Validity of religious experiences essay?? (thoughts) Watch

ambergraver
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Anyone know how to tackle this essay question?

"Attempts to establish the validity of religious experiences satisfy believers but these attempts have no impact on non-believers – discuss how far you agree."

It's a 30 marker, i've been advised to involve Swinburne's 'principle of credulity/testimony' and that's all i got so far as advice. If anyone has any thoughts/points that would link to the question, please let me know! (due monday) Thank you, currently reading like a maniac and not finding links

Absolutely anything is welcome - I'm familiar with a lot of scholars and their ideas due to reading a lot of books, so don't be afraid to add any particular theories.
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BryBry97
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First of all establish which side of the argument you are on- either one is fine as long as you say why. Also, use as many examples as you can, not just of scholars but case studies.

Swinburne is a good place to start, you could go through each principle explaining why this makes RE's valid. A good point is that a version of P of Testimony helped to cement the foundational experience of Muhammad: his cousin Waraqa argued that the fact the message Muhammad received in the cave made sense, and his nickname was Al Almin (‘the trustworthy one’) meant the experience was likely to be veridical.

On the other hand many philosophers like Hume have pointed out how our perceptions are unreliable (Hume's Fork etc). Also Swinburne was only trying to establish Christian experiences as true, but his principles could be applied to all religions- a position Swinburne would not be comfortable with. If you did miracles last year, you might remember how Hume suggested that evidence for miracles in one religion cancels out the evidence in another.

That also leads to the whole constructivist debate- Katz, Proudfoot, Mackie etc- you might want to use some examples of REs eg specific conversion stories and show how they can be explained through science/ psychology etc. Likewise if you've looked at mysticism and people like Stace and Forman, you could show that although there appears to be a common core experience across religions (thus escaping cultural conditioning), the loss of subject and object in Buddhist meditation, Islamic Sufism, Hesychasm etc could be explained by biology- i.e. the brain releasing endorphins/ being starved of oxygen.

On the other hand you could point out that many religious people (see Teresa of Avila's classifications of RE) suggest REs are valid because they affect people's behaviour- see conversion, near death experiences etc- generally making them less altruistic. Although again you could argue against this using cultural conditioning/ science etc.

Overall I would argue something along the lines of the attempts to establish validity can only satisfy religious believers as they have a pre-existent faith, meaning they automatically look to within their own faith systems for verification, and interpret REs religiously. In terms of people who convert to religion, especially if they were atheists beforehand, the deeply emotional impact of their experience would make it likely for the person to look beyond this world and conclude there must be a higher purpose, when there could in reality be scientific explanations for the experience. Ultimately it falls to a more anti-realist perspective- but if you did want to argue the other way, you could always argue that the scientific explanations i.e starving the brain of oxygen, epilepsy etc are God's method of inducing the RE, in a similar way to how some religious people reconcile with evolution.
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ambergraver
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Thank you so much this points me in the right direction! really helpful
I wrote quite a bit today but going to try finish it off and add to it.
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ambergraver
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Sorry, could you explain what you mean by some form of the principle of testament is shown in muhammed's conversion? Because that's a great point that I could use for an essay I'm currently writing- I understood briefly but was there anyway of actually explaining the way that it linked? Thank you if you can!
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ambergraver
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(Original post by BryBry97)
First of all establish which side of the argument you are on- either one is fine as long as you say why. Also, use as many examples as you can, not just of scholars but case studies.

Swinburne is a good place to start, you could go through each principle explaining why this makes RE's valid. A good point is that a version of P of Testimony helped to cement the foundational experience of Muhammad: his cousin Waraqa argued that the fact the message Muhammad received in the cave made sense, and his nickname was Al Almin (‘the trustworthy one’) meant the experience was likely to be veridical.

On the other hand many philosophers like Hume have pointed out how our perceptions are unreliable (Hume's Fork etc). Also Swinburne was only trying to establish Christian experiences as true, but his principles could be applied to all religions- a position Swinburne would not be comfortable with. If you did miracles last year, you might remember how Hume suggested that evidence for miracles in one religion cancels out the evidence in another.

That also leads to the whole constructivist debate- Katz, Proudfoot, Mackie etc- you might want to use some examples of REs eg specific conversion stories and show how they can be explained through science/ psychology etc. Likewise if you've looked at mysticism and people like Stace and Forman, you could show that although there appears to be a common core experience across religions (thus escaping cultural conditioning), the loss of subject and object in Buddhist meditation, Islamic Sufism, Hesychasm etc could be explained by biology- i.e. the brain releasing endorphins/ being starved of oxygen.

On the other hand you could point out that many religious people (see Teresa of Avila's classifications of RE) suggest REs are valid because they affect people's behaviour- see conversion, near death experiences etc- generally making them less altruistic. Although again you could argue against this using cultural conditioning/ science etc.

Overall I would argue something along the lines of the attempts to establish validity can only satisfy religious believers as they have a pre-existent faith, meaning they automatically look to within their own faith systems for verification, and interpret REs religiously. In terms of people who convert to religion, especially if they were atheists beforehand, the deeply emotional impact of their experience would make it likely for the person to look beyond this world and conclude there must be a higher purpose, when there could in reality be scientific explanations for the experience. Ultimately it falls to a more anti-realist perspective- but if you did want to argue the other way, you could always argue that the scientific explanations i.e starving the brain of oxygen, epilepsy etc are God's method of inducing the RE, in a similar way to how some religious people reconcile with evolution.

So the point mentioned about explaining religious experience through scientific explanation - is this arguing that they can be valid or not - I can see the argument for not as it implies you can get to the same conclusion through a different means but I feel you could argue it slightly as though it is scientifically proving that a religious experience is real...I just can't put the argument into words- any thoughts?
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BryBry97
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(Original post by ambergraver)
Sorry, could you explain what you mean by some form of the principle of testament is shown in muhammed's conversion? Because that's a great point that I could use for an essay I'm currently writing- I understood briefly but was there anyway of actually explaining the way that it linked? Thank you if you can!
I just meant that Swinburne's PofT was used (obviously before Swinburne was around) by Muhammad's cousin Waraqa. Basically after Muhammad experienced his hierophany he was unsure whether what he experienced was true. Waraqa suggested that as the message Muhammad had received made sense, and Muhammad was known as the trustworthy one (Al Amin) it was reasonable to assert that the experience was true.
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VanTil
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I think a good area of Christianity to look at would be the Charismatic movement. It's gaining momentum(I strongly disagree with it) but it's interesting to see how their 'worship' is a glorified concert and experience designed to essentially illicit a feeing that's then contextualised as 'God' or the 'Holy Spirit'.

It's seeing more prevalence in today's society as it becomes increasingly secular. People aren't satisfied in faith alone and so things like the Charismatic movement lend themselves perfectly to those that want to be a part of something but need that 'touch/feel' aspect for them to feel justified in their faith.
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