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Religious experiences present a convincing argument for the existence of God. Analyse this claim? What are the criticisms?

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Introduction

a) What we call religious experience can differ greatly. Some reports exist of supernatural happenings that it would be difficult to explain from a rational, scientific point of view. On the other hand, there also exist the sorts of testimonies that simply seem to convey a feeling or a peace of oneness- something which most of us, religious or not, may possibly relate to. Firstly, I will consider the nature of an experience. Experience involves encounters which are empirical (testable via senses). We draw non- empirical conclusions about many things and people- that they have orange hair and are 5 feet tall, that they are lonely and confused. These conclusions are mainly although not entirely based on empirical evidence. If most our encounters with other people and objects are empirical it is therefore reasonable to suggest that we can experience God and draw conclusions about there nature from this experience. If we can find meaning in things that cannot be verified by empirical evidence then it may well be possible to experience God and use these experiences to prove gods nature and existence. Experiences of god are not regular and universal like ordinary experiences. Religious experiences often accompanies existing belief i.e. takes place with those who are already believers. God is believed first via faith which means that by having a basic framework it'll make you accept religious experiences. It is possible to conclude that it is a learned belief. ...read more.

Middle

His argument was further built on by Caroline Davis 'The Evidence at Force of Religious Experience 1989'. Davis's arguments (supporting religious experiences) seem reasonably convincing if the probability of God's existence is reasonably strong. Swimburne and Davis claim that religious experience succeeds only as a part of an overall probability type approach. The subjectivist view argues that it is not necessary to think of religious experiences as evidence for the existence of an actual being that we call God. From this point of view, the important thing is the experience itself and the effect that it has on the individual (private experiences). The advantage of this view is that it avoids all the trick questions such as 'why doesn't God answer my prayers?' This is because prayer is not seen as an appeal to an external being, but rather a process whereby the person praying may change his or her self. The obvious problem with this is that it almost does away with the idea of God. If all Gods proofs and arguments for existence can be ignored, is this any different to saying that God is only a metaphor for a certain attitude to life? If God just like Father Christmas? In conclusion, the argument from experience to prove the existence of god rests on the view that belief in god is reasonable not because its truth is entailed by a series of premises, but because god can be some how directly encountered or immediately perceived. ...read more.

Conclusion

I felt something guiding me, or someone must be watching me. Thus presuming the encounter to be from a good source. We are using human centred ethical criteria of good in order to interpret the religious experience positively. But it could be the case that people are actually being deceived by an evil spirit and being led astray. Why is it that people presume that good things come from good sources? Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus may contend that their experience of the goodness of god concurs with the testimony of their scripture, but then we are faced with the issue of which god is being experienced by the different believers. They all cannot be having a religious experience of their god. This then takes us back to the notion that religious experiences are shadowed by ones culture/ tradition and therefore human rather than divinely centred. To conclude, I believe claiming a religious experience as a proof for the existence of god creates more questions and problems than it seeks to answer. Furthermore, sceptics may state that the fact one claims to have had a religious experience does not mean that god exists. Just because a person believes god is there (epistemology) does not mean that God is actually there (ontology). You need something more than the 'feeling' of religious experience for the verification of this. The argument may form a part of a proof but it often combines with other proofs, the argument is not sufficient alone. 1 The Puzzle of God page 101 Philosophy of Religion: Religious Experience 1 ...read more.

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