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Flashcards in Religious Experience Deck (36)
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Define mystical experience

Experiences of god or of the supernatural which go beyond everyday sense experience


Define conversion experience

An experience which produces a radical change in someone's belief system


Define corporate religious experience

An experience which happens to a group of people at the same time


Define William James 4 qualities of religious experience; ineffability, transience, noetic quality , passivity

1. Ineffability = difficult to express in normal everyday words

2. Transience = the experience doesn't last long but the effects could be everlasting

3. Noetic = the person feels they have learnt something they didn't know before

4. Passivity = experience is happening to them rather than they are doing it.


Explain mystical experience and two examples of it

- connection with god at deep personal level

- conveys idea that this physical world is not all that there is

- god known through soul, not mind

- sense of awe and wonder

- e.g. The vision of Isiah in the temple (Isaiah 6)

- e.g. The voices heard by the boy Samuel ( 1 Samuel 3 )


Explain Lewis description of conversion experiences

- individual is dissatisfied with current system of ideas

- search for new answers e.g. Bible reading

- point of crisis with the presence of god e.g vision

- following sense of joy

- long term change for the person


Give a biblical example of a conversion experience

- St. Paul on the road to Damascus ( acts 9?

- light flashed around him, fell to the ground and heard voice


Outline William James fruits

- a conviction of something beyond the material world

- immense feeling of elation and freedom

- feeling of having met a friendly power and responding by self surrender

- a change in the emphasis of life


Explain William James views

- objective, scientific approach

- collected people's accounts of experiences

- pragmatist - truth of something could be established by its practical results


What does Rudolf Otto think about religious experiences

-numinous experiences are at the heart of all religious experiences

- the divine can be described as an awe inspiring fascinating mystery

- support William James


Schleiermacher argument for religious experience

- we all have a sense of dependence if only we stop to reflect on it.

- this lies deeper than the level of rational thinking


Explain swinburnes principle of credulity

- supports William James

- if it seems to us that we're experiencing god, then we should be prepared to believe that we are experiencing god


Explain swinburnes principle of testimony

- supports William James

- if people tell us they have had a religious experience , we should be prepared to believe then unless we have good reason not to


What are Starbuck's two types of conversion

1. The volitional type = gradual change and slow development of new moral and spiritual habits

2. The self surrender type = a sudden experience followed by a change of life

- conversions mainly occur in 15-24 year olds 'conversion is in its essence a normal adolescent phenomenon '

- think of counter arguments to this


Explain the Toronto blessing as an e.g. Of corporate religious experience and evaluation of it

- started in Toronto airport church in 1990's , spread across churches

- it is described as a love of the Holy Spirit

- shown through speaking in tongues (unlearned languages) , animal noises and uncontrollable laughter

- some say it has strengthened marriages, changes lives etc

-others suggest mass hysteria or work of the demons

- problem. What does this reveal about god? Why has god only chosen to act on a small group of people


What is Ludwig Feuerbach psychological interpretation of religious experience

- people transfer all their highest ideals and hopes onto this made up god and imagine him to be all the things they wish they were themselves


What is Freud's psychological interpretation of religious experience

- mind consists of ID, EGO and SUPEREGO

- the subconscious layers of the mind lead people into believing in god but this is an 'infantile neurosis '

- cannot cope with being adults so make up imaginary parent figure

- religious experiences happen when this subconscious invention takes over imagination

- in response to St. Paul's conversion , Freud says he was having a mental breakdown caused by guilt from killing Christians


Explain physiological interpretations of religious experience

- some neurophysiological studies of religious experience suggest that it is down to natural causes rather than a supernatural one

- research suggest that near death experiences are caused by endorphins in the body rather than God


Explain the evaluation point of the differences in interpretation

- faith, culture could discredit religious experiences

-Hume noted that Catholics experience Mary whilst Hindus experience Krishna

- however, James pluralism could provide answer. Experiences within different faiths are simply those of an ultimate reality or god


Explain the argument of quantity to support religious experiences

- research from David hat suggests that religious experiences are widespread with 30%-40% of Britain'a population claiming they have been aware of a presence beyond themselves


What is Kants argument against religious experience

It is logically impossible to experience god since we are rooted in the phenomenal world of the senses


James conclusions

- empiricism = the many case studies he produced are empirical evidence of the effects of religious experience

- pluralism = his research into experiences in different faiths led him to conclude that they were similar . This having experiences may be just experiencing the same ultimate reality which is the interpreted into the second hand religious belief structure that is most familiar to them

- pragmatism = truth was not fixed and that observing effects of religious experience we can conclude that there is truth to be found in religion but not sure if this points to god


What are two strengths of James’ conclusions

- you can observe the effect on a person who has had a religious experience

- empiricism bud counter = can deceive us


4 weaknesses of James’ conclusions

- effects may be down to psychology ( Freud ) or physiological (Russel)

- concludes that experiences of different faiths were similar but used St. Teresa of Avila’s criteria for a religious experience which state that it has to fit in with Christian teaching to be real experience

- criticised for interpreting data with conclusions in mind. Weakness of empiricism

- religions can be very different. Buddhism doesn’t even point to a god. Criticism of pluralism


Starbucks views on conversion experience

- religious experiences are a normal experience that happens during teenage years - finding yourself and discovering who you are

- he says this because most conversion happen between the age of 15-24

- doesn’t point to the existence of god

- counter = not all conversion happen during this age. Conversion are often short but Starbucks is suggesting that conversion are a long process that goes on over time


William James’ definition of conversion

- before conversion the person feels lost and confused within their self

- after the conversion the person feels happy and fulfilled


Explain the children of Medjugorje as an example of corporate religious experiences

- in June 1981, 6 teenagers in the village of Medjugoje claimed to have vision of the Virgin Mary, whom the day has continued to appear to them

- The message to them is consistent. God is present in the world and in peoples lives, and we must repent to bring about peace.


What questions does this topic raise ?

- alternative explanations - psychological for example

- is it real ? How to we know ?

- the reliability of personal testimony

- why doesn’t it happen to everyone ?

- do you need religious experience to make religion valid ?


Russell’s quote to suggest that religious experiences are physiological

We can make no distinction between a man who eats little and sees God and the man who drinks much and sees snakes.


Thomas Hobbes quote to suggest that religious experiences are dreams

When a man says that god spoke to him in a dream... it is not more than to say that he dreamed god spoke to him