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The Non-Existence of God 8: Religious Experience

10/11/2011

Everitt looks at how religious experience fits into belief in God. I was glad to see an examination of things like the principle of credulity that I’ve read in Swinburne and in Letters to a Doubting Thomas.

Some good criteria to start off:

“The first is that my experience must cohere with other experiences which I myself have.” (157)

“The second sort of factor that would justify me in treating my experience as veridical and not merely illusory would be a causal interaction between the supposed object and other real objects.”
“The third test is corroboration by other people. If there is a real apple in front of me, then other people ought to be able to obtain perceptual experiences of it just as well as I can.”

These would somewhat rule out religious experiences, since those tend to be one-off, don’t interact with other experiences, and tend not to be corroborated by other people. Of course, there is the response that you could never, in a non-circular way, justify the first experiences you have. I suppose that you can make an argument from practicality, or perhaps use Occam’s razor to justify accepting those things, while at the same time denying religious experiences.

I still need to think about this one. Not sure if I could respond successfully to religious experience/ the principle of credulity.

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