Religious Experience An argument for the existence of God: –The best explanation for religious experience is that it is accurate, i.e. it is an experience of something divine.
William James The Varieties of Religious Experience Religious experience is an experience of the reality of the unseen, which is felt more than conceptualized. A religious attitude to life is “ solemn, serious and tender ”.
James: Five marks of religious attitude The visible world is part of a spiritual world. A harmonious relation with the spiritual world is our true purpose. This harmony allows spiritual energy to affect the visible world. A new zest for life An assurance of safety and a predominance of loving relationships with others
The origin of religion The Future of an Illusion The origins of religion in human history: a response to our vulnerability in the face of forces of nature The origins of religion in the individual mind: a development from our childhood vulnerability and our relationship with our father, whom we both fear and love “ Thus [man ’ s] longing for a father is a motive identical with his need for protection against the consequences of his human weakness. ”
Freud: Religion is illusion Religion is an ‘ illusion ’, i.e. caused by the fulfilment of a wish (we want it – life, the universe – to be this way). Religious experience is like dreams, experiences caused by wishes.
James: A response We should judge religious experience by its content and its effects. Content: –something is wrong/lacking with us –harmony with the spiritual world puts this right. –so it is an experience of something ‘ MORE ’. “ God is real because he produces real effects. ”
Freud ’ s rebuttal Real effects can have psychological causes. “ Scientific work is the only road which can lead us to a knowledge of reality outside ourselves. ”