There are a variety of religious experiences, for some it is being in the direct presence of God.In some instances religious experiences will prove God's existence. However, in many instances they will point to God's existence.They don't necessarily point to the God of classical theism, but they do point to a divine entity.
The five categories for miracles.
Miracles- violation of the laws of nature. Humans can't perform violations which therefore points to a divine.Numinous- nature.Conversion- an innate feeling from within of wanting to change.Prayer- heard, then answered.Mystical- direct, first hand contact with God (empirical evidence).
Why are religious experiences significant?
We gather information and therefore get answers to ultimate questions
Reveals God existsWe can learn about GodGives a sense of oneness/a connectionSceptic's respond by saying that people who have these experiences have psychological disorders.These could be as a result of Trauma which may present a need for God's existence and therefore a religious experience. Religious experiences are not real, just projections of the brain.
William James - 19th century
William James was a harvard lecturer of psychology and philosophy; he wrote a book on 'varieties of religious experience'.He said that religious experience is first hand religion and falls at the heart of all worldly religion. Second hand religion is constructed by humans and includes things such as hymns and actions. All of which are built on religious experience, without this there would be no religion.
A religious experience that particularly interested William James was mystical experiences. He wanted to look at the psychology of a mystical experience, he asked these questions:-Does anything happen to the brain?-Is there anything physical that happens?William James said 'yes' to both these questions.
James' criteria for Mystical experiences
P-Passive: not induced by drugs or alcoholI-Ineffable: can't articulate immediately after N-Noetic: knowledge must always be givenT-Transient: brief, and doesn't last
William James responded by saying that people with faulty minds have better instruments for receiving religious experiences because their brains thinks differently. Making them perhaps more open minded. He then gave a further criteria...P-PluaralE-EmpiricismP-Pragmatism
Critics of religious experience
Critics claim that people who have these apparent religious experience have psychological disorders,There is a need born out of human frailty. The need is for a comforting God.
Evaluating corporate religious experience
Strengths+) Everyone can experience them.+) The ways in which the holy spirit manifests itself is the SAME for each person, therefore there must be a common source.+) Experience is received by sane, educated, rational people, BUT they behave in a way which will open them up to ridicule/isolation. If not genuine, then why would they?
Negatives-) Social conditioning-Freud, people's behavior changes to fit their environment. Tongues and laughter are expected. You conform out of fear of isolation.-) Learnt behavior/opperant conditioning-Skinner, there is an expectation that the holy spirit will be induced when certain behaviors are performed.-) Karl Marx-) Swinburne, principle of testimony and credulity