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Assess whether religious experience demonstrates the existence of God?

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Introduction

Assess Whether Religious Experience Demonstrates the Existence of God Religious experience can be dissected into different varieties. Alvin Plantinga argued that everyday experiences such as the sun rising should constitute as a religious experience as the sun rising is so inspirational and conjures up religious belief out of awe. Some would argue that miracles or extraordinary occurrences are proof of God's existence. If one was to view a man turning water into wine one would see it as spectacular and possible cause religious belief. Both miracles and everyday occurrences are public experiences as they can be witnessed by anyone; however there are more private/personal religious experiences. Dreams and visions, such as St. Paul on the road to Damascus (where he heard the voice of Jesus), only apply to the person visualising them. These are also used as religious experiences if you heard the voice of Jesus it would obviously be considered a religious event. There is also the ongoing feeling that God is around you, he is guiding you through life, and this again is indescribable but rational justification for the theist as it connects to the idea of God's omnipresence. Finally there are also mystical experience as William James explained them these are ineffable (cannot be put into words) ...read more.

Middle

This is the argument of John Baillie; he argued that religious experience is not just justification for God's existence but the ultimate justification. Sceptics would reply how do you know it is God? How do you know you did not simply see and old man with a beard? Unless you have seen God before you do not know what he/she looks like. Some would argue that you need an agreed method of identifying God, if no such method has been agreed then you cannot truly say you have seen God. Also if God is transcendent of humans and surpasses them in every way then surely we cannot relate to him/her. We don't even know if God is a physical entity to be seen. Brian Davies response to the sceptic's argument is despite not having an identification method that is inconsequential, something may be the case even though it does not conform to the testing method, someone can still be intelligent despite getting a U in all their exams. A religious experience can still be justification for God's existence despite not being satisfying any a priori testing method. John Hick presented the argument that our interpretations of events all differ. ...read more.

Conclusion

On an ordinary level religious experience can justify the existence of God but on a philosophical level it cannot, one cannot claim religious experience to be an objective truth in philosophy, but in ordinary life it is a personal matter and provides justification for God's existence on a personal level. This is similar to what William James said in his work "Varieties of Religious Experience" he believed that religious experience was a very personal matter and is impossible to verbalise but can be used as self justification for God's existence. He also stated that philosophy is useless in trying to prove a religion true but can show up obvious errors. One must also note that Swinburne, Alston and Davies arguments are not really proving the credibility of religious experience but simply defending it against sceptic's attack. Personally I feel this is fine, why should the recipient of a religious experiences have to prove themselves, however I do feel some of Swinburne's and Davies arguments to defend religious experience are not sufficient. To conclude I feel the sceptics are right in dismissing religious experience on a philosophical level, but as many previous philosophers have highlighted (such as G.E.Moore) scepticism cannot be applied to ordinary life. ?? ?? ?? ?? Assess Whether Religious Experience Demonstrates the Existence of God 1 By Thomas Hannah ...read more.

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