Give an account of the main types of religious experience.

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Give an account of the main types of religious experience. [35]

Religious Experience is a non-empirical occurrence which may even be perceived as supernatural. It is a “mental-event” which is undergone by an individual, and of which that person is aware – a subjective experience. Such an experience can be spontaneous, or it may be brought about as a result of intensive training and self-discipline. Recipients of religious experiences usually say that what has happened to them has “drawn them into” a deeper knowledge or awareness of God. It is very important to remember that the experience itself is not a substitute for the Divine, but a vehicle that is used to bring people closer to the Divine. The experience that each individual has is absolutely unique and cannot be shared with anyone – they usually find it difficult to describe. In examining the different types of religious experience, a good place to start is prayer.

Prayer includes every kind of inward communion or conversation with the power recognised as Divine. This includes adoration of God (praising God), confession, thanksgiving and petition (asking). Prayer in this wide sense is the very essence of religion – it is prayer which distinguishes the religious phenomenon from other phenomena such as the purely moral. Many religious people claim that through a prayerful life they experience “coincidences” that make it seem that their life is guided, for example George Muller of Bristol who ran an orphanage and lived by prayer – his custom was never to run up bills, not even for a week; his biography reveals the vast number of times when it seemed there would be no food but someone would provide some.
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Another key form of religious experience is conversion. Conversion denotes the changing from one set of beliefs to another. In religious terms a person can convert from one faith to another: from being an atheist to being a theist; from being a believer to a non-believer. Conversion can be a sudden process or a gradual one – often it involves feelings of guilt (a conviction of “sin”), a search for faith, sometimes voices but usually at least some sort of divine communication, and a resulting assurance or feeling of certainty. An example is the Apostle Paul on the ...

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