Religious Experience, Philosophy of Religion, Religious Studies, AQA

  • Key ideas on Religious Experiences - different types and examples
  • Philosophical criticisms/debate
  • Scientific criticisms/debate
  • Comparing philosophical and scientific crits
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Non. Emp, spiritual, private event "numinous" = awe, authority, bliss
1. VISIONS ­ portray religious knowledge or ultimate truth
· Can be spiritual/inward/introvertive
· Physical/extrovertive
VISIONS = Mind's eye Jacob's Ladder
CORPOREAL = External presence St. Bernadette
INTELLECTUAL= Realise ultimate truth /reality Julian of Norwich
2. CONVERSIONS ­ St. Paul ­ change RB, morals
3. MYSTICAL EXPERIENCES = numinous "union" St. Theresa of Avila
4. Dreams, NDEs, OBEs, Nature Mysticism
William James' criteria
1. PASSIVITY ­ subject to it
2. INEFFABLE ­ hard to define
3. NOETIC QUALITY ­ knowledge of objective truth/reality
4. TRANSIENCE - fleeting…read more

Slide 2

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4.2 Argument for God's existence
Intro = As a direct encounter with SN = aposteriori arg for God's ex
1. WJ: When we judge an RE we do so by VALUE JUDGMENT, as
they are NON EMP
feeling more important than reason
"absolutely certain of its reality" ­ this alone = proof of authenticity
2. Lasting, real, beneficial fx ­ conversions/visions, where people
become more loving, change of morals
real fx suggest a real cause
3. RE's occur across all religions = similar fx and characteristics,
regardless of different beliefs: CORROBORATES that obj. Real,
not illusory
Some say testimony is unreliable
4. Swinburne, Principle of C+T: we should believe claims unless
extenuating circumstances (mental illness, drugs), people
generally tell the truth ­ principles of law court
5. Majority of people are psychologically healthy ­ range of
backgrounds, even Atheism…read more

Slide 3

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4.3 Scientific criticisms of RE ­ convincing?
Intro REs are difficult to verify as n. Emp = sceptical scientific community
1. Materialists/Atheists claim Res
are interpreted as Supernatural 3. Freud = psych causes ­
causes ­ in fact N
2.People are too gullible want to be loved,
· Unusual brain activity ­
hallucination ­ RB beliefs influence comforted "oceanic
· Rel practises ­ fasting feeling" ­ project onto God
· Drug/ alcohol
VS RAMACHANDRAN Swinburne ­ Principle of
· Tests on temporal lobes WJ ­ majority of people C+T
· Res may be linked to epilepsy ­ · Therefore we should
dramatic reaction to rel. Imagery
aren't epileptic + are psych
healthy believe people unless
· Historical figures ­ St. Paul
reason not to
· Reasonable to conclude science doesn't discredit the possibility
Some strong cases elude of genuine RE
natural explanation e.g. ·All it's done is speculate natural causes = guilty of reductionism
PAM REYNOLDS ·HW individual/subjective = right to be sceptical, so scientific crits
should not be ignored…read more

Slide 4

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4.4 Philosophical criticisms of RE
1. Problems VERIFYING
· SN
· Spontaneous Can't be tested scientifically, proved
· Uncontrollable to be genuine empirically
2. As private/individual exp = based on subjective
interpretation of an experience = unreliable EVIDENCE.
Others could interpret as non-religious
3. REs occur in different religions ­ St. Paul,
Mohammed = contradict each other, as different
beliefs suggest RBs create their own beliefs
4. Vardy criticises WJ (certainty is suitable verification) People can be sure, but mistaken UFO,LOCHNESS
Require more proof, as unusual and extraordinary
5. KANT = Concept is problematic
· How can finite (human) experience the infinite
· Humans = physical, material, limited by 5 senses to
events in T+S
· How can we perceive/recognise something that is
imperceptible beyond senses?…read more

Slide 5

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4.5 How convincing are the philosophical criticisms?
Demonstrated RE as unreliable source of knowledge?
Many crits ­ how far do they prove unreliability and prevent their us as proof of God?
RB ­ accounts for this ­
transcendent and immanent. 4. Vardy criticises WJ (certainty
Man is made in God's "image". is suitable verification)
WJ ­ certainty of Res = suitable People can be sure, but
1.Kant ­ doesn't pose too We can comprehend his
2. Verification proof. Real fx suggest real mistaken UFO,LOCHNESS
much of a challenge qualities because he has
cause. Even Atheists convinced
placed them in our nature. Require more proof, as
Otherwise we would have no unusual and extraordinary
concept of God at all
· Some crits answered sufficiently
·Many argue Vardy = significant challenge as some view undermining only basis of
· Certainty may only be sufficient for those who experience, but cannot prove anything
objective…read more

Slide 6

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4.5 Which poses a more significant challenge to RE ­ scientific or
philosophical criticisms?
Debates concerning Res pulls sceptics from both religious and scientific spheres ­ but which pose the more legitimate
· Scientific arg's state that
· However reasonably answered by reductionism ­ cannot prove = "science of the gaps" ­ some cases are
particularly elusive e.g. PAM REYNOLDS
· Freud's arguments are speculative
· WJ principle of C +T
· Also philosophical arguments that can be checked
· KANT's claim that the finite cannot perceive or experience the infinite
· Rb argue that we may perceive him because we share similar moral and spiritual qualities evident that we can
actually conceive Him
· VERIFICATION = greater problem = comes from both scientific and philosophical perspectives
· Science claims ONLY empirical evidence = AJ AYER
· Which can be rebutted to a certain extent ­ our thoughts/feelings on beauty, art, music = obj true
· Philosophical
· WJ ­ certainty of Res = suitable proof. Real fx suggest real cause. Even Atheists convinced
· 4. Vardy criticises WJ (certainty is suitable verification) People can be sure, but mistaken UFO,LOCHNESS
· Require more proof, as unusual and extraordinary
1. Neither can prove Re's definitively not to exist
2. Both have arg's that are well responded to
3. Both raise significant criticism of verification = however philosophical issues against verification are perhaps
more thorough…read more


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