Examining The Strengths And Weaknesses Of The Argument For The Existence Of God Based On Religious Experience

634 words - 3 pages

A religious experience is an event which brings about an encounter between God and the experient. It is a communication between God and the individual which brings about an overwhelming awareness of God. As a result, the experient may undergo a conversion, may believe they have received a revelation or feel called to fulfil a divine commission or spiritual responsibility. But a question that would arise is whether there are strong grounds that suggest that such experiences prove the existence of God.

There is not just one definitive type of religious experience, there is a variety. They could be coincidental events that are given a religious significance, corporate and private experiences, visionary and auditory experiences, physical experiences (e.g. stigmata), supernatural experiences (beyond the natural order of things) or noetic experiences (revealing new knowledge).

In the early 20th century, a psychologist called William James conducted the first empirical study of religious experience. In his study, he identified four features that categorise a religious experience: Noetic qualities (revealing new knowledge), passivity (experient doesn’t generate the experience himself), transiency (it doesn’t last for a long period of time) and ineffability (cannot be described).

The argument of religious experience as a proof for the existence of God is an inductive, a posteriori argument that arrives at a conclusion which appears to be the best explanation of the evidence. It outlines three premises. The first premise is that an experience of x indicates the reality of x. Which is a general principle based on our experience of the world. The second premise is that it is reasonable, therefore, to assume that experience of God indicates the reality of God. This is an inference drawn from the first premise, x now equals God. The third premise is that people have reported experiences of God. It then concludes that therefore, God has real existence. To question how reliable the argument is, premise one is a...

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