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corporate religious experience such as the toronto blessing tell us nothing about god

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Introduction

"Corporate religious experience such as the "Toronto Blessing" tells us nothing about God" Discuss This essay demands an examination of what corporate religious experience is and a discussion focused on whether such experiences can tell us anything about God. It is only possible for such experiences to tell us anything about God, if they are real and genuine experiences of God. However, even if someone is willing to accept that corporate religious experiences are genuine experiences of God, what if anything do they tell us about God? Do they tell us about Gods' nature, his intentions or his relationship with human beings? Do they reveal anything to anyone, beyond the people who actually experienced them firsthand? I am going to begin by addressing the issue of 'The Toronto Blessing' as a type of corporate religious experience. After all, people who behave in the ways described in the Toronto Blessing e.g. laughing hysterically, crying, leaping, and blabbering language that can't be understood, would in a non religious setting, be viewed as suffering from some type of mental illness or hysteria. A Corporate Religious Experience is a particular type of religious experience that is characterised by being a shared experience. More than one person claims to have experienced the phenomena at the same time. Habel defined religious experience as "The structured way in which a believer enters into a relationship with or gains an awareness of the sacred within the context of a particular religious tradition" Applying Habel's definition to Corporate Religious experience, people have an awareness of 'the sacred' in groups and at the same time. In "The existence of God" (1979) Richard Swinburne identified five different types of religious experience in which people believe they experience God. And it's the fifth type which can be used to classify the Toronto blessing i.e. "In perceiving a very unusual public object" (e.g. a miracle such as the resurrection or perhaps events at the Toronto Vineyard Church) ...read more.

Middle

and are said to be by permission of God."2 It is said to be a 'non-empirical occurrence', but all forms of religious experience are life changing. Corporate religious experience such as the Toronto Blessing involves a large number of people all having a shared religious experience. William James identified four characteristics of what a religious experience entails in his book "The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902)", he said an experience should have, "Noetic quality" - that is the experience should give some insight into meaningful truths acquired though intuition and is often said to be "revealed". It should be "Ineffabile" - that is the experience cannot be described using everyday language - it is beyond words. It should be transient - the religious experience may have only lasted a couple of hours but the effects can last a lifetime (for example the conversion of Saul) Passivity - the experience is out of control of the person, people can appear possessed and behaviour, bizarre. James suggested there was a "two - way traffic" with religious experiences and outlined four "fruits" of religious experience - he said the experience should leave the person with an awareness of something beyond the trivial, material world and left feeling elated. They feel they have come into contact with a benevolent, omnipotent power, to which they self-surrender. After the experience their life moves towards a more spiritual, morally aware state, characterised by a sense of wonder at the universe. In the Toronto Church, worshippers were certainly left feeling elated and surrendered themselves spiritually these "manifestations" (some people claim they surrender themselves to similar techniques to those used by hypnotists) Teresa of Avlia (1515-1582) provided a "protocol" for identifying religious experiences and verifying their authenticity she said, "The experiences should be kept within the traditions of the church", "the experience should be discussed with a spiritual advisor (to be taken seriously)", "There should be some sort of change in the life of the person" (transciency). ...read more.

Conclusion

Freud believed the mind creates the illiusion that is religion of a way of dealing with the dangers of the outside world. For Freud religion was a neurotic illness arising out of the unconscious mind caused by repressed sexual neuroses. Karl Marx would also dismiss the experiences, believing that religion was "the opium of the people" - nothing more than a sedative to keep the people under control Although it is clear the movement has had a tremendous impact, is it the result of the Holy Spirit or hypnotism? Clark simply exploited the gulliability of the public, employing techniques used by cults to just "let the experience happen" or even bully them into experience the blessing? If God is responsible for such manifestations, what does this tell us about the nature of God? If God was responsible I believe this would be evidence for a rather neurotic God, possibly a God who would rather waste his power by granting demonic manifestations to believers to prove his power (even though "thought shall not test the Lord"), than curing suffering not so much in humanity but in animals and in nature, (human suffering is the price of free will). Manifestations from the Toronto Blessing do not conform with the traditional concept of God. By stepping back from the Blessing it is clear to see why we have the initial reaction of uneasiness, the blessing rests on faulty ideas about how God operates in the universe. It would be vary rare to find any Christian movement, no matter how controversial, from which no good as come and the Blessing is no exception, for what ever reason, people are feeling rejuvenated, emotionally cleansed and physically healed. We will probably never know if these so called "fruits" associated with the Blessing simply a spiritual placebo effect, or whether there has been some sort of divine intervention Should the non-believer simply dismiss the claims as some form of mass hysteria? If the blessing brings happiness to people does it really matter what caused such feelings? - I don't think so. ...read more.

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