essay about religious experience

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  • Created by: marie
  • Created on: 25-09-11 13:31

Critically assess, with reference to William James, the argument from religious experience.

In this essay I will outline William James’ argue as to why a religious experience can lead to a belief in God of which I will use Bertrand Russell’s argument to evaluate it. Then I will go into detail about the James’ four point argument as to why the religious experience leads to the belief in God. Of which I will use Antony Flew’s argument as to why religious experience cannot be used as a way of identifying God, the reasons why religious experience may not lead to a belief in God and other factors that could of lead to the religious experience besides God.

The use of religious experience to determine a belief in God is something up for much debate, many would say that religious experiences cannot be used as there is no way to empirically test it but William James believes that experiences can be tested for validity. For James, religious experience does not need to be shown by dramatic supernatural events indefinitely but the real test of the religious experience is the effect that the experience has on the person for the long term, this makes James a pragmatist. For some the religious experience will cause a change in their life usually for the better which for many can lead to a belief in God. James distinguishes that a religious experience may look for a psychological interpretation from our subconscious mind but on the other hand a religious believer would look to God for interpretation of which James does not give his opinion on which he believes is the best interpretation but instead says that it’s the effect that the experience has on a person which is important which seems to be more than likely leading to a belief in God.

Bertrand Russell takes a different approach to James as he believes that religious experience will not always lead to an individual leaning towards a belief in God. An example of this would be the belief in Santa Claus as children are told that in order to get presents from Santa


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