Philosophy of Religion

Chapter  5 Arguments for the Existence of God: Experience

Section 1. Introduction

The heart of religion is in the religious experience. Just what is it and what can be deduced from it?

For many religious people there is in the center of their religious nature the feeling that there is something more than their individual consciousness could contact. There is a sense of something "more" or bigger than anything in the known universe. This issues into a hypothesis or idea of a supernatural reality or dimension of reality beyond that which normal sensation can encounter.  

A direct experience of something is a powerful basis for an argument to prove the existence of anything and in particular of a deity.  Direct experiences of a deity are rather rare and often those who have not had them tend to doubt those who do claim to have had such an experience.  Indirect experiences are far more common.  In this chapter both types will be discussed.

The objective here is to examine all the possible arguments for establishing the existence of a deity, of the One God, of the Supreme Being based upon experiences of any type.  This is in contrast to the arguments which rely upon human reasoning o reach the conclusion that there is or must be a deity, god.

What are the arguments based upon experience?  There are several.  There are those based on an individuals direct experience of a spirit or deity or an object from a spirit or deity.  There are also those experiences which are of natural events but those events are such that they could only have been caused by a deity or supreme being, miracles.

Here is a listing of the arguments:

1. Revelation- humans experience the deity through an act of the deity in which the deity reveals itself.  In this case the revelation is accomplished through teachings given to humans and recorded in some form of scripture or gathered into a book, a bible.  The contents of such collections are considered to contain direct instruction from the deity.

2.  Mystical Experience- an experience of union with the deity which is ineffable and noetic, a numinous experience- mystical consciousness of the "HOLY", infinite dependence , mystery, terror, bliss. The mystical experience is a particular variety of religious experience in which the subject is transformed and reports the loss of individuality, the oneness of all reality, union with the deity, the unity of the subject of the experience with the object of the experience. The commonalities in such experience around the world is termed the consensus mysticum.  It has been described by Rudolph Otto as involving an experience characterized as being tremendum et fascinans  

3.  Direct Religious Experience experience of a god or spirit or of the divine (the absolute). A Religious experience is an encounter of a human being with a supernatural being, be it a deity or an emissary or intermediary for the deity, nevertheless a spiritual entity. Religious experiences are for the most part, individual and esoteric.  

4. Psychic Phenomena-which relates to a non-physical realm of existence and the existence of spirits or souls, of which the deity is a member, the Supreme Being, Spirit or Soul

The type of psychic phenomena involved here would be those that would support the immortality of the soul and survival after death.  They are the phenomena that provide support for the post-mortem survival hypothesis

       apparitions-spirits/ ghosts/ poltergeists

       sťances - communication with the dead

       reincarnation memories

       near death experiences-NDE's

       death bed observations

       sacred scripture

5.   Miracles- experienced events that could only be caused by a divine all powerful being


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© Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2001. All Rights reserved.

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