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Analyse the key concepts of religious experience as an argument for the existence of God and evaluate the view that this argument supports the probability of the existence of God.

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Introduction

Analyse the key concepts of religious experience as an argument for the existence of God and evaluate the view that this argument supports the probability of the existence of God. (40) The phenomenon of religious experience is described as contact between an individual and a transcendental reality. For many, such direct experience provides definite proof for the existence of God, so that the argument in this form is certainly a posteriori. Religious experiences are varied in both form and intensity, and are largely seen as positive and subjective; that is, such encounters are open to individual interpretation. Most are termed as 'mystical' in that there is an element of spiritual recognition of truths beyond normal understanding involved. Experiences including prayer to life-changing conversion are grouped under this category, and indeed there have been many famous examples throughout history. Most forms of religious experience are referred to as 'mystical'. ...read more.

Middle

James recognised through his work the importance of separating genuine experiences to those perhaps induced by consumption of alcohol or drugs, since after taking such the mystic feels a greater depth of understanding, leaving a profound feeling even when the effects have faded. However, at a similar time to James, F.C. Happold claimed that rather than establishing set criteria to identify religious experiences, it would be more sensible to provide a context in which to think about them. In his book 'Mysticism - A Study and an Anthology', he divides experiences in to two groups: those of love and union, and those of knowledge and understanding. By setting out a context in which we might consider different religious experiences, we are aiming therefore to prove the validity of such incidences. The main problem for using them as an argument for the existence of God is the problem of validation. ...read more.

Conclusion

Consequently, religious experience would have to be found to be life-enhancing to be worth of our credence. In other words, a genuine religious experience would need to affect the individual in a positive, life-enhancing way. Another key weakness in using religious experience to prove God is the fact that such incidences will always be subjective; that is, they are open to interpretation and this interpretation will vary from person to person. No objective criteria can be applied to them in order to judge their merit or authenticity. While one person may interpret the need to convert and indeed do so, another person may not do so. It would seem then that religious experience as an argument for the existence of God is only applicable for the individual concerned, and may well do much to strengthen the existing faith of the believer, as highlighted by C.S. Evans. However, it is perhaps appropriate to conclude that the argument is probably of value to the non-believer only in as much as it points to another area of human life that might involve a divine being. ...read more.

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