Religious Experience – Summary of arguments



We should believe what people say if they usually tell the truth (principle of credulity)

Why? These experiences are not ordinary; people can misunderstand of misinterpret them

But not all do, religious experiences can be the last thing they want or expect

They are often frightening or awesome

They fulfil primitive psychological needs.

And offloads our responsibility on to a higher ‘power’

The feelings are indescribable / loss of self / joy / peace / unity

Some spend their lives trying to recapture the feeling like Sufis in Islam, mystics in Hinduism or Christianity and monastic orders

Drugs and meditation or even illnesses such as epilepsy can induce the same or similar feelings or down to mass hypnosis, hysteria or just plain escapism

They often come unbidden even unwanted

e.g. CS Lewis and Anthony Bloom

Perhaps they are wrongly identified as God; maybe they’re something else

God cannot be bargained with, if he appears to answer a prayer for example we cannot hope to understand why he has and it certainly can’t be at the cost of someone else

Any god who could be communicated with and asked a favour of would not be a god worthy of the name!

Look at the effects on their lives: objective

Not for self-aggrandisement

No concrete proof; subjective

Even if you can explain most away you cannot explain them all

Most can be explained away by logical reasoning

More open-minded, less likely to dismiss it, they know what to look for and recognise it

Generally it’s religious believers who have these experiences

It is more usual to interpret the ‘unknown’ in terms of the ‘known’ and familiar.

The experience is usually within the cultural experience of the experiencer

If God did not exist there wouldn’t be any experiences of him!

God does not exist so therefore these experiences cannot be real, cannot be of God.

None of these arguments would convince a skeptic but can deepen the faith of those it happens to.




If the balance of evidence and probability were able to prove there was no god it would have done so, since it has not the ‘overwhelming testimony of so many millions of people to occasional experiences of God, must be taken as tipping the balance in favour of the existence of God.Swinburne


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