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The Experientialists

This is the belief that the personal feeling of 'awe' is proof of the existence of God.

Proponents

Context

The argument from religious experience is the argument from experiences of God to the existence of God.

The Argument

In its strong form, this argument asserts that it is only possible to experience that which exists, and so that the phenomenon of religious experience demonstrates the existence of God. People experience God, therefore there must be a God; case closed. In its weaker form, the argument asserts only that religious experiences constitute evidence for God’s existence. The argument from religious experience is premised on the principle of credulity. The principle of credulity states that if it seems to a subject that x is present, then probably x is present. Generally it is reasonable to believe that the world is probably as we experience it to be. Unless we have some specific reason to question a religious experience, therefore, then we ought to accept that it is at least prima facie evidence for the existence of God. Both types of argument from religious experience assume that religious experiences are a type of perceptual experience, i.e. a type of experience in which the person having the experience perceives something external to them. The physicist Bernard d'Espagnat developed the concept of "veiled reality" and reasoned intuition". He thinks that in the face of the infinitely large or the infinitely small, the conceptualizing abilities of humans are (larger than that of a dog but) limited. We only perceive a "veiled" part of reality. To apprehend "god", reasoning alone is not competent, it is necessary to appeal to "reasoned intuition". For him, some of our artistic, amorous, or even mystical experiences suggest that there are dimensions of our existence that are not accountable to the rational.

Counter arguments

The counter argument claims that religious experiences involve imagination rather than perception, that the object of the experience is not something that exists objectively in the world but rather is something that exists subjectively in the mind of the person having the experience. This suggestion might be supported with an appeal to the possibility of fabricating artificial experiences of God. A further difficulty is the problem of conflicting experiences: adherents of all religions claim to have had experiences that validate those religions. If any of these appeals to experience is valid, then surely all are. It can‘t be, however, that all of these appeals are valid, because the various religions are mutually inconsistent; they conflict. None of these appeals to experience is valid, therefore. Objections may also be raised along lines suggested by traditional philosophical scepticism. There are powerful philosophical arguments that our experiences of the external world, i.e. of the familiar everyday objects around us, are insufficient to justify belief in their existence. Descartes‘ argument from dreaming is the best known of these, though external world scepticism can be traced back at least as far as ancient Greece and Pyrrho of Elis.

Premises

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Rejecting the premises

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References

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This page was last edited on Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 18:48 UTC