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A2 Philosophy: Religious Experiences

What does the exam board expect you to know?

Arguments of religious experience from William James, the aims and main
conclusions drawn by William James in his book The Varieties of Religious
Experience and the following forms of religious experience: visions, voices,
`numinous' experience, conversion experience,…

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proposed the following 4 criteria as the characteristics of a mystical
Passive- the experience is not initiated by the person experiencing it
but rather they have a sense that something is acting upon them.
Ineffable- The experience is beyond proper description. No adequate
description can be given in words.…

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-Mackie argued that if mystical experiences are explainable psychologically (as
James said they are) then mystical experiences can have no authority even for
the person who has that experience. How can we trust our minds? Mackie
suggests that people who believe mystical experiences are authoritative are
"insufficiently critical".

Numinous religious…

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come after the experience. Numinous experiences cannot be the only ones as
other types of experiences are well documented.

Other Understandings of religious experience

Schleiermacher agreed with Otto that religious experiences are primarily
emotional. These emotions are deeper than reason. Schleiermacher believed
that the experiences are not numinous but are…

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Conversion and Corporate experiences

Conversion experiences: Although it is not empirically possible to detect a
religious experience, the changing result of that experience is something
which can be detected. Often after someone claims to have had a religious
experience they experience a dramatic change in their lives. If this change…

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Bible and question whether the experience fits in with what is revealed in
Gods nature elsewhere.
Wilkinson and Campbell note that it would be necessary to evaluate each
person's experience as some might have been carried away with the
atmosphere. Some might fake the experience- relates to mass hysteria.


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Freud believed that human religious behaviour was a neurosis caused by
childhood insecurities and the desire for a father-figure to protect us.
According to Freud, religious experiences are hallucinations that have a simple
psychological explanation, just as dreams are caused by deep desires which we
are unaware of, religious experiences…


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Excellent notes

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