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3.3: Arguments for the Existence of God from Experience and Pragmatism

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  • Arguments for the Existence of God from Religious Experience

    Arguments or proofs based upon experience come in two basic forms

    1. Direct Experience
      1. Encounter with the supernatural
      2. Mystical experience- union with the deity/supernatural
    2. Indirect Experience
      1. Miracles

    For many religious people there is in the center of their religious nature the feeling that there is something more than their individual consciousness could contact. There is a sense of something "more" or bigger than anything in the known universe. This issues into a hypothesis or idea of a supernatural reality or dimension of reality beyond that which normal sensation can encounter.

    A Religious experience is an encounter of a human being with a supernatural being, be it a deity or an emissary or intermediary for the deity, nevertheless a spiritual entity. It is a numinal experience. Religious experiences are for the most part, individual and esoteric.

    The mystical experience is a particular variety of religious experience in which the subject is transformed and reports the loss of individuality, the oneness of all reality, union with the deity, the unity of the subject of the experience with the object of the experience. It is an experience which posits the oneness of all reality and the unity of all. In particular, the Mystical Experience involves the unity of the subject with its object (the deity, the totality).

    • The commonalities in such experience around the world is termed the consensus mysticum.
    • It has been described by Rudolph Otto as involving an experience characterized as being tremendum et fascinans

    William James has described such experiences as having the following characteristics:

    • Ineffable noetic
    • Anti-naturalistic transient
    • Passive pantheistic
    • optimistic

    James held that such experiences are powerful and lead the subject of such an experience to a belief in a supernatural entity. James held:

    • Mystical states are authoritative over the individual who has the experience
    • Mystical states have no authority over individuals who have not had such an experience
    • Mystical states break down the authority of ordinary consciousness and sense knowledge. Such states offer hypotheses which others may ignore
    • Such religious experiences have consequences for those who encounter them. They issue into feelings and actions.

    The questions are:

    1. Is the subject of a religious experience justified inferring from the psychological experience to the existential or the ontological reality of the object of that experience: the supernatural being?
    2. Is anyone else justified in reaching the conclusion that a supernatural being exists based upon the report of the individual who has made the claim to have had the religious experience?
    3. Does the accumulation of reports from such witnesses to religious experiences justify the claim that a supernatural or spiritual being, a deity, a transcendent reality , exists?

    Argument From Religious Experience

    Problems

    Premises/Conclusion
    1. People report encounters with a deity or being sent from the deity
    2. There must exist a deity.
    Rebuttal or Counter Argument

    The reports of such encounters are not verified as they have alternative naturalistic explanations that do not involve the existence of any supernatural agents. So many do ask: Are the reports true? Veridical?

    Not all who learn of the reports of such religious experiences accept them as conclusive evidence for the existence of a supernatural reality or spiritual beings. Many have attempted to give alternative accounts of such experiences that do not involve acceptance of the existence of any supernatural entities or reality.

    Naturalism is an approach to religious experiences which explains them as being the result of natural forces. It accounts for such phenomena in natural terms without recourse to anything that is beyond the physical realm. In general, all reality and all experiences can be accounted for (fully explained) in terms of physical processes.

    There are different explanations for the origin and nature of religious experiences. What they have in common is the rejection of a supernatural source or object and the attempt to offer a full explanation in empirically verifiable terms.

    Psychological explanations have been offered by several theoreticians, including Sigmund Freud. Sociological explanations have also been developed by several other scientists, such as Emil Durkheim. What they have in common is the refusal to accept religious experiences as being truthful, accurate, or believable in so far as the existence of any supernatural reality. One of the principle reasons for withholding acceptance of the reports is that the experiences can not be verified and what they report encountering can not be verified empirically.

    Alternative Explanations

    When people hear of those who claim to have seen god or an angel or have heard a voice or were instructed by god to kill their child, most people are inclined to think that the claim is not an accurate and truthful report. Most tend not to believe the person making the claim. Most people would be inclined to suspect one or more of the following factors are the more likely explanation of the claim other than that the claim is accurate and true.

    • Persons are mistaken, e.g., optical illusion, misinterpretation, hallucination
    • Persons are under the influence of mind altering substances
    • Persons are suffering from brain malfunctioning, e.g., chemical imbalance in brain
    • Persons are under the influence of group influence-social psychology
    • Persons are self deceiving
    • Persons operate with confirmation bias and belief perseverance.
    • Persons are preconditioned for Misinformation Effect but self deceived
    • Persons are manipulated by Compliance Techniques
    • Persons operating with Projection
    • Persons have a need for Closure
    • Persons have a need for Agenticity : Anthropomorphism

    Hallucinations

    Questions

    1. Are the reports concerning these religious experiences veridical (truthful and accurate)
    2. What is the scientific analysis of the religious experiences?
    3. What are the genetic and causal conditions of religious experiences?
      1. in the human race ?
      2. in the individual?
    4. Is the religious experience veridical? Is it truthful? Is it a report which others can accept as being Correct? Truthful? Accurate?

    Humans should accept religious experiences as being veridical unless there exists positive grounds for thinking otherwise, for thinking that the reports are not truthful, accurate or correct.Some claim that there are positive grounds for rejecting the reports of such experiences, i.e., against their being veridical experiences

    • mystics are abnormal: they tend to be sexually repressed
    • mystical experience is always mixed with other elements such as sexual emotion or imagery

    In response to these observations some offer that perhaps the human being must be in an altered state of consciousness in order to have the experience of the greater (supernatural) reality which the ordinary consciousness can not contain or reach. Sexual abstinence may be a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having such an encounter.

    Outcome Assessment

    This argument or proof does not establish the actual existence of a supernatural deity. It attempts to argue for the existence of such a being by offering evidence that is highly questionable and for which there are alternative and often more plausible explanations. While the argument can not be used to convert a non-believer to a believer, the faults in the argument do not prove that there is no god. The Burden of Proof demands that the positive claim that there is a supernatural deity be established by reason and evidence and this argument does not meet that standard. The believer in god can use this argument to establish the mere logical possibility that there is a supernatural deity or at least that it is not irrational to believe in the possibility that there is such a being but the argument does not establish any degree of probability at all when there are alternative explanations for the reports of experiences offered. The veracity of the reports has not been established.

    Premises/Conclusion
    1. People report encounters with a deity or being sent from the deity
    2. There must exist a deity.
    Problem with argument:
    1. _X_ Premises are false or questionable
    2. ___ Premises are irrelevant
    3. ___ Premises Contain the Conclusion –Circular Reasoning
    4. ___ Premises are inadequate to support the conclusion
    5. _X_ Alternative arguments exist with equal or greater support

    This argument or proof has flaws in it and would not convince a rational person to accept its conclusion. This is not because someone who does not believe in a deity will simply refuse to accept based on emotions or past history but because it is not rationally compelling of acceptance of its conclusion. God made me do it…

    Argument for Existence of God from Miracles

    Many but not all of the religions of the world have as part of their traditions claims of miracles. Miracles have different forms and play different roles within each religion. The religions of the West have many things in common that have a bearing on the way in which they view miracles . They share in being religions of the holy book or sacred text. They place importance on events which have been reported to have occurred in history. They rely on the existence of miracles The events which are reported to have taken place in the time of Moses are key to the acceptance of the idea of the One God for the peoples of Israel and all who follow after them. The events during the times of Jesus, the Christ, are also the basis for the acceptance of Jesus as being the Son of God by the followers of Jesus. The spread of Islam is also an event regarded as miraculous and a proof of the legitimacy of the claims of Mohammed. So, miracles are important for the Western religions.

    Miracles have served as the foundation for the historical proof of the existence of the God of the western religions. The leadership of the religions of the West do not want miracle taken lightly and do not want false claims of miracles. These religions will often be the first to investigate claims of miraculous events in order to disprove them! The concern is that if people come to accept the claim of a miracle and it later turns out to be disproved, then those who had come to believe in it might come not only to stop believing in that particular "miracle" that had been disproved but in all other such claims and thus might come to loose their faith altogether. The fear is that people would think something similar to this: "If I could be fooled into thinking this recent event was a miracle, then what about those people long ago who reported experiencing a miracle? Could it be possible that they too were deceived? Or mistaken?"

    Current cinema offers several movies that have miracles as their theme. A few have a member of a church sent to investigate the legitimacy of a claim of a miracle. The movies are for entertainment and most of these films result in some sort of confirmation for the audience. In real life it does not work out that way. Claims of apparitions and cures are usually quickly dispelled by investigators.

    Argument

    Premises/Conclusion
    1. There is an event that has taken place that violates the laws of nature.
    2. If the laws of nature are violated it could only be by a power that could violate the laws of nature that could only be the power that would have created those laws-the law maker, the deity.
    3. Thus, the power that would have created those laws-the law maker, the deity must exist.

    The criticisms of this argument or proof attack the first premise. What evidence is there that there has ever been an event that has taken place that violates the laws of nature. What would be required to establish that such an event has, in fact, taken place. The questions are:

    1. What exactly are Miracles ?
    2. Do they prove the existence of a supernatural realm?
      1. A deity?
      2. God?
      3. The supreme Being?
    3. What does it take to prove that a miracle has taken place?
    4. Could it ever be proven that a miracle had taken place?

    Proving Some Event is a Miracle

    • So event X is reported to have occurred.
    • Event X has either a natural cause or supernatural cause.
    • If event X can have either a natural cause or supernatural cause it cannot be a miracle. Why not?
    • Because a miracle is defined to be an event that can only have a supernatural cause. Why?
    • Because then it can be used to prove that there is a supernatural being aka God.
    • Anyone who wants to claim X is a miracle needs to satisfy the two conditions presented above for an event to be accepted as a miracle.
    • The Burden of Proof is on defending that X is a miracle and not the other way around.

    Yes, people choose to believe that events are miracles even though they do not satisfy the conditions and even though there is evidence against the events being miracles and even though if the reports were true it would not necessarily mean that the event was the result of the Supreme Being bringing about the events.

    In logic it is shown that you can never prove a general negative claim. Those that assert the affirmative have the burden of proof within the community of reasoning beings. This goes for claims that there are purple elephants with yellow stripes, that there are miracles and that there is a single Supreme Being. Miracles are very, very difficult to prove. So difficult that several philosophers have concluded that there have been none thus far.

    To be a miracle an event would need to violate the laws of nature. For any report to be accepted the evidence would need to be pretty convincing and all alternative explanations would need to be ruled out (completely eliminated). That is a very difficult thing to do. The evidence would come from witnesses but the more unbelievable (violating the laws of nature) the event was the more we would doubt the witnesses. Given the lack of reliable witnesses and the inability to completely eliminate all other possible explanations (fraud, delusions, greed, optical illusions, advanced technology, alien activities, etc...) miracles are not accepted by most rational people.

    Problems with Miracles - Definition

    Exactly what constitutes a miracle is a matter for careful consideration, given the importance of the reports of such events, should they be correct and truthful.

    Unusual or Extraordinary Event

    Some consider any unusual event as a miracle or at least an unusual event with a positive outcome, e.g. winning Lotto. Negative events with less probability (being hit by lightning, three separate times) are not considered as miracles. This is a very weak use of the term "miracle”.This cannot be the basis for a proof for the existence of God because unusual events occur all the time and have explanations using natural factors. Surviving an auto accident is not a miracle. This event happens often and has an explanation using the laws of nature. Such survivals do not violate the laws of nature.

    If surviving an auto accident were to be considered a miracle because God brought it about then so would death be a miracle because if God determines who survives such an accident so too does God determine who dies. However, we do not hear people say: He died in the accident. It was a miracle!

    Not Just Happy Events

    There are many happy events. Winning the lotto, surviving a crash, or surviving a disease. They are not miracles in the sense that we need for an event in order to use it to prove that there is a supernatural being.There are particular problems with happy events being called a miracle.

    Examples
    • A person survives cancer. The chances were 1 in 50.
    • A person survives a car crash. 5 other people were killed in the crash.

    The survivals are happy events but if the survivals are miracles and indicate that a deity is behind them and caused them then the deity also caused the deaths of the 49 from disease and the 5 from the crash. Those deaths would be miracles as well. Most would not want to call them miracles.

    To accept some event as being a miracle in order to use it to prove the existence of a supernatural being we must satisfy two conditions: 1) the event must violate the laws of nature and 2) there must be clear and indisputable evidence which compels us to accept that the event took place just as reported

    Situation

    Falling Down: It is highly unusual for someone to die from a fall of less than 4 feet, say off of a chair or step stool. It is highly unusual for someone not to die after falling over 10,00 feet. Both events have happened. People fall off of a chair and hit their heads and die and people fall out of planes and live. We call those who live after an unusual fall a miracle but not those who die after an unusual fall. If we call the event a miracle because it is so unusual and not at all what was expected why not call the event of someone's dying after falling off of a chair a miracle?

    Examples
    • "Lieutenant I. M. Chisov of the former Soviet Union was flying his Ilyushin 4 on a bitter cold day in January 1942, when it was attacked by 12 German Messerschmitts. Convinced that he had no chance of surviving if he staged with his badly battered plane, Chisov bailed out at 21,980 feet. With the fighters still buzzing around, Chisov cleverly decided to fall freely out of the area. It was his plan not to open his chute until he was down to only 1000 ft above the ground. Unfortunately, he lost consciousness en route. As luck would have it, he crashed at the edge of a steep ravine covered with 3 ft of snow. Hitting at about 120 mi/h, he plowed along its slope until he came to rest at the bottom. Chisov awoke 20 min later, bruised and sore, but miraculously he had suffered only a concussion of the spine and a fractured pelvis. Three and one-half months later he was back at work as a flight instructor."
    • Flight Sergeant Nicholas Steven Alkemade was on a bombing mission over Germany on 23 March 1944 when his Lancaster bomber flying at 18,000 feet his was in flames when he was forced to jump, without a parachute or be burned to death. He dove out of his destroyed aircraft hoping on a quick death. His speed accelerated to over 120 miles per hour and he impacted on a snow covered sloping forest. He was completely uninjured and later captured by the Germans who refused to believe his story.
    • The longest survivable fall, 26 January 1972, was Vesna Vulovic a stewardess in a DC-9 which blew up at 33,330 feet. She was in the tail section of the aircraft and though injured survived the fall.
    Situation

    No explanation: Some consider events for which there are no explanations as miracles. It isn’t clear whether this would mean no explanation at the present time or no explanation possible. This cannot be used as a proof for the existence of God because these events could receive a completely naturalistic explanation in the future after science has advanced.

    It is possible that events could be explained by advanced science. It is even possible that events that appear "miraculous" because there is no explanation at present could be the result of aliens with advanced technology causing them to occur here on this planet.

    Medical cases are not good cases for miracles because there are too many alternative explanations and they are almost always not violations of the laws of nature. Medical doctors and scientists do not know everything. Common place events today would have been thought to be miracles in the past (over 100 years ago). Therefore, simply because a medical diagnosis or prognosis proved to be inaccurate or incorrect, there is insufficient evidence from that to conclude that the event could only have been caused by the Single Supreme Being-God. Take for example heart resuscitation. Reviving a stopped heart is not a miracle. Bringing a person to full life appearance from what was thought to be death is not a miracle. Curing a person of influenza is not a miracle. Restoring a person's sight through surgery is not a miracle. These would have been thought to be miracles over 100 years ago but no longer. So, if someone who is very sick or thought to be dead turns out not to be dead or becomes well, those are no longer miracles.

    A miracle cannot be simply an unexplained or rare event, those happen often and as time goes on we learn more and can explain more and come to know how often people are hit by lightning and win Lotto. To be a miracle an event must violate the Laws of Nature. People getting well do not violate the laws of nature. The best medical knowledge can only give percentages, as in, a person with ovarian cancer has a 40% survival rate with surgery and radiation treatment. Some survive and some do not. If someone survives it is not thought to be a miracle but that they have had a reversal of the disease process due to surgery or medication or radiation or mental focusing of the bodies regenerative powers or a combination of those factors. Why do some survive and others do not? Well there are different body chemistries, different mental attitudes etc... If you think the person who is cured is cured because it is a miracle brought about by God then why not consider those who die as dying as a result of a miracle as well. God wanted them dead and so they are. People who win Lotto may think it is a miracle or God's will. People who lose Lotto do not think of it as a miracle or God's will. The factors in play with Lotto are the same for winners as for losers. Likewise with physical ailments.

    Some people think that a recovery from a physical ailment would not be evidence of a miracle because there is fate or destiny working. e.g.: "I would not think of that as a miracle because that person I guess that it was not the time for him to die and that's why he got saved, because if it is your time to die no one will be able to save you."

    To think this way requires that you believe in fate or destiny. If so, what determines your fate or destiny? If it is a deity or deities then you are already a believer. But, what evidence is there that there is fate or destiny? What evidence or proof is there that there is a deity?

    Can you give an example of a miracle that would be an event for which there are no alternative explanations but that it is the work of the Single Supreme Being (God) and that is because it is clearly a violation of the laws of nature that no other power could bring about?

    The Requirements of a Definition of Miracles

    • What is needed is a definition that is strong enough so that the events claimed to be Miracles would establish the existence of a supernatural and very powerful entity, i.e., God.
    • What is needed is an event that could only be caused by God. This event can have no other possible explanation! So, what results is the strong definition of Miracles .

    Miracles are events which violate the laws of nature itself. This is an event that could only be caused by the author of those laws. It cannot be an event which has no present naturalistic explanation, for in the future there might be one. It could not be caused by advanced technology possessed by advanced alien societies.

    Problems with Verification

    Not all who learn of the reports of such miracles accept them as conclusive evidence for the existence of a supernatural reality or spiritual beings. Many have attempted to give alternative accounts of such experiences that do not involve acceptance of the existence of any supernatural entities or reality.

    Naturalism is an approach to religious experiences and miracles which explains them as being the result of natural forces. It accounts for such phenomena in natural terms without recourse to anything that is beyond the physical realm. In general, all reality and all experiences can be accounted for (fully explained) in terms of physical processes.

    There are different explanations for the origin and nature of religious experiences and miracles. What they have in common is the rejection of a supernatural source or object and the attempt to offer a full explanation in empirically verifiable terms.

    You cannot claim that "miracles exist unless someone proves that they do not exist." The burden of proof is always on the claim that X exists rather than on the claim that X does not exist. It is a fallacy to claim that X exists unless you prove that there is no X. What is improper is for a person to claim that "X exists" and when asked to prove it, the person who made the claim uses a defense of "X exists" then claim next that no one has proven that X does not exist.

    What is the best way to proceed when there is a report of some appearance of a religious figure on a wall or pancake, etc... Should the process favor a more natural explanation until proven otherwise?

    The best explanation would be the one that has the best fit with facts or the explanation that is best supported by claims that are themselves each well supported by other well supported claims. This is a process of explanation that rests heavily on the use of reason and the insistence on evidence to support claims about physical events or a physical state of affairs. So any appearance of any phenomena that is detectable by the senses should have an explanation concerning how the physical state of affairs has come about to produce that appearance to human senses. The burden of proof concerning physical claims is with those making the positive assertion.

    The explanation must also avoid the pattern of thinking that if one cannot prove that X is not the cause then X is the cause. One can not appeal to the absence of evidence or proof as constituting the basis for any conclusions. If one cannot prove what caused phenomenon P then one must withhold accepting the conclusion that any particular cause C is the cause of P.

    If there is a claim that phenomenon N (natural event-perceived by the senses) was caused by factor S (supernatural cause) then there needs to be evidence to support the claim.

    So the explanation of an event such as the appearance of a figure resembling what someone thinks of as a figure from religious history would need to have evidence to support it. In the absence of physical evidence, then the preponderance of the evidence is support of explanations of phenomena of a similar type might be given "preferred" status until subsequent evidence supports another conclusion.

    Using the resort of a supernatural explanation has so many gaps that it is less preferred in the absence of strong evidence in support of a naturalistic explanation or the holding of the expectation of a naturalistic explanation to be forthcoming. The supernatural explanation has no physical evidence (natural) to support it and no explanation of how it is that non-physical entities cause physical events in the natural realm.

    There is also the very important question to be answered in this particular case of why it is that anyone alive thinks that they known just what Mary looked like. Why assume that the image is the image of any particular historical or or mythical entity? This is a case of a simulacrum.

    If you cannot explain the event or phenomena by use of a natural explanation then it is a supernaturally caused event involving the spiritual or supernatural beings A B, C, etc...is both illogical and generated by and rests upon faith that is held to sustain hope. This is a habit of mind that is quite strong as it has consequences thought to be beneficial by the holder of the habit.

    Premises/Conclusion
    1. There is an event that has taken place that violates the laws of nature.
    2. If the laws of nature are violated it could only be by a power that could violate the laws of nature that could only be the power that would have created those laws (the law maker/ the deity).
    3. Thus, the power that would have created those laws (the law maker, the deity) must exist.
    Criticisms/Rebuttals

    The criticisms of this argument or proof attack the first premise. What evidence is there that there has ever been an event that has taken place that violates the laws of nature. What would be required to establish that such an event has, in fact, taken place?

    Hume maintains that the preponderance of the evidence will always be that the laws of nature are being followed. Any claim that there has been a violation of those laws would need to be substantiated by clear and convincing evidence. Since there is so much evidence that the laws are not violated, any claim to the contrary would need to have a good deal of evidence to support it. Hume does not believe that such evidence exists, has ever existed, or could ever exist. Evidence in support of miracles would need to satisfy the following criteria:

    1. sufficient number of witnesses
    2. witnesses of good sense and education
    3. witnesses of integrity and good reputation
    4. public performance of the miracle event
    5. These conditions have not been satisfied

    Hume argues that miracles do not occur and that there is a logical obstacle to humans ever proving that events are miracles.

    Hume on Miracles

    Outcome Assessment

    This argument or proof does not establish the actual existence of a supernatural deity. It attempts to argue for the existence of such a being by offering evidence that is highly questionable and for which there are alternative and often more plausible explanations. While the argument can not be used to convert a non-believer to a believer, the faults in the argument do not prove that there is no god. The Burden of Proof demands that the positive claim that there is a supernatural deity be established by reason and evidence and this argument does not meet that standard. The believer in god can use this argument to establish the mere logical possibility that there is a supernatural deity or at least that it is not irrational to believe in the possibility that there is such a being, but the argument does not establish any degree of probability at all when there are alternative explanations for the reports of experiences offered. The veracity of the reports has not been established.

    Premises/Conclusion
    1. There is an event that has taken place that violates the laws of nature.
    2. If the laws of nature are violated it could only be by a power that could violate the laws of nature that could only be the power that would have created those laws-the law maker, the deity.
    3. Thus, the power that would have created those laws-the law maker, the deity must exist.
    Problem with argument:
    1. _X_ Premises are false or questionable
    2. ____ Premises are irrelevant
    3. ____ Premises Contain the Conclusion –Circular Reasoning
    4. ____ Premises are inadequate to support the conclusion
    5. ____ Alternative arguments exist with equal or greater support

    This argument or proof has flaws in it and would not convince a rational person to accept its conclusion. This is not because someone who does not believe in a deity will simply refuse to accept based on emotions or past history but because it is not rationally compelling of acceptance of its conclusion.

    Psychic Phenomena

    If reports of certain types of psychic phenomena were accurate and truthful and believable they would establish the existence of a spiritual realm that would support claims of another dimension and spiritual beings and powers. God as a spirit would then be more believable. Are the reports of such phenomena veridical?

    Psychic Phenomena-Death and Immortality

    • Support for the post-mortem survival hypothesis
      • apparitions-spirits/ ghosts/ poltergeists
      • reincarnation memories
      • near death experiences-NDE's
      • death bed observations
      • sacred scripture

    Arguments against the postmortem survival hypothesis

    • the irrational nature of the explanation of consciousness
    • lack of clear, unambiguous physical evidence

    Existence of deities and spirits that enter into humans, possess them or channel through them

    Alternative Explanations

    • Persons think that they are telling the truth but they are mistaken, e.g., optical illusion, misinterpretation.
    • Persons think that they are telling the truth but they are under the influence of mind altering substances
    • Persons think that they are telling the truth but they are suffering from brain malfunctioning, e.g., chemical imbalance
    • Persons think that they are telling the truth but they are under the influence of group influence-social psychology
    • Persons are making a false report to get attention from believers
    • Persons are making a false report to raise money from donations to their cause or movement.
    • Persons are making a false report to please others and gain acceptance from believers.
    • Persons are making a false report to get power, perhaps as a leader of a religious cult or sect.

    The Questions Are:

    1. Is the subject of a religious experience justified inferring from the psychological experience to the existential or the ontological reality of the object of that experience: the supernatural being?
    2. Is anyone else justified in reaching the conclusion that a supernatural being exists based upon the report of the individual who has made the claim to have had the religious experience?
    3. Does the accumulation of reports from such witnesses to religious experiences justify the claim that a supernatural or spiritual being, a deity, a transcendent reality, exists?

    Problems with Religious Experiences

    Not all who learn of the reports of such religious experiences accept them as conclusive evidence for the existence of a supernatural reality or spiritual beings. Many have attempted to give alternative accounts of such experiences that do not involve acceptance of the existence of any supernatural entities or reality.

    Naturalism is an approach to religious experiences which explains them as being the result of natural forces. It accounts for such phenomena in natural terms without recourse to anything that is beyond the physical realm. In general, all reality and all experiences can be accounted for (fully explained) in terms of physical processes.

    There are different explanations for the origin and nature of religious experiences. What they have in common is the rejection of a supernatural source or object and the attempt to offer a full explanation in empirically verifiable terms.

    Psychological explanations have been offered by several theoreticians, including Sigmund Freud. Sociological explanations have also been developed by several other scientists, such as Emil Durkheim. What they have in common is the refusal to accept religious experiences as being truthful, accurate, or believable in so far as the existence of any supernatural reality. One of the principle reasons for withholding acceptance of the reports is that the experiences cannot be verified and what they report encountering can not be verified empirically.

    See Alternative Explanations above

    Truthfulness
    1. Are the religious experiences veridical?
    2. What is the scientific analysis of the religious experiences?
    3. What are the genetic and causal conditions of religious experiences?
      1. in the human race?
      2. in the individual?
    4. Is the religious experience veridical?
    5. Is it truthful? Is it a report which others can accept as being Correct? Truthful? Accurate?

    Humans should accept religious experiences as being veridical unless there exists positive grounds for thinking otherwise, for thinking that the reports are not truthful, accurate or correct. Some claim that there are positive grounds for rejecting the reports of such experiences, i.e., against their being veridical experiences

    • mystics are abnormal: they tend to be sexually repressed
    • mystical experience is always mixed with other elements such as sexual emotion or imagery

    In response to these observations some offer that perhaps the human being must be in an altered state of consciousness in order to have the experience of the greater (supernatural) reality which the ordinary consciousness can not contain or reach. Sexual abstinence may be a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having such an encounter. There are reports or descriptions of these religious experiences involve concepts and beliefs that are:

    • inadequate to the facts
    • highly confused
    • mixed with error and nonsense
    • subject to change in time

    Perhaps these features are also true of scientific concepts and beliefs and that they have and do change in time. Perhaps religious experiences are not pure delusions or illusions. Perhaps religious experiences are only encountered by those who have an ability to experience them. Perhaps there are people, even many people, who are "deaf" to such experiences.

    If the subject of a religious experience is to be believed there are certain requirements to be met. Any perception of an individual should be publicly confirmed. No private experience can establish the existence of God. You would first need to establish the existence of God by other means on order to confirm that what was experienced was both God and True.

    • No indescribable experience can be publicly confirmed
    • No mystical experience can be publicly confirmed.
    • Mystics appear similar to people who are deluded, or mentally ill, not adjusted to reality.
    • Their claims can not be accepted without evidence.
    • But you can not have evidence without a prior belief in God.
    • To confirm what any subject is experiencing there must be "checkable" statements.
    • Similar to a blind person confirming what a sighted person sees.

    With the religious experiences there are no such "checkable" statements, so there can be no confirmation. Hence, they cannot serve as a proof of the existence of supernatural entities because they are not veridical.

    Mediums

    Many people want strongly to believe in a spirit world and deities. They ask questions such as: What about mediums? Don't people like John Edward communicate with the dead? If they do that is evidence of the spirit world and of souls and of a deity as well. So do they do this?

    Long Island Medium on Ellen Degeneris

    If one has no had a religious experience how can one reach a conclusion as to whether or not such an experience exists as reported? Is truthful? Is accurate? Is sufficient grounds to conclude that there is a supernatural realm? That there is a deity? That there is a supreme being? How can non-believers accept the reports of people who claim to have had such experiences when there are so many alternative explanations for those reports which would provide strong reasons to reject the claim that the reports are truthful and accurate?

    Outcome Assessment

    This argument or proof does not establish the actual existence of a supernatural deity. It attempts to argue for the existence of such a being by offering evidence that is highly questionable and for which there are alternative and often more plausible explanations. While the argument cannot be used to convert a non-believer to a believer, the faults in the argument do not prove that there is no god. The Burden of Proof demands that the positive claim that there is a supernatural deity be established by reason and evidence and this argument does not meet that standard. The believer in god can use this argument to establish the mere logical possibility that there is a supernatural deity or at least that it is not irrational to believe in the possibility that there is such a being but the argument does not establish any degree of probability at all when there are alternative explanations for the reports of experiences offered. The veracity of the reports has not been established.

    Premises/Conclusions
    1. Persons claim to experience contact or communication with the dead.
    2. There is a realm of the dead or spiritual realm in which there are souls, spirits, and the deity
    Problem with argument:
    1. _X_ Premises are false or questionable
    2. ____Premises are irrelevant
    3. ____Premises Contain the Conclusion –Circular Reasoning
    4. ____Premises are inadequate to support the conclusion
    5. _X_ Alternative arguments exist with equal or greater support

    This argument or proof has flaws in it and would not convince a rational person to accept its conclusion. This is not because someone who does not believe in a deity will simply refuse to accept based on emotions or past history but because it is not rationally compelling of acceptance of its conclusion.

    The Pragmatic Argument for the Existence of God

    Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662, was both a mathematician and a philosopher. He had studied many of the traditional arguments for the existence of God but did not find the arguments persuasive. Living in a time when gambling was en vogue, Pascal attempted to formulate an argument, based on chance, that would impel the reader to believe in God. After reading Pascal's "Wager", Pascal wants you to believe that the "smart money" is on belief in God.

    Pragmatic Argument for Existence of God

    What are the Odds? Pascal's "Wager"

    According to Pascal, we can conceive or our choice whether or not to believe in the existence of God as a wager. As in all bets, if we wager properly, then we stand to gain. If we wager improperly (or lose the bet), then we stand to suffer a loss.

    The bet at hand concerns the existence of God. We can either bet on the existence of God or we can bet on the non-existence of God. But what would a gambler want to know before placing their money on the table? A gambler would probably want to know how much is at stake. Most bets are monetary. In this case, the gambler can think of their investment in terms of lifestyle choices. That is, those who do believe in God will act accordingly, e.g. no more late night parties, no more seeking of the good life, etc. Belief requires certain practices and orthopraxy - like when you want to watch football on Sunday morning but you have to attend Church. The next thing a gambler would want to know is the payoff/penalty. That is, how much will the gambler win potentially and how much will the gambler lose potentially. The wager is often presented as follows:

    1. If you believe in God and God does exist then your payoff is immeasurable. You will enter heaven and know eternal happiness
    2. If you believe in God and God does not exist then you have lost some pleasure but you have led a decent life. You have forfeited a high amount of pleasure but your existence was not miserable.
    3. If you do not believe in God and God does exist then your penalty is immeasurable. You will suffer eternal displeasure.
    4. If you do not believe in God and God does not exist then you will have a high measurable amount of pleasure. Your pleasure will end once your life ends.

    Although #4 does pay well, it does not have as high a potential return as #1. Considering the consequences of #3 and the potential return of #1 Pascal concludes that the most reasonable wager is to place your money on the existence of God. Even if you are wrong, the potential loss is minimal (see #2).

    Sometimes the return or payoff is represented as follows:

    GOD EXISTS

    GOD DOES NOT EXIST

    BELIEVE IN GOD

    IMMEASURABLE PAYOFF

    INCONSEQUENTIAL LOSS

    DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD

    IMMEASURABLE LOSS

    MEASURABLE PAYOFF

    Pascal's Wager

    Many arguments for the existence of God are deductive or inductive arguments. Some of these same arguments are based on valid laws of inference and specific claims of knowledge. While these arguments might try to infer God with very different arguments that are built upon very different assumptions and methodologies, these arguments do have one thing in common, i.e. they argue for the existence of God based on specific propositions or ideas. This has been the case with the ontological, cosmological and teleological arguments. Such arguments are known as epistemic arguments. Epistemic is from the Greek, episteme, or knowledge. Such arguments are well organized and appear to lead to their conclusions and so they are called valid indicating that if their premises were true their conclusions would be true as well. However valid they may appear their soundness and cogency are not at all well established as their premises have been severely criticized over the centuries. It has fairly well been demonstrated or proven that their premises are not obviously true nor can they be verified as true through empirical methods. So these arguments have been rejected by many as having unwarranted conclusions or as not being cogent or convincing.

    Non-Epistemic proofs are arguments for the existence of God that are not knowledge-based arguments. If understood properly, the non-epistemic proof should invoke a personal response. The power of Pascal's "Wager" is not found in valid rules of inference but in probability and possible outcomes. The "Wager" appeals to the feelings in us - to our emotions, our fear of loss or punishment and our hopes for rewards. Should human beings accept such arguments? Should rational human beings act on less than rational arguments? Some say it is immoral to so act. Others disagree..

    Problem with Pascal's "Wager"

    We may believe what goes beyond our experience, only when it is inferred from that experience by the assumption that what we do not know is like what we know.We may believe the statement of another person, when there is reasonable ground for supposing that he knows the matter of which he speaks, and that he is speaking the truth so far as he knows it. It is wrong in all cases to believe on insufficient evidence; and where it is presumption to doubt and to investigate, there it is worse than presumption to believe.

    The Many Gods Problem

    If a skeptic were to accept Pascal's invitation to believe in what deity would that person place their psychological commitment to believe? There are different conception of the deity in different religions of the West and the East. If the deity does exist and it is the one and only and it does pay attention to what humans do and it will reward and punish then the would-be believer needs more than Pascal's argument to arrive at the proper conclusion as to exactly which conception of a deity to place trust and hope in in order to avoid the possibly vindictive deity who would punish both non-believers and those who believed in a "false" or inaccurate conception of the deity.

    The assumption that believing in God has no different result than not believing in god , if there is no god. This is not always the case however. If a person chooses to believe in a deity and that belief leads a person to certain actions such as using prayer in the place of medication for illnesses for which there are known cures then there is a decided difference. A believer in the deity of the Christians or Islamic people might lead a person to a negative regard for others or even into physical acts of violence towards infidels.

    It would appear that Pascal's approach would have appeal for those who do not want to use the intellect to its fullest extent and investigate all claims about what exists or does not exist. It would appeal to those who want to have some being to appeal to for favor or exemption from harms and ills or favor for support against those they would oppose.

    Outcome Assessment

    Premises/Conclusion
    1. The possible reward for believing in a deity are greater than not believing in a deity
    2. The possible punishment or penalties for not believing in a deity is greater than the possible penalties for believing.
    3. It is less risky to believe in a deity than not believe.
    4. Believe in a deity existing or
    5. There is a deity
    Problem with argument:
    1. ____ Premises are false or questionable
    2. _X__ Premises are irrelevant
    3. ____ Premises Contain the Conclusion –Circular Reasoning
    4. _X__ Premises are inadequate to support the conclusion
    5. ____ Alternative arguments exist with equal or greater support

    This argument or proof has flaws in it and would not convince a rational person to accept its conclusion. This is not because someone who does not believe in a deity will simply refuse to accept based on emotions or past history but because it is not rationally compelling of acceptance of its conclusion.

    Philosophy Applications

    For the Jews belief in a Supreme Being was supported by the miracles associated with Moses. For the Christians belief that Jesus is god is supported by the miracles associated with him. For the Islamic peoples the miracles associated with the rise and spread of Islam are supportive of their faith as well.

    Think about it:

    Are these events really miracles? Are there really miracles? Are there really events that break the very laws of nature and for which there could be no other possible explanation other than the Supreme Being, the author of the laws of nature, being responsible for those events?

    To accept some event as being a miracle we must satisfy two conditions:

    1. The event must violate the laws of nature
    2. There must be clear and indisputable evidence which compels us to accept that the event took place just as reported

    Why is it so difficult to satisfy both conditions at the same time? Use your answers from above to help you fully explore this issue. Make sure to support your opinions with evidence.

    Vocabulary

    Vocabulary Quizlet Section 3.3

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