Philosophy of Religion Revision pack A2 Entire Course

My revision notes for the A2 OCR exam, pretty  useful and set out clearly enough for anyone to use .

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May 2011 Philosophy of Religion Harry Townsend
"To have a religious experience is to be aware of God or a particular religious figure; or to
live through something understood as having some connection to religion in general."
Typical assessment criteria of credibility of evidence:
- Corroboration: Is there other evidence pointing in the same direction or other sources?
- Vested Interest: Has the source got anything to lose or gain? If so, how can we trust them?
- Reputation: How credible is the source? Past events can back up or destroy evidence.
- Observation Issues: Any factors affecting accuracy of the observation? Could be mistaken.
Vision Experience:
Events in which God or something about God (other religious figure) is seen or observed.
There are three types of Vision experiences:
1. Imaginative Visions: Occurs within (oneiric visions) a dream e.g. Genesis 28, 10-13 Jacobs
Stairway to Heaven in a dream experienced God.
2. Corporeal Visions: Happens within waking life in the form of a physical object e.g. St
Bernadette's `our Lady' visions.
3. Intellectual Vision: The feeling of a presence of God e.g. St. Teresa, `Conscious of Christ at
my side.' No empirical evidence. These are non-veridical.
Critical Evaluation of Visions:
St. Teresa set up a criteria for the genuineness of visions:
1. The Experience should fit in with Christian teaching.
2. The Experience should leave the person feeling at peace with the world and God.
+ St. Teresa's criteria rules out the possibility of doing wrong `because God told them to'.
- Biased in favour of Christians ... Why not Islam? Criteria 1, some consider Christian teaching
to be inconsistent and Criteria 2, Abraham sacrificing his son for God left him distressed.
- Imaginative Visions: How could we tell the difference between a real religious experience
and merely a dream about it?
+ Corporeal Visions: There are certain contradictions that rise to hallucination: fever;
extreme sexual frustration; food/water/sleep deprivation; drugs etc. if none of these are
met then you can't argue that the person is hallucinating. Logically private because only one
person can experience it. Usually just called a hallucination so why should it be different? No
chance of corroboration with others if it is private.
+ Intellectual Visions: Fits with the metaphorical meaning of `vision': for St. Teresa Jesus was
understood to be present.
Voice Experience: There are 3 noticeable features:
1. The disembodied voice (not from someone talking) shows the presence of God.
2. The voice communicates a revelation from God. Message is `Noetic' (gives knowledge).
3. The Voice is authoritative and passes on Gods authority.
The equivocation of hearing ­ hearing from an external voice.
The Internal hearing is in the mind.
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May 2011 Philosophy of Religion Harry Townsend
Voices of conscious 0 hearing without necessarily hearing (metaphorically hearing).
Examples: Samuel 1: God tells Samuel to be a prophet; Mark 1: 1-9 Jesus' Baptsm; Paul-Saul.
Critical Evaluation of Voices:
St Teresa's criteria can be used for all types of religious experience.
- How do you know the voice is from God? Manic schizophrenics sometimes kill because God
told them to. St. Teresa would respond with her Christian teaching criterion.…read more

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May 2011 Philosophy of Religion Harry Townsend
- God is experienced as transcendent, as thoroughly `other' this leaves little room for a
conception of God as immanent and a more personal relationship with God.
- The experience is feeling based, so what about the perceptual based religious experiences?
Conversion Experience:
A conversion experience is one that results in a change of beliefs and behaviour.…read more

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May 2011 Philosophy of Religion Harry Townsend
+ In some cases e.g. Toronto Blessing, there's a public expression of the experience that can
be observed by others.
- Human beings are psychologically prone to falling in with what others believe, say, & do.
- Maybe the experience is the result of mass hysteria, or maybe it's a result of brainwashing.
- You can use St. Teresa's criteria to criticise the Toronto Blessing.…read more

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May 2011 Philosophy of Religion Harry Townsend
+ Not trying to conclude or prove the existence of God.
+ In line with St. Teresa's second criterion.
- St. Teresa in turn can be criticised.
- Otto would argue that religious experiences are about feeling separate from the divine.
- The modesty in his argument is bordering on the vacuous (stupid).
William James ­ Affirming the Consequent:
There is a logical fallacy that is called, affirming the consequent e.g.…read more

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May 2011 Philosophy of Religion Harry Townsend
It is possible for religious experiences from different religions to be veridical, because all
religions lead to the truth: overlaid with the religious culture and tradition found in particular
parts of the world.
E.g. Christianity in Europe; Hinduism in India etc., strip this away you are left with Religious
experiences of the same ultimate spiritual reality.
- Different religions conceive of this ultimate spiritual reality in different incompatible ways.…read more

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May 2011 Philosophy of Religion Harry Townsend
No need to debate whether miracles written in the Bible actually happened (Virgin Birth;
Noah's Flood) because the Bible is a source of certain knowledge.
Critical Evaluation:
+ In keeping with the Bible e.g. Peter 1:20-21 `when reading the Bible it's the words of God.
- But could be considered circular: only supports if the passage itself is inerrant.
+ The view sees the Bible as infallible. For some this infallible source is all-important.…read more

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May 2011 Philosophy of Religion Harry Townsend
- Because sacred writings on this view are written in response to divine revelations, the full
meaning is dependent on the original. But we have access only to scripture and not the
original non-propositional revelations, so perhaps te full meaning forever escapes us.
`Violation' definition (Hume): A miracle is a violation of a law of nature e.g.…read more

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May 2011 Philosophy of Religion Harry Townsend
+ Argument assumes laws of nature can't admit exceptions, and because a miracle is an
exception it can't happen without contradicting the law of nature.
- A miracle doesn't have to violate a law of nature e.g. Childbirth, Holland's train example.
- However, Humes understanding of what a law if nature is can be criticised. He sees it as
prescriptive, i.e. must be followed, however some understand them as descriptive, i.e.
describe what has been experienced.…read more

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May 2011 Philosophy of Religion Harry Townsend
- If he's right then why aren't there more? E.g. why did Jesus not `free himself from the cross'?
Or respond to the Devils temptation by floating to the ground?
3. According to Hume, there are no really well supported miracle cases where miracles have
been witnessed by a suitable number of people.
- Hume indulges vague language ... exactly how many would you need?
- Writers of the New Testament were well-educated.…read more


Shannon Robinson



Thank you so much! Very informative

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