Is religious experience the ultimate argument for the existence of God?
It is regarded by theists as the ultimate argument because it is so personal and convincing that it gives experients an utter conviction that what they have experienced is real and that it is of God therefore there is no doubt that God exists for them.
Why is it regarded as so important? Think of it in comparison with other arguments.
It is regarded as so because rather than being cognitive, rational and a priori it is affective, a posteriori and a direct appeal to the emotions. Anyone who has one of these experiences will be utterly convinced and no amount of persuasion will convince them otherwise. As Swinburne said ‘a personal God will be expected to interact with his creatures’ therefore we should expect these experiences.
What does religious experience actually succeed in doing?
Religious experience succeeds in convincing the individual experient and imparting a very special form of knowledge but in no way is any of this verifiable.
What kind of knowledge does it impart?
The kind of knowledge it imparts is a deeply personal insight into God’s nature; experients ‘just know’ that what they have experienced is God. It is knowledge of rather than knowledge about.
What is an inner conviction? What is it distinct from?
An inner conviction is an emotional commitment or total faith in the correctness of whatever it is that is believed. It is distinct from knowledge based on factual observation
Why is ‘just knowing’ a risky business?
Just knowing is a risky business if it is not founded on fact because it can lead to evil or misguided actions.
What kinds of things do we just know? Are we justified?
Some claim to just know that ghosts exist, UFOs or aliens are real, in psychic powers, in the existence of the soul, in reincarnation, NDEs and lots more (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in fairies and in the spirit realm!)
What is the problem with ‘just knowing’? Examples…
Peter Sutcliffe (The Yorkshire Ripper) believed God told him to kill prostitutes. Suicide bombers believe that they are right and have God on their side. Bush believed God told him to go to war on Iraq in 2003. Hitler just knew Jews were an inferior race. Muslim martyrs believe they will be rewarded in Paradise with 72 virgins… enugh said!
Do you agree with his suggestion that to have ‘no doubts at all’ may not be ‘sound thinking’?
Yes! Even Dawkins on his scale of 1-7 didn’t think people could claim to be total atheists but equally couldn’t claim to ‘know’ God exists beyond dispute!
Why do believers think they are a special case? Are they?
You need to think of an answer here; post in the comments with your own answer!