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Georgia Lofts

Georgia Lofts


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About Me:I am a final year student studying BioMedical Science. I am interested in a wide range of topics but particularly like to focus on Biology, Pharmaceuticals, Chemistry, Art, Philosophy and Ethics.

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Criticisms of Religious Experience claims

Criticisms of Religious Experience claims

There are various objections to the statement ‘I can know there is a God because I have encountered him.’ Atheists would argue that experience cannot be a valid argument for the existence of God as you cannot physically prove it; it could be a person's imagination. The finite cannot experience the infinite, therefore it is impossible to experience God. A situation which may appear to be a religious experience to a believer may be an ordinary occurrence to an atheist. Hume says, ‘There is no instance in which the best explanation is simply God did it.’ If the Principle of Credulity says we should accept what people say if they say they have had a religious experience, then we should also accept conflicting arguments.

     Religious arguments are subjective; a religious believer may perceive something completely different to how an atheist might. Vardy says experience is often mistaken identity, misinterpretation or hallucination. Atheists believe a supernatural being cannot exist and will say that an experience is either misinterpreted or that something is going on in that person’s brain - perhaps that they are under the influence of drugs or there is physical damage in the brain. As Vardy says, ‘things are not what they seem’ - our senses deceive us. However, this argument against religious experience could also be used in favour of it. Things could be happening in the world that we are not aware of because our senses are not focused on it, one may not notice God’s works across the world. Using the principle of credulity and testimony, one must be wary of someone who is consuming drugs or is a notorious liar.

     A major weakness for religious experience arguments is the psychological challenge as there are too many reasons for doubting. Freud argues that the mind creates an illusion as part of its attempt to deal with the outside world, religion is a ‘universal obsessional neurosis.’ Many people turn to religion in the fear of a chaotic and frightening world, and Freud describes it as a consolation. There is evidence of an increase in noted religious experiences from girls during pregnancy when going through a lot of hormonal changes. This is a supporting argument of turning to religion in times of doubt. With a minority cause, it is important to look at the cause itself. If someone grows up in a religious environment, probability shows that they are more likely to believe in God.

     Using William James’ argument of ineffability, one can conclude a counter argument, using it to work against religious experience. If a religious believer is unable to explain or describe their experience, how is one able to believe them? If something is real, some may argue they should be able to explain what happened. This identifies a flaw in James’ argument.

     Many people are more likely to believe something if it has been experienced, and there are numerous cases where people from various backgrounds have said they have had a religious experience. There have been similar experiences which have had similar effects, suggesting they have all experienced a God. However, religious experience cannot validate all religions. Hume says that you end up with ‘complete triumph for the sceptic’ because all religions cannot be true.

       Conclusively, it is clear that there are various arguments which suggest there is an existing God. However, these are overruled by counter arguments which highlight weaknesses in religious experience arguments and provide a stronger argument. The argument is not empirical or verifiable, it is a disadvantage that the argument deals with personal emotion which another person cannot understand as ‘religious experiences’ are individual.



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