Analyse the key strengths for the arguments of the existence of God based on Religious Experience. Evaluate the view that the weaknesses leads to its rejection

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Analyse the key strengths for the arguments of the existence of God based on Religious Experience. Evaluate the view that the weaknesses leads to its rejection

A religious experience can be defined simply as an encounter with the divine. It is a non – empirical occurrence that brings with it an awareness of something beyond ourselves. For believers an experience may be the most convincing proof of the existence of god - “God establishes himself in the interior of this soul in such a way, that when I return to myself, it is wholly impossible for me to doubt that I have been in God and God in me” (Saint Teresa). It is very hard to divide these experiences as it is hard to find a common theme from the variety of examples but perhaps the simplest properties to separate these are direct experiences (the person having the experience feels that he/she is in contact with God) and indirect experiences (inner experience of God’s action in creation/immanence. A more complex way of splitting experiences into categories is put forward by Caroline Frank Davis who uses seven different groups including awareness experiences (seeing the work of God in the world), quasi-sensory experiences (having a vision/inner experience of God) and regenerative experiences (conversion experience). There does however, seem to be some common themes, for example, inner peace, certainty that things will work out for the good, sense of need to help others and great emotional intensity. Many philosophers move from the idea of religious experience to the existence of God due to these being his work in the world, the complexities of this argument will be more clearly examined in the next paragraph. Clearly from all the different categories, the subject of religious experience is a diverse and subjective one, to what extents do the weaknesses of this argument lead to its rejection?

The argument takes the form that experience of X indicates the reality of X, experience of God indicates the reality of God, it is possible to experience God and therefore God exists (ie is really present). This faces many criticisms; an example is Ayre who maintains moving from an individual asserting a religious emotion to the existence of a transcendent being who is the object of that emotion is logically flawed. Further criticism of this goes on to say that experience of X only “indicates” the reality – not proven, Vardy uses the example of if someone said they experienced a UFO would you believe it was real? Ludwig Wittgenstein uses the notion of seeing-as; some people think they experienced God yet others that saw or experienced the same thing would think that it wasn’t (for example, Hare’s lunatic don who believes that all his colleagues want to hill him). If this premise is open to misapprehension therefore, the second is even more ambiguous as an experience of the divine faces more uncertainty. In summary, the argument only indicates a “probable” reality of God.

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In retaliation to this, the thesis of Ockham’s razor may be implied whereby the simplest answer is often the true answer and should therefore be assumed upon. Using this theory would allow us to believe that the argument is in fact logical.

The strengths of the argument can be simplified into three main arguments sub-headed “similarities of experience”, “quantity of experience” and “effects of experience”. Through these arguments philosophers aim to prove the existence of God through religious experience.

The argument from similarities of experience is also known as the inductive argument. If we look at testimonies of ...

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