might people want to claim them as religious?

How could they be judged – by what criteria? Objective? Subjective?

What is your overall opinion?


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