Religious Experience (OCR exam board)


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Religious Experience (OCR exam board)

  1. 1. Religious Experience
  2. 2. Albert Einstein “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms— this knowledge, this feeling is at the centre of true religiousness.” What points do you think Einstein is trying to convey? (the parts that are unlined may help)
  3. 3. Peterson et al • Religious experience: person has or believes they have had an encounter with God Religions experience includes: 1. Visions, 2. Voices, 3. Numinous experience – Rudolph Otto Mysterium Tremendum and Mysterium Fascinas (e.g cathedral), 4. Conversion (St Paul/ Nicky Cruz), 5. Prayer, 6. Induced (meditation, Whirling dervish) 7. Un - induced experiences (stigmata), 8. Mysticism, 9. Charismatic experiences (believing Holy Spirit is present) 10. Corporate religious experience ( Toronto Blessing) • Religious Experiences are Revelations. • This means that knowledge is gained about God that would not otherwise be known.
  4. 4. 3) Experience of God through private (one person) sensations that can be described in normal sensory language e.g. a person might claim to experience God through a dream or vision. Richard Swinburne in The Existence of God (1979) 1) Experience of God through a common, public, sensory object e.g. see God in a sunset or ocean. These things are not God, but a way that God can be encountered. 2) Experience of God through an unusual, public, sensory object e.g. appearance of virgin Mary at Lourdes or a bush that burned but was not consumed.
  5. 5. 4) Experience of God through private sensations that cannot be described in normal sensory language e.g. feel or experience something, but it cannot be spoken about. It is ineffable (inexpressible). 5) Experience of God that is not mediated by any sensations e.g. person claims to be aware of God through intuition such as higher meditational states of Hinduism and Buddhism Theresa of Avila (1512-1582)“I was at prayer…when I saw Christ at my side- or to put it better, I was conscious of Him, for neither with the eyes of the body nor with those of the soul did I see anything…but as this was not an imaginary vision, I could not discern in what form….”
  6. 6. Swinburne Principle of credulity: testimonies should be taken at face value, unless there is significant evidence to prove them wrong. Principle of Testimony: He argues that it is reasonable to believe what someone tells you. X Anthony Flew: collecting together a series of weak arguments does not make a strong argument e.g. ten leaky buckets X J. L. Mackie – People unintentionally mislead/ exaggerate accounts of visions/ RE
  7. 7. William James (1842-1910) Religious Experience
  8. 8. William James (1842-1910) The Varieties of Religious Experience • Verification: - checking/proving/finding evidence for something. James believe verification of RE was not crucial. • The experience of the individual was real and this is important – ‘Self- authenticating’ for the person who has the experience (clear that God exists) • RE - ‘solitary’ in which individuals experienced the Divine or God. • Admitted not a logical proof that God exists, but evidence in support of God • RE are ‘psychological phenomena’ • Experiences explained as part of a person’s psychological makeup • Means that RE are natural to a person like thinking or self awareness. • RE is central to religious belief. • James leaves open the possibility of God’s existence Purpose of religion is not God but “more life, a larger, richer, more satisfying life.” Religion leads to “consistency, stability.”
  9. 9. Method • He noted effects on peoples’ lives. Why is this significant? • This means that his method is: systematic, methodical, regulated and scientific William James was a psychologist. 1. He collected many testimonies of people who claimed to have had religious experiences. 2. Analysed them 3. Categorised into types 4. Then noted common features (collect, analyse, categorise, common features) Used a ‘pragmatic’ approach Means he was concerned with the actual, practical effects on people, not supernatural speculations ‘Effects’ James could not see their actual RE but he could see/study their effects I am not trying to prove RE happen or that God exists.
  10. 10. Findings • Commonly, these experiences have a PROFOUND EFFECT on people • Life transforming • Positive effects: happier outlook on life, sense of purpose and meaning, benefits to sense of morality, better relationships with others etc. Distinguished between the ‘healthy minded soul’ and the ‘sick soul’ Sick soul: cynical and sceptical Healthy minded: open to ideas and possibilities, optimistic and hopeful Religious experience tends to make people healthy minded
  11. 11. Main Conclusions 1. Effects are real = real cause. If God is believed to be the cause, then God exists to those individuals. 2. Real and true = positive effects, whereas things that are false have negative effects. 3. Religious experience has positive effects, so source is more likely to be real and true Therefore God is likely to be real and true • Scripture is often seen as the central source of Churches but James emphasizes the importance of revelation, prayer etc. • This notable change in behaviour is why James suggested that RE was the inspiration and source of religious institutions. •Compared parallels and similarities between RE and other types of experience e.g. dreams and hallucinations. •Suggested that RE could be linked to our subconscious ideas. •Concluded that RE on own do not demonstrate God’s existence although they can suggest the existence of ‘something larger.’
  12. 12. Mystical • A mystical experience = religious experience where God is revealed directly and the person receiving is passive. • He looked at wide ranging examples from conversion to visions to feelings of God’s presence. • He identified four characteristics that are typical of mystical and other religious experiences. • James is recognised for his achievement in identifying key features that unify RE.
  13. 13. Four ways to define Mystical Religious Experience: all present in a RE 1) Ineffability: most recognised characteristic of RE – beyond words 4) Passive: undergoing RE no control, taken over, consumed 3) Transiency: experience does not last long but lasting effect on person – well remembered 2) Noetic Quality: knowledge and information gained about God/ revelation
  14. 14. FC Happold (1893- 1971) Two types of mysticism: 1. Mysticism of Love and Union- need to be part of something bigger than ourselves 2. Mysticism of Knowledge and Understanding- need to find out answers to the ‘secrets’ of the universe/ to know the ‘whole story’ Three aspects of mystical experience: 1. Soul mysticism- finding the soul, complete self- fulfilment (not necessarily involving God) 2. Nature mysticism- belief that God is everywhere (immanent) 3. God-mysticism- souls desire to return to their immortal and infinite ground, which is God.
  15. 15. Experience without the Religion Soul mysticism • Lord Fenner Brockway (a humanist) • “I stood looking over the green ocean towards the red sunset. A great calm came over me. I became lost in the beauty of the scene. My spirit reached out and became one with the spirit of the sea and sky…”
  16. 16. How do Sacred Writings reveal God? Propositional versus Non Propositional
  17. 17. Propositional Revelation • Revelation: knowledge is gained about God that would not otherwise be known. • They are called ‘propositions’ to indicate that the revelations are statements of facts. • What does ‘fact’ mean? • Reveals knowledge from God which is without error or need of interpretation. • God directly revealing truths about his nature. • ‘Belief that….’ • Not debatable, they are not open to questions, they are facts laid down by God, must fit with the teachings of the church • Aquinas in Summa Theologica suggested that ‘faith’ concerns knowledge about God who is transcendent. • Faith is not as certain as science. • Propositional revelations are truths revealed by God but they are not verified using human reason.
  18. 18. Literalist Interpretations - Fundamentalists • Unless a passage specifically states it is symbolic, scriptural passages are read as factual, historical accounts • E.g. The Creation stories in Genesis • Literalists cannot disregard any passage of the Bible •Everyone from within a denomination which takes this approach is expected to take literal interpretation and follow it in their lives •Scripture is the direct word of God
  19. 19. Non Propositional • God does not reveal truths to people, instead religious believers recognise God acting in human history and human experience. • ‘Belief in…’ • E.g. A religious believer may come to experience God in a beautiful natural scene, the scene reveals God to the person observing it. • This same natural scene can be observed by anyone however it is faith that makes it a revelation of God. • This revelation of God is indirect and a matter of interpretation. • This is why called non propositional because the revelation is a human being’s recognition of God’s acts in and through the world i.e. Artwork • In other words: not teachings but self revelation of God – God reveals and humanity responds in faith.
  20. 20. Conservative Interpretations • Most Protestant Christians are not so fundamental in approach • Believe God inspired Bible • Has the authority as the message is directly from God •There may be errors in scripture because writers were human & influenced by society in which they lived •This allows for changes in society •It allows for individual rather than community interpretation of passages •A non-propositional approach as it is the messages, not the actual words that are focused on
  21. 21. Liberal Interpretations • The scripture records the experiences of people seriously seeking to find God • Words are those of writers and influenced by their lives and society in which they lived • Not directly inspired by God • Bible therefore doesn’t have same position of authority •Free to reject passages that no longer seem relevant for today •Duty of individual Christians to decide which sections are appropriate to their lives •Inconsistencies not a problem •Steers away from the propositional/ non-propositional debate altogether •Because not how scripture came that matters, but how it is used in people’s lives. 1. Is a liberal view more successful?
  22. 22. Problems with understanding the revelations 1. Some of the Bible’s teachings may appear harsh to modern readers 2. Go against modern laws. 3. Can the Bible be disobeyed? If the Bible were a verbally inspired revelation from God, then disobeying any instruction in the Bible would be a rejection of God’s revealed commands. 4. How does one explain the contradictions within the text? If it is divinely inspired by God then this leaves no room for human error. 5. Many Christians have difficulty accepting some of the laws about moral behaviour from both New and Old Testament. E.g. Jesus clearly states divorce is wrong but many Christians Churches allow divorce. 6. Some of the passages found within the Bible conflict with many Christians’ views today. E.g. St. Paul’s statements about women.
  23. 23. Supporters of Religious Experience Kierkegaard: Religious faith = miracle. Faith involves a leap, cannot be explained logically. RE can help this leap of faith occur. • Alston: our sense experience is generally reliable why should we not believe what our senses tell us, even if what it is telling us is a religious experience? • There is no reason to reject an explanation of something just because the explanation is unusual. • Do not show that RE are experiences of God just that it is not fair to simply reject religious experiences as illogical and irrational. Myers “prayer is a vital component of the psychological wellbeing of many individuals.”
  24. 24. Strengths:  Consistent – perhaps most powerful of all arguments for existence of God  Individual knows and understands the meaning of what they see or feel  relatively common - can all reports be wrong?  People that have them, hold with great conviction – ‘self authenticating’  Often experienced by people who are not mentally ill, on drugs, who are rational and intelligent.  RE is God taking an involvement in human affairs so he is a personal being. But can’t do it too frequently as it would seriously jeopardise our free will.
  25. 25. Ockham’s Razor • William of Ockham 14th English logician “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity” • In other words, the simplest solution that covers all the facts, is usually the best Anti-razors: Leibniz- Principle of Plenitude • anything that can happen will; every possibility within this world must be considered. • The world in which we live is but one among the infinitely many possible worlds that might have existed. Kant- we shouldn’t rashly diminish explanations What conclusion should this lead to in answering the question, are religious experiences real? And does God exist?
  26. 26. Religious Experience Main Critics
  27. 27. Critics - Feuerbach: • Religion is an illusion. • Religion is a fiction people mistake for reality. • Humans can feel alienated in own lives and project their wishes onto God • If people were able to reach potential no need for religion • Society will evolve and religion will disappear • God is an invention of the human mind. X Delirium tremens (e.g. alcohol withdrawal) is caused by vitamin B deficiency. Some scholars argue that an ascetics’ diet lacks vit B so could explain: hallucinations, paranoia, visions, voices etc.
  28. 28. Marx: • Need to break free of chains of religion to reach their potential = utopia. • Religion is a form of control • Religion is “the opiate of the masses.” • Social repression Freud: • Explains away religion as purely a psychological phenomenon – cushion us from harsh realities. • Religion is an ‘obsessional neurosis’ (neuroses describes problems experienced in life e.g. traumas that are repressed in the mind and develop into obsessive neurosis in adulthood e.g. repetitive behaviour) • Thus, belief in God = obsessional neurosis that religion satisfies.
  29. 29. Weaknesses: Could be the influence of drugs – can produce hallucinations/ similar effects and alcohol In most occasions individuals undergo experiences not groups Religious Experience based on emotion – it is personal response = empirical testing useless. Each one portrays this ‘being’ differently – what is reliable? Spontaneous so can never be verified (proven) Non physical/private/individual so not easy to verify. How can we verify something we cannot fully understand/communicate or discuss properly? God helmet
  30. 30. Stories you need to know • St Bernadette • St Teresa of Avila • Guru Nanak • Whirling Dervish • Toronto Blessing • Nicky Cruz • St Paul • Stigmata Find/ Research/ Remember: • At least four interesting facts for each story • Specific example/ story/name • Quote from their books • Which stories link to numinous, voices, corporate, vision, charismatic, WJ 4 stages
  31. 31. HTTPS://ITHINKTHEREFOREITEACH. WORDPRESS.COM/ If you would like further information please follow the link below to my blog: