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Examine the argument from religious experience for the existence of God. To what extent does it support the probability of God?

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Introduction

Examine the argument from religious experience for the existence of God. To what extent does it support the probability of God? Richard Swinburne summarises religious experience for many by saying, '...experience of God or some other supernatural thing'. Others would state that it is simply an experience of something beyond themselves. On the other hand, William James's focus is on the individual, taking the route of a psychologist to determine the validity of an experience. However it is defined, the topic of religious experience has been under scrutiny for centuries, with records of experiences dating back to before 'Christ'; for example the burning bush in the Bible. However the evidence in place from those times appears to be on the same level as it is today. So are religious experiences real, and do they support the idea of God? The two main types of religious experience are special revelation and general revelation. Special being when people think/feel that God has made Himself known to them directly, perhaps through visions, dreams, prayer, miraculous healing, conversion or charismatic phenomena. General revelation is where people think/feel that God is revealing Himself indirectly to them. This is normally through the beauty of nature, although it could also be through things like religious writings and moreover in other people. ...read more.

Middle

Thirdly, if an experience is transcient then it cannot be tested. With the forth classification, James has jumped to an assumption, because even if passivity may indicate the presence of another being it does not have to be God. As just explained religious experiences tend to be out of the ordinary as people describe being in the presence of an awesome power. Religious experiences more often have positive feedback, encouraging people to better themselves as they've had an awakening past the realms of our material world. Being a very individual and personal experience which seems to be somewhat unique for everyone, it is difficult for the individual to explain the experience. This leads to difficulties in checking the validity of the experience. With these ideas in mind we can now discuss the argument that religious experiences can be used as evidence for the existence of God. This topic has been debated for centuries, gathering attention from many philosophers whose views I will be using to support both sides of this argument. Supporters of this argument include Brian Davies and Richard Swinburne. Davies approaches this argument very open mindedly, with the view that "the claim might be correct", so "it is at least possible". Swinburne's approach is very much more one sided, "should accept... ...read more.

Conclusion

Furthermore, psychologists have raised questions by examining the mental explanations to experiencing revelations, etc. The human mind is so powerful that it is possible that one could simply conjure a vision or revelation, and with the knowledge about the human mind increasing all the time, this view is becoming more popular with scientists. Freud shares this view as he feels that religious experiences are illusions associated with repressed sexual memories and interest in religion is a psychological obsession. Whereas Feuerbach feels that people invent religion as a crutch as they are dissatisfied with their actual lives. He also influenced Marx, who had the view that religion is used by the capitalist class to control people and maintain the status quo. He also believes that religious experiences are a person's conscious or unconscious choice that reflects the person's needs or desires. After studying both the strengths and weaknesses of this argument, I have come to the conclusion that "religious experiences" fail to convince me. As previously stated, they are unable to produce empirical evidence, some are vague, even in classification, and they are unreliable to be tested as they oppose all the rules of nature. The fact that there are more weaknesses than strengths means we cannot reliably validate religious experiences, and therefore they cannot be given as solid valid evidence for the existence of God. ...read more.

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