Donovan recognises the risk of emphasising knowledge too much, and suggests that the purpose of encounters with God could be ‘non-intellectual, personal reasons.’ E.g where Swinburne proposes the non-specific element to RE, where one can feel God’s presence without there being a reason or particular feeling. But he points out that difficulties arise when believers argue they have obtained objective knowledge about God from these experiences. Holding the belief that criticisms do nothing at all to show that ‘God is illusory’ he simply suggests that RE by itself cannot solve all the problems about whether or not we have a good reason to believe in God. This contrasts with Freud’s view of religion being a ‘neurotic illness’ stemming from the unconscious mind. Freud argues that religion helps to gain an insight into the mind of a believer and not actually bring awareness of the world. He questions the psychological state of believers and says that they are in need of a ‘father figure.’ Marx describes religion as ‘the most common mental illness’ and ‘the opium of people,’ thus proposing that religion should be removed for people to become truly aware of their situation.
Donovan concludes that awareness of God is vital for religious belief, although philosophy questions it, many modern philosophers are believers themselves. ‘The sense of knowing God is never on its own a sufficient sign of knowledge’ not only does this apply to religion but other aspects of life too. Although it cannot provide knowledge, it is not ‘simply a great illusion’ as Freud would say, and should not be discarded. Donovan lastly exclaims that we should not take an ‘all or nothing’ view, as nothing has been said to lead to that conclusion. Even though he does not agree with the more existential view of Owen and Buber, he does not go as far as the scientific and rational stance of Ayer and Hume who believe RE is of no philosophical value. Donovan takes the middle view, asking for more knowledge of God.
Donovan rejects the ‘all or nothing’ approach and validly expresses it is a ‘risky business’ to claim knowledge purely on intuition. If we agree with Owen that we may know God directly and intuitively then there are implications. We may reasonably claim that God exists as it suggests that personal faith is valuable/correct. However, extremist branches of religion (e.g. ISIS) use intuition to justify faith claims (claiming they’re directed by Allah.) An additional implication is the problem of evil; if God interacts with us through personal encounter, why does he not intervene in our world through times of terrible situations.
An implication for human experience is the conflict between science and intuition. Trusting intuition would lead to the rejection of the Verification Principle but intuition cannot be scientifically tested. Intuitive claims about ethics would also be accepted, leading to a highly subjective form of ethics e.g. Moore’s theory of Intuitionism. Moore is criticised by thinkers such as Nietzsche who used the term ‘ethical blindness.’ How do we know we can trust our intuition and how do we know if it is necessarily correct? The implications of a subjective nature means we must accept that we cannot condemn any action, e.g. rape, even though it is obviously intrinsically wrong. This is because we are unable to refer to objective moral facts. Ethical statements such as ‘rape is wrong’ can only be true to us in an anti-realist sense.
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