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The argument from Religious Experience. I seem to see a table Therefore, its likely there is a table there. I seem to experience God Therefore, it is likely that there is a God. Are these arguments analogous?. Some differences.

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are these arguments analogous
I seem to see a table

Therefore, its likely there is a table there

I seem to experience God

Therefore, it is likely that there is a God

Are these arguments analogous?
some differences
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
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 experiences.
the analogy is limited
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 anything
what is the connection between religious experience and truth
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 tell?
arguments against reliability of religious experience
Arguments against reliability of religious experience
  • Religious experiences contradict one another
  • 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 processes
Caused by brain processes?
  • “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 so-called 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”

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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.