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Religious Experience is a construct of the mind - Discuss

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Introduction

'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.

Middle

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.

Conclusion

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.

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