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How Can Religious Experience Be Defined And What Are The Problems Of Defining Religious Experience?

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Introduction

PHILOSOPHY ESSAY: Religious Experience How Can Religious Experience Be Defined And What Are The Problems Of Defining Religious Experience? An experience is any event, which one lives through and of which they are conscious. A Religious experience would also fit this description; the difference is that in the case of religious experience the perceiver takes the experience to be in some way religious or supernatural. Thompson believed that experience was simply raw sensation lasting a millisecond; we understand this sensation as pleasure, pain or neutral feeling. We naturally define an experience though evaluation of the sensation and our personal response. In the case of religious experience we define them because without experience there would be no religion. Most religious people understand their belief in terms of experience. For example, many people who claim to have had a religious experience claim it gave them a deeper understanding of the nature of God and their own sinfulness. People experience God in a number or different ways. Some claim they experience God in a vision or dream, whereas others claim to have witnessed miracle or heard the voice of God. ...read more.

Middle

Therefore we can define numinous experience in terms of Swinburne's forth type of experience. However the problems occur in asking yourself weather an experience should be defined as religious if it is impossible to even describe? A different view is that religious experience is a type of perception. William Alston, for example holds that many experiences of God have the same structure as normal perception. Some think it is strange to talk about religious experience in terms of perception, as it appears that ordinary perception has many important differences from experiences of God. In a normal perceptual experience I can perceive and fully understand that which I perceive; for example, I perceive the table in front of me to be wooden, hard and brown. In this perception I can sense everything about the object that I perceive, however, God has many attributes that are not sensory. For example, in a religious experience the perceiver senses God's love, power and goodness, however these things cannot be sensed in a normal perceptual experience. I cannot sense the 'goodness' of the table in front of me. Alston admits that these properties of God are not sensory. ...read more.

Conclusion

In other words if I were to say that I had seen God it would be up to you to prove that I didn't, however ridiculous my claim may sound. This relates to Proudfoot by saying that any experience is religious if the perceiver believes it to be so. The only exceptions to this rule is if the perceiver has a history of incoherent claims (like the boy who cried Woolf) or if the perceiver were on drugs or had a history of mental problems. Swinburne also says that the other time a perceiver may have to prove his or her experience is if the thing perceived was not actually present at the time. For example, if I saw my friend on a distant platform at a train station you could only deny it was him if you knew he was elsewhere. All of these arguments make it difficult to disprove religious experience. We need to define experience as religious or non-religious in order to better understand religious belief. It is impossible to say that people do not have experiences, which they feel to be religious or supernatural. The important thing is to consider what it is that makes them believe that this is an experience of God or ultimate reality and why. Sam Armstrong Page 1 5/9/2007 ...read more.

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