How far does Swinburne’s argument for the existence of God based on religious experience succeed in overcoming the challenges to it?

Richard Swinburne developed an argument that argued for the existence of God through religious experience as he argued ‘on our total evidence, theism is more probable than not’. However he doesn’t completely base his proof for god on religious experience but takes an accumulative approach as he also a number of other approaches such as the design argument and cosmological argument etc. There are still, as with most augments for the existence of god, many challenges made to this argument and Swinburne addresses some of them in order to try and overcome them.

Swinburne begins his argument with his definition of a religious experience and then goes on to split his  argument into two area, the principle of credulity and the principle of testimony. He defines a religious experience as ‘an experience which seems…to the subject to be an experience of god (either of his just being there, or doing or bringing about something) or of some other supernatural thing.’ (Richard Swinburne, The Existence of God 1991). This definition is therefore saying that a religious experience does not have to invole God himself to be accepted as a religious experience but it can invole other religious figures such as the Virgin Mary for example.

The Principle of testimony deals with what people tell us and works along the rational idea the people generally tell the truth. He argues that we usually believe what other people tell us has happened to them because they say it happened and we have no reason not to. However as the case may be in some circumstances there may be a reason not to follow this principle, such as when positive grounds show the testimony to be mistaken. If this is the case then the testimony can not be considered to be one of an authentic religious experience and will have no value in proving Gods existence. The testimonies that don’t have positive grounds for dismissal however they will be classed as authentic and will be usable in demonstrating the existence of god.

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The Principle of credulity says that what we perceive is usually the case and that ‘this is what I experienced and you must believe my unless you can prove it did not’. This concept goes against what is generally demanded at this time, that everything must be proved first empirically before it is accepted at fact. The idea of religious experience is rejected by many people as they are skeptics and therefore simply don’t believe that what he person says happened did actually happen in that way or even happen at all and they or say that the person ...

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