The argument from Religious Experience

The argument from
Religious Experience
Are these arguments
I seem to see a
Therefore, its likely
there is a table
I seem to
experience God
Therefore, it is
likely that there is a
Some differences
Physical object perception is publicly
verifiable (if only one person sees a table
we are likely to think its an hallucination)
Religious experiences conflict with one
another depending on the religious tradition
of the one having the experience (Hindu
experiences are different from Christian
ones, for example)
The musical analogy
Some people are tone deaf, others are
musically gifted, most are in between
Likewise, some people are very prone to
religious experience, some never have
them, others are in between
Those who are tone deaf are not very good
music critics
There are also a range of possible religious
The analogy is limited
The issue crucial issue of religious
experience is whether they are
evidence for the supernatural
Musical ability is not evidence for
What is the connection
between religious
experience and truth
Are religious experiences akin to
hallucinations? Or are they more like
perceptual experiences? How can you
Arguments against
reliability of religious
Religious experiences contradict one
Religious experiences are private in a way
perceptual experiences are not—no public
way to confirm or deny the validity of of a
religious experience.
Mystical experiences occur in persons who
are atypical psychologically and prone to
very strong emotional and sexual feelings.
Caused by brain
“The most joyous and tear-filled sky rocket to
ecstasy is much more likely than not a chemical
action in the body and brain. There is nothing in socalled mystical experience that provides any
evidence of the supernatural. We are all hardwired
for fantasy and for dreams. Lofty sensations of
mystical experience is probably no more than a
variant on this predisposition in the brain for peace,
comfort, and security.”
---Edward Tabash, “Confessions of a
Former Mystic”
Ordinary perceptual experiences are also
caused by brain processes—does this make
them unreliable?
Many great scientific thinkers are also
unusual, strange or even “crazed” (Broad).
While religious experiences are interpreted
differently in persons with different religious
beliefs, there may be a core experience
which is common to all.