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Flashcards in Religious Experiences Deck (19):

What is a religious experience

An encounter with the Devine
A non empirical occurance
Something beyond ourself
The most convincing proof of god

St Theresa of Avila : 'it is wholly impossible for me to doubt that I have been in god and god in me'


Variety of experiences

Direct - contact with god
Indirect - god in creation or something other

Caroline frank Davis 7 categories
Awareness (god in the world)
Quasi sensory (vision)
Numinous (holiness of god)
Regenerative (conversion)
Interpretive (prayers answered)
Mystical (ultimate reality)
Revelatory (knowledge or enlightenment)


Testimonies are unique

Normally private to an individual

Corporate where a large number of people share an experience

Eg the Toronto blessing in 2994, hysterical laughing, crying, sounds like the barking of dogs, the church had previously experienced manifestations of spirit through glossalalia but none of this kind


Common themes of religious experience

As told by Andrew Greeley after surveying many cases

A sense of joy
Emotional intensity
Inner peace


scholars attempt of defining religious experience

Bauber- everyday human relationships on a simple level of 'i-it' more meaningful relationships are 'I-thou' as experienced with god

William James
Religious experiences draw on emotions
Happiness fear and wonder
Gives a sense of belonging with god


General types of religious experience


Responses to life and the world

Near death experiences

Revelatory experiences



Conversion events

Direct experiences

Described by Otto as numinous

Offers evidence of the wholly nature of god

Often a vision, sense of awe and wonder

Paul on the road to Damascus

Linked to a search of faith


Responses to life and the world

Gentler indirect experiences

Enhance understanding of the world around us

Result of communication with god


Revelatory experiences

Divine self disclosure

Eg vision or dream

Experiment acquires new knowledge

Two types
Propositional - god communicates his message eg Moses and the Ten Commandments
Non propositional - a moment of realisation eg buddhas enlightenment


Near death experiences

When a person dies, usually in a med operation and is resuscitated with the ability to remember their death

Themes found by moody
Seeing light , tunnel, making a decision on returning to life


Mystical experiences

Ultimate reality

Unity with the Devine

God is intensely personal, other worldly and transcendent

Theistic - awareness of god
Monistic - awareness of soul self and conscience


William James characteristics of mystical experiences

Ineffability - can't be described in understandable language

Noetic quality - revelations of universal truths

Passivity - being taken over by an authority

Transiency - important experience

Extrovertive mysticism - looking out on god
Introvertive mysticism - god in ourselves


Factors that lead to religious experience

Music prayer and meditation

Music -> communal and social experience in worship, dance too -> Sufi swirling dervishes of the Islam tradition
Atmosphere - benny hinn and derren brown

Prayer is communication with god eg speaking in tongues
Meditation is a prayerful stage


Arguement for gods existence

The inductive argument

Inductive looks at testimonies and draws a general conclusion
Eg Swinburne , god is loving and personal and will reveal himself to humanity as an act of love

Religious experiences can be felt empirically through our senses and interpreted non empirically

Lives are changed forever


Arguements for god

The cumulative arguement

All the different testimonies are more convincing than one alone taking into account the sheer weight of testimony

Challenged the thought of this -> multiple weak arguments lead to one big weak argument


Arguements for

Principles of testimony and credulity

Principle of testimony

In general we tell he truth and so we should believe testimonies unless we have evidence to the contrary

Principle of credulity
So many thousands claim to experience, out of rationality we should believe them, unless we have overwhelming evidence to suggest otherwise


Swinburnes principles challenge

Vardy is cautious

Loch Ness monster idea - it would be acceptable to see this as a mistake so we should be skeptical unless we have great deal of evidence to prove it


Arguments against god

Notion of seeing as , we all interpret experiences differently, testimonies are therefore unreliable

RM hare - bliks, unverifiable and unfalsifiable way of looking at the world , unreliable

Freud - reaction to the hostile world we live in
Dawkins 'if we are gullible we don't recognise hallucinations or lucid dreaming for what it is'


Is it meaningful to talk of religious experience

Logical positivists

Meaningless as there are no observations that would serve to verify its claims