Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Religious Experience(3)

"Types of Religious experience"

The Argument from Religious Experience
There are many different ways of categorising religious experience. Swinburne distinguishes between public and private religious experience which he then further sub-divides.

Public experiences

1. An individual sees God or God's action in a public object or scene. However, an explanation can easily be given on other grounds. For example, whilst a believer may see the work of God, a non-believer may just see a beautiful sunset.
2. Very unusual public events occur which involve a breach in natural law. For example, the transition of water into wine. There is less emphasis upon personal interpretation here, although the sceptic may say that although something inexplicable has happened, it is not necessarily the work of God. A video camera may have seemed miraculous a hundred years ago but today it is not.

Private experiences

By their very nature, these are less easily verified that public experiences:
1. Experiences that can be described by an individual using normal language. For example, Jacob's vision of a ladder going up to heaven. There is always a problem with interpreting dreams, and many would look for a psychological rather than divine explanation.
2. Experiences which cannot be described in normal language but which are nevertheless very real to those experiencing them.
3. In this case, there is no specific experience, but the individual feels that God is acting in his or her life. Looking back on past events an individual may say, "God's hand guided me," although if pressed they would have to admit that no specific evidence exists.

(posted by Farid)

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