Mackie goes onto to say in Theology and Falsification that if people from all different faiths have had a RE in which they use to try to prove that God exists, then they cannot all be right. Do we believe the Christian that says they saw Jesus or the Hindu that says they saw Brahma? A universalist approach to this would contradict the religious teachings of the religions respectively. Although, counter-arguments state that it’s all culturally based. Just because people cannot agree on what this higher being is, it does not mean that there is not a higher being at all.
There are also psychological explanations for religious experiences. For instance, Hobbes says that, “when a man tells me he has experienced God in a dream, he is telling me that he has dreamt he saw God”. Dreams, arguably, are only illusions of the mind and can be used as a coping mechanism with the outside world. Therefore, what the dreamer considers to be a RE is actually only a figment of their imagination. Freud draws attention to our need to have a “father figure” and that belief in God is merely “a security blanket”. This ties with Starbuck’s study of conversion in which he finds many teenagers and young adults, the most common age period to convert, go through anxiety and depression before finding a “happy relief” in religion and belief of God. This suggests that religious believers take a deductive approach to arguing the existence of God as they want God to exist and therefore, they use religious experiences as evidence.
Furthermore, Hume says, “there is no instance in which the best explanation is simply God did it”. Religious experiences can be explained using physiology - in particular, disabilities. In regards with Saul’s conversion, it has been argued that his RE was intact a temporal lobe epileptic fit. His experience of seeing a bright light, falling to the ground and hearing a voice matches the criteria of it. There also seems to be an increase of religious experiences in girls and men during their times of hormonal changes and therefore, this links back to Russells point about our senses deceiving us due to our altered state of minds. On the other hand, it is argued that having a disability or going through hormonal changes does not necessarily exclude someone from communicating with God.
Marx criticises religious experiences as he states that “religion is the opium of the people” because it’s a means of social control. This follows on from Freud as he explains that religion is a comfot zone for the poor to deal with their oppression by giving them false semblance of meaning and fulfilment and an apparatus for the privileged to manipulate the poor and keep them under control. Considering that all major world religions are based on religious experiences, if religion is claimed to be invalid then this denounces religious experiences too.
Overall, religious experiences cannot solely serve as evidence for the existence of God. Empirical evidence can be unreliable and therefore, claims cannot be taken as facts. As previously stated by Freud and Marx, religion is personal and subjective and therefore, the use of religious experiences as evidence for God should not be rejected completely. This is because many people have become theists or more religious as a result of their RE and therefore, it succeeds as personal evidence.