Religious experience

Religious experience

  • Created by: Becca
  • Created on: 03-05-10 15:30

Religious experience.

Direct religious experience - Events where God reveals directly to the person having the experience. The religious experience is not chosen by the person or willed. However the person experiences God in some way.

Rudolph Otto: Used the word numinous to mean being in the presence of an awesome power. Religion comes from being separate from the world. The numinous is the holy ineffable core of religion. It may be peaceful or fast moving. It can cause intoxication, frenzy and ecstasy.

Indirect religious experience: Experiences, thoughts or feelings about God that are prompted by events in daily life. Alternatively acts of power or worship are types of religious experience

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Religious experience

Richard Swinburne: There are five recognizable types of religious experience which he divided into two groups - public and private experience.

Public - Ordinary: Interpreting a natural event as having religious experience. Extra - ordinary: Experiences that violate normal understanding.

Private - Describable in ordinary language: Experiences such as dreams. Non - describable: Refers to direct experiences of God revealing to people. Non - specific: Looking at the world in a religious perspective.

Visions and voices do break the laws of nature.

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William James

Four common strands to religious experience:

Noetic quality - goes beyond any normal experience revealing something quite other.

Ineffability - Cannot be expressed in avaliable words.

Transiency - Normal time stands still.

Passivity - We are taken over.

James said that the only possible sign that religious experience are from God is a good disposition. James concluded that religious experiences on their own do not demonstrate God's existence although they can suggest the existence of something larger.

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A change to a religious way of life because of some experience of divine truth directly or indirectly.

  • St Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus would be one example.

In the mind of the person, there is a transformation and a single aim or priority replaces all others.

Conversion involves a recognition that the current lifestyle is wrong and incomplete and a change to lifestyle to bring about a better way.

Sudden conversion may not be permanent but a gradual conversion is more likely to be permanent.

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Religious Experience

Toronto Blessing: Pastor Randy Clark was preaching and afterwards people began to laugh hysterically, cry, leap, dance and even roar. This was seen as the result of the move of the Holy Spirit.

Some people see conversions as part of an adolescent identity crisis. It could be a way of reorganising cognitive structures and seeing problems from a different perspective.

Freud: Linked religion to neurosis because he noted that many patients in a mental hospital displayed similar obsessive behaviour. Freud said that religion is an illusion as it expresses people's desires and what they want to believe. Religion originated from a child like desire for a God who resembles a father figure.

Cooperate religious experience could be seen as mass hysteria.

There is no solid evidence for the religious experience although people do change their behaviour in result.

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Principle of credulity: Others things being equal we have good reason to believe that what a person tells us is correct. If is suggested I saw a zebra crossing the road, you would believe me even though you didn’t see the event happen. There may be reasons why believe the person was mistaken.

If we don’t believe a God exists then we wouldn’t believe the evidence to be religious.

There may be evidence to prove it isn’t God. (You may see two twins in an arcade: you think you saw John but actually you later learn it was his identical brother)

Principle of Testimony: It is reasonable to believe something someone has told you. The fact that not everyone has religious experience suggests that people would not necessarily recognise a telephone for what it is unless they had some knowledge on what a telephone is. The knowledge would enable them to interpret their experience of the object as a telephone.

Religious people are more likely to have religious experiences because they have a greater chance of recognising a religious experience.

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Iram Bi


These are great condenced notes, I was really stuck on this topic, and so using these notes will help me a lot.

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