• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Religious Experience is a construct of the mind - Discuss

Extracts from this document...


'Religious experience is a construct of the mind' Discuss. Religious experience can be viewed in five different categories: vision experiences, voice experiences, corporate experiences, conversion experiences and numinous experiences. The claim above suggests that all forms of religious experience are created by the mind; this view is a psychological view and is adopted most notoriously by Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that religion is an illusion and an expression of people desires coming from a persons psychological needs. He believed that Religion is rooted in a childlike desire for a father-like figure such as God. Applying this to a religious experiences such as Paul on the Road to Demascus; Freud would say his experience of the 'bright light' and Jesus, were constructed by his mind as a result of his psychological needs. Freud could suggest that the conversion from Saul to Paul was a result of Saul lacking a fully supportive upbringing from his parents, hence why his mind created the experience to direct him to righteousness. However, there is little scientific evidence of the subconscious to support Freud's claims of the subconscious and deem 'nurture' as an explanation for all religious experiences. On the other hand, William James did believe in religious experience. ...read more.


He said that religious experiences are caused by desperate situations, not God, believing that the origins of the experiences root back to the church. For Marx, religious experiences are not constructed by the mind. Instead, he believed the church constructed a mythological religion, which by implication caused oppressed people to have experiences of God. However, evidence in history conflicts with Marx's view of religion. For example, in the American civil rights movement, it was the Baptist church of Martin Luther King Jr, which pushed for liberation - not oppression. Equally in scripture, the story of Paul on the road to Demascus demonstrates how religious experience could lead to the 'good', in the way Saul was changed to a good man, Paul. This show's that Marx's wholesome condemnation of religion is flawed, in addition to this, there's no evidence to suggest the communist philosophy makes people happier. Alternatively, Alston argued how the views of sociologists and psychologists are unfair to reject religious experience. He'd have said it was unfair to say religious experiences were a constructed by the mind. Alston said in life evidence is what you can gain from experience. For example, if you heard a bird sing, or saw a red car, these would be vouched for by sensory evidence, and people would believe you. ...read more.


For example, there are some drugs such as LSD that can cause delusion and hallucinations, as can brain tumours. Another idea is that epilepsy or brain damage can cause experiences; epilepsy could explain Paul's account of a bright light. However, there's no evidence that everybody who has had a religious experience has some physiological explanation. In the corporate example of the Toronto Blessing, could all of the people at the airport have had epilepsy? The physiological challenges could be described as a defect of the body causing the religious experiences to be instead a construct of the brain, rather than a construct of the mind. The debate on whether religious experiences are valid and meaningful, or whether they're constructed or nurtured is ongoing. The psychological, sociological and physiological views are the main objections to religious experience. All viewing the experiences are either: constructed from a childhood deprivation, a result of the churches' construction of religion or, an implication of a physiological defect. Whilst, both Alston and Swinburne suggest there's no compelling evidence not to believe people. Swinburne even says, only religious people would recognise a religious experience for what it is, and the objectors are ignorant. On the other hand, William James takes a middle-ground and recognises that psychology could explain religious experiences. Claiming, the experiences derivation in psychology is evidence that religious experience is 'natural' and coordinated by God. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Philosophy essays

  1. God is most clearly revealed to humanity through scripture. Discuss

    Non-Proposionalists believe we should interpret the stories within the bible to properly understand them as they are often written with symbolism and maybe metaphorical.

  2. Religious Experience - Edexel A2

    Despite C F Davis rejecting this argument, by saying that it is not easy to distinguish between an experience and its interpretation, it remains an important criticism for religious experience. In Verities of Religious Experience, William James says: "Religion, therefore, as I ask you to take it, shall mean for

  1. Assess the view that the different forms of religious experience are nothing more than ...

    His parents took part in strange and disturbing practises such as when they sacrificed a goat and drank its blood. At a very young age Cruz tried to commit suicide and at 15 he was sent to live with his older brother in New York.

  2. "Religious Language is meaningless." Discuss.

    Statements like "God is my rock" are meant to be taken metaphorically, not literally. However, this metaphor may be able to express a truth about the believer's dependence on God. However, there are some religious statements such as "God is wise" and "God is alive," that presumably are not meant to be taken metaphorically.

  1. Discuss the suggestion that it is pointless to analyse religious experience

    If there is no obvious event, instead of discounting the experience, many religious believers would find another meaning or an insignificant event that only serves the experience rather than the other way round. Richard Swinburne, with his 'principle of credulity' and 'principle of testimony' perfectly exemplify the previous point.

  2. A Critical Analysis of Lao Tzu's Tao Teh Ching - Chineses philosophy.

    But if such one does not laugh at it, The Tao would not be the Tao!"26 This type of ad hominem argument would be totally unacceptable in Western philosophy, because we strive for reasons to believe something, and uphold the view that the truth value of some belief is not related of mine or somebody else's reaction to it.

  1. Evaluate the claim that corporate religious experience is no more than an illusion

    to as Holy Laughter), speaking in tongues (unintelligible to those hearing this), moving and make noises resembling animals and uncontrollable weeping. Among Pentecostal congregations, similar emotions and actions are evoked at religious rallies, where thousands of Christians congregate and are healed by a pastor who claims to have the power of the Holy Spirit within him.

  2. Philosophers have proved conclusively that religious language is meaningful. Discuss

    Logical positivists only accepted two forms of verifiable language; analytical propositions ( a priori), knowledge is gained through logical reasoning. These definitions are true by definition, e.g. ?all bachelors are unmarried?. We know this to be true because bachelor means that a man is unmarried.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work