Religious Experience notes

All the notes I have on religious experience summariesed. Criticisms are in red for clarity.

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  • Created on: 06-06-15 20:18
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Religious Experience
Corporate experiences
When a group has a religious experience together. These experiences will be shared in the
sense that they will see the same thing, or all experience the `spirit of the Lord' together.
But this does not mean that every single person who experienced it will view the
experience in the same way, or that they will react in the same way.
Group hysteria. This is a recognised effect in social psychology where being in a large
group allows people to act in a way that they wouldn't normally. Group hysteria occurred
at Nazi rallies and could be to blame for corporate religious experiences.
Toronto Blessing ­ In Randy Clark's service, the Toronto congregation manifested what
they saw as signs of God ­ uncontrollable laughter, speaking in incomprehensible
language, rolling on the floor and various other activities.
o But people have argued that these believers were already inclined to behave in
such a way because they choose to attend an evangelical and charismatic church.
o Also the event happened at the end of the service, after praise and prayers, so the
experiences could have been psychological.
What does such an event reveal about God? Does it show a God of love, or simply a God of
control and influence (if a believer is taken over by God, then does this make the believer
less free?) and wasting his powers on insignificant things such as speaking in tongues?
Mark Wynn ­ particular places or pilgrimage can mediate the presence of God. When we
meet a friend, our meeting is coloured by associations (the things we know about each
other, past experiences we've shared), in the same way, we are not neutral observers of
the world, and our feelings towards God do not simply come from nowhere.
Conversion experiences
A conversion experience is where someone is converted from one religion (or no religion)
into another.
The most famous of these is Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus. He is thrown from his
horse, blinded and hears God's voice. He then becomes Christian and eventually, a saint.
Conversion experiences can be dramatic (like Paul's) or can occur gradually over a period
of time (these are more common).
Some people view religious experiences as just the way you experience ordinary things. Perhaps in
prayer, in joint activity with others, in aesthetic experience (wondering at the world) or just
particular details in everyday life.
Religious experience as `experiencing-as'
Wittgenstein considered the philosophical significance of puzzle pictures (e.g. the
duck-rabbit picture, which appears as either a duck or a rabbit depending on the angle it is
viewed at).Wittgenstein reckoned that these puzzles are philosophically interesting ­ they
suggest that the world is never `just' such and such, there is a variety of possible ways of
seeing it.
Hick then interpretted Wittgenstein's idea. He said that a religious believer and an atheist
would view the same thing, but would interpret it in such different ways that they would
have completely different experieces.
o This can be likened to John Wisdom's parable of the gardener (invisible vs
non-existent gardener).
This idea makes sense ­ we are not experiencing different things, so there are no issues
with why God would put efforts into revealing himself to the occasional believer. We
experience the same things, but perceive them differently.

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But this view of things may be insufficient as an understanding.
Brümmer - the original duck-rabbit is neither a duck nor a rabbit, but lines on a page,
whereas the religious claim is to interpret the world as it really is. The believer is not
merely having a different sort of experience but claiming that their perception is the true
one.…read more

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A person is brought up in religion create experiences to fit the religion backs
up religion so more experiences created more evidence for religion etc.
o Some people who don't have faith commitments claim religious experiences.
Also argues through the falsification principle that religious experiences are meaingless.
Hume ­ conflicting claims
Different religions claim different experiences of different Gods, yet all claim theirs is
correct. Surely this means that they are all wrong, and cancel each other out.…read more

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