Religious Experience

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info.gif Religious Experience: "Experience of God or the holy or experiences of other things that require a religious interpretation or explanation. Examples of the former would include mystical awareness of God and experiences of visions and voices in which one becomes aware of God. Examples of the latter might include experiencing the beautiful or sublime in nature--sunsets, mountains, births, and so forth that must be seen as pointing to God."
Evans, C. (2002) Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

In this section, you will find articles related to such experiences and their relevance to God's existence.

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    Alston, William P.


    The Experiential Basis of Theism

    "It is reasonable to believe in the existence of God because we have experienced His presence and activity in our lives...As I see it, the proper role of natural theology is not to bear the whole weight, or even most of it, but to provide basis for reassurance, in moments of doubt, that what we take to be our experience of God is not merely a projection of our needs and fears."
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    Gellman, Jerome I.



    "Under the influence of William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience, heavily centered on people's conversion experiences, most philosophers' interest in mysticism has been in distinctive, allegedly knowledge-granting 'mystical experiences.' Philosophers have focused on such topics as the classification of mystical experiences, their nature in different religions and mystical traditions, to what extent mystical experiences are conditioned by a mystic's language and culture, and whether mystical experiences furnish evidence for the truth of their contents. Some philosophers have begun to question the emphasis on experience in favor of examining the entire mystical complex (See Jantzen, 1994 and 1995, and section 9 below). Since this article pertains to mysticism and philosophy, it will concentrate chiefly on topics philosophers have discussed concerning mystical experience."
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    Gellman, Jerome I.


    Re-Identifying God in Experience

    "If an alleged experience of God can constitute evidence for God’s existence, then it must be possible for God to be a perceptual particular, that is, a substantive, enduring object of perception. Furthermore, if several such experiences are to be cumulative evidence for God’s existence, then it must be possible to reidentify God from experience to experience. I examine both a "conceptual" and an "epistemological" argument against these possibilities that is derived from the work of Richard Gale. I argue that neither of these arguments is successful. For God to be a perceptual particular, he must have an inner life; for God to be reidentified across experiences, he need not exist in dimensions analogous to the spatiotemporal."
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    James, William


    The Varieties of Religious Experience

    In this classic work, "...James studies that part of human nature that is, or is related to, religious experience. His interest is not in religious institutions, ritual, or, even for the most part, religious ideas, but in 'the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine'...James finds that religious experience is on the whole useful, even 'amongst the most important biological functions of mankind,' but he concedes that this does not make it true. Nevertheless, James articulates his own belief — which he does not claim to prove — that religious experiences connect us with a greater, or further, reality not accessible in our normal cognitive relations to the world..."
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    Montmarquet, James A.


    Epistemic Virtue, Religious Experience, and Belief

    "This paper defends the “epistemic virtuousness” at least of tentative religious conviction based on religious experience. The virtues of ‘openness’ and ‘intellectual humility’ are contrasted with the skeptic’s ‘closedness’ and ‘intellectual hubris.’"
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    Pruss, Alexander R.


    A Religious Experience Argument for the Existence of a Transcendent Holy Being

    "Experiences fall into irreducible classes. Any class of actual cognitive experiences contains an experience which is right, in the sense that it is veridical or at least that which it purports about reality is indeed so. Mystical experiences of a transcendent holy being constitute a class of cognitive experiences. Hence there is a transcendent holy being."
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    Pruss, Alexander R.


    Śamkara’s Principle and Two Ontomystical Arguments

    "Two types of arguments for the existence of God that have received much attention are the ontological arguments and the arguments from religious experience. Both types of arguments have their peculiar weaknesses: the ontological arguments require a possibility premiss, while the argument from religious experience requires that the veridicality of the experience be proved. Using Śamkara’s principle I will show that the two types of arguments can be combined in such a way that each compensates for the weakness of the other, and in combination produces a new argument for the existence of God. The particular kind of argument from religious experience that will concern me here will be the argument from high mystical experiences, of which the experiences of St. John of the Cross are a paradigm. The ontological arguments I shall consider will be Alvin Plantinga’s modal maximally-great-being argument and an apparently new argument from radical dependence."
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    Roberts, Robert


    Emotions in the Christian Tradition

    "This article discusses several interrelated questions that philosophers, theologians, and psychologists address about religious emotions. Do they have some essence? Is there one emotion-type that warrants the title “religious,” or are there many religious emotion-types? How do religious emotions differ from “ordinary” emotions? Are they “cognitive” or “non-cognitive,” “rational” or “non-rational”? What good are they? What epistemic import, if any, have they? This article will focus on emotions in or purportedly in the Judeo-Christian tradition."
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    Trethowan, Illtyd


    Awareness of God

    "The belief that God is present to the human mind (or soul) and can be found there is part of the Christian tradition. Many Christian philosophers seem to regard this as the concern only of specially devout persons and of no interest for philosophical purposes. The evidence for it, they think, it too slender to be taken seriously by academic philosophers without particular interest in religion, who tend to regard anything in the nature of religious experience as suspect. So philosophical discussions about religion are usually concerned with rational arguments for and against theism, usually of a technical kind. In this article, I want to suggest that there is another attitude of mind which has become more widely shared as the century has advanced..."
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    Wynn, Mark


    McDowell, Value Recognition, and Affectively Toned Theistic Experience

    "This paper considers whether John McDowell’s cognitivist account of affectively toned ethical experience can be extended to the case of theistic experience. It makes particular use of McDowell’s claim that there is no simple correlation between value-free qualities in the world and kinds of value experience. The paper draws on the work of William Alston and John Henry Newman, and argues that at various points, McDowell’s work can help to strengthen their defence of the epistemic significance of religious experience."