Religious Experience Revision notes

condensed notes from the chapter of religious experience from the textbook and class powerpoints

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What does the phrase Religious Experience mean?
Direct Religious Experiences ­ Rudolph Otto
Cases where people encounter god in a direct way
EG Paul on the road to Damascus
Otto pointed out the eternal element of direct experiences was an
apprehension of a wholly other which was numinous
Nature of the experience is ineffable
Involve an experience of the divine
People are aware of god and know god in an innate and personal way
Indirect Religious Experiences
Experiences in which the mind of an individual focus' on god
EG beauty of nature leading to thoughts about god
EG prayer and worship
God isn't directly revealed nor is knowledge revealed instead they learn
about god through the observed
Types of Religious Experience ­ Richard Swinburne
Ordinary Experiences
Where a person interprets a natural event as having religious significance
Extraordinary Experiences
Experiences that appear to violate the normal understandings of the working
of nature
Describable In Ordinary Language
Experiences such as dreams
NonDescribable Experiences
Direct experiences where the divine is revealed to people and goes beyond
human powers of description
NonSpecific Experiences
Looking at the world form a religious perspective

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Vision Experience ­ Teresa of Ávila
Divine is seen or observed
Information may be revealed
Awake or a dream
Intellectual vision ­ the experience is seen rather than something
EG Teresa of Ávila ­ `saw Christ at my side ­ or, to put it better I was
conscious of him, for neither with the eyes of the body or of the soul did I
see anything
Corporeal Vision ­ sees a form or image like a physical being
EG St Bernadette of Lourdes ­…read more

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William James' Argument from Religious Experience
Book ­ Varieties of religious Experience
Psychological approach
Interested in explaining the nature of the wide variety of religious
experiences people have
James assumed religious experience was the source of religious
institutions and central to religious belief
Thought churches were secondary to religious experiences
Religious experiences were where people experiences the divine
Religious tradition is relatively unimportant
Conversion experiences changes a persons behaviour making religion
EG Saul to Paul Conversion ­ Saul changes from a prosecutor of
Christians…read more

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Are Religious Experiences Veridical?
Swinburne suggested two principles used to assess claims about
religious experiences
We have good reason to believe what a person tells us
Three reasons why we have good grounds to disbelieve
1. Reasons to believe they were mistaken ­ e.g. drugs
2. Strong reasons to believe god doesn't exist
3. Evidence the event was not caused by god
2.…read more

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Physiological Challenges
One argument against R.E is that they have physiological cause eg did
Paul have epilepsy ­ seeing the bright light? Or a brain tumour?
Weakness to the argument is not everyone who had a R.E was suffering
from an illness that could cause side effects such as hallucinations,
visions or delusions
Psychological Challenged
Sigmund Freud ­ religious experiences are a product of human
Would explain common occurrence of R.…read more

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That's why people in different cultures have R.…read more

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R.E suggests god exists
many philosophers argue that with other arguments for gods existence
suggests it is likely that god exists
authority of a religious experience doesn't extend past the mystic
philosophical demonstration of gods existence based on religious
experience is not possible
if you believe in god it is rational to believe in R.E
an account of R.E shouldn't be doubted without valid reasons ­
many believe R.…read more


Veronica Aaronson

Very good notes. Many thanks.

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