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"A religious experince is a sponatnious or induced,mental event over which the recepient has relatively little control

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"Religious experiences are all in the mind of the believer." Discuss "A religious experience is a spontaneous or induced mental event over which the recipient has relatively little control. It is often accompanied with the gaining of certain knowledge and the experience is always unique."1 Elton Trueblood's definition of a religious experience is very broad, including any experience of feelings of 'love, power, glory or strength from God.' This differs from a simple experience which can be defined as "an event or series of events participated in or lived through, especially one that makes a powerful impression on the mind and sense."2 It is obvious that religious experiences are all in the mind of a believer because a non- believer is capable of arguing against their existence and what people perceive to be a religious experience is just simply an experience or merely a 'coincidence' as Holland would state. This view is supported by Freud who takes a psychological approach and perceives religious experiences to be "a reaction to a hostile world."3 Furthermore Freud believes we feel helpless and seek a father figure, thus we create God, who satisfies our needs. Personally, I perceive God to be transcendent; "having existence outside the universe,"4 which supports my view that religious experiences do not exist, because God cannot intervene with our world. Religious experiences can be interpersonal, for example a numinous experience involving a sense of an awesome power which you are separate from. Alternatively they can be personal, like a mystical experience that includes a personal involvement with God such as a vision or trance. Religious experiences are very much a private matter rather than a public one, and it is not possible therefore to check someone else's religious experience. ...read more.


Intellectual conversions involve conflicts between two systems of thought, and can often result in the new thought being 'true' and the old one as 'false'; this can either be from one religion to another or to or from a religious system of thought. Intellectual conversions clearly provide no evidence for the existence of religious experiences because as human beings we question everything and therefore our thoughts are continually changing. It is highly unlikely that when experiencing an intellectual conversion even theists would not claim to experience feelings of 'love, power, glory or strength from God' as Elton Trueblood defined religious experiences. These types of conversions could realistically occur on a daily basis and this therefore does not fit the description of religious experiences being irregular unique and rare. Professor James H. Leuba (1868-1946) views religious life as "almost purely moral."11 A moral conversion involves a change in one's lifestyle rather than a system of thought, as an intellectual conversion does. The story of 'Swearing Tom' as told by Robert H. Thouless provides an example of a moral conversion. Moral conversions are more plausible as an example of a religious experience because religion can affect and change your life and therefore it follows that a religious experience would have a similar effect. Thus moral conversions provide credible support for the existence of religious experiences. Finally, a social conversion consists of a conversion taking place slowly in the subconscious followed by a rapid and sudden conscious experience, alternatively described as a "subconscious incubation'" by William James.12 - an example being the type of conversion witnessed by St Paul on the road to Damascus. A social conversion experience is very similar to that of a moral conversion, as it likewise causes change. ...read more.


Religious experiences consequently do not exist and therefore solely exist in the mind of the believer. For theists, religious experiences strengthen their beliefs and provide further proof for the existence of God, who they claim provided them with their religious experiences. However as these experiences are often personal, the claims rely solely on the individual's testimony, which can often cause difficulties in terms of reliability. For example, St Bernadette testified that she had seen and spoken to the Virgin Mary; others who witnessed the 'experience' stated they only saw her talking to an unseen 'someone'. In such circumstances it is impossible to obtain any form of empirical evidence, causing others to argue such claims are either a 'coincidence,' as suggested by Holland, or simply an 'experience.' Moreover, a theist would always be seeking and hoping for any form of communication with God, and as a result may interpret a regular and daily experience, such as a sunset, as a religious one, in order to subconsciously ensure themselves of their beliefs. Whereas an atheist would simply interpret a sunrise as an 'experience.' Finally in many cases, drugs or alcohol can produce very similar effects to a religious experience. In The Varieties of Religious Experience, (1902) James refers to experiments using nitrous oxide and anaesthetics, and suggests when mixed sufficiently with air, these substances 'stimulate the mystical consciousness to an extraordinary degree.' Therefore scientific evidence has proved that such experiences, similar to those of religious ones, can be caused due to substances. Even though there have been many claims of different types of religious experiences, these problems of verification clearly demonstrate that they are a fabrication of the mind. In conclusion I continue to share and maintain a similar belief to Freud; namely that religious experiences are 'all in the mind of the believer. ...read more.

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