Religious experiences are nothing more than an illusion – discuss
It is always fairly difficult to determine whether someone who has claimed to have had a religious experience is telling the truth or not. All sceptics say that the first step is to see if the person was intoxicated or mentally delusional in some way. This has been the case in most religious experience accounts, but not every single one.
David Hulme decided that there were different types of religious experiences and he categorised them. The first is personal , this is when you and no one else has experienced God, the second is numinous, this is where you have a great feeling of relief or satisfaction with the presence of God over you. The others are fairly simple as they are just about how you perceive God e.g. vision, hearing His voice, a sense of wonder or a dream. Hulme was also a disbeliever of religious experience and as an empiricist believed that there would always be a scientific explanation. In cases where people who seem to be intelligent and rational, and have no psychological disabilities, who have a religious experience it is hard to tell if they are really telling the truth. Some people insist that we must look at their motive for lying and if it will gain them anything. Swinburne, a defender of religious experience, had an interesting way of arguing for them. He believed that a religious experience should be counted as to what effect it had on a person’s life rather than focussing on whether it really happened or not. Swinburne uses the example of a man in gaol for murder, who has a religious experience and then devotes the rest of his life to caring for other people. Others, like subjectivists, would say that if the person really believed they had a religious experience then in their mind it really happened and it doesn’t matter about everyone else.
But this is where it gets tricky, what about the mass religious experiences or witnesses of things like miracles?...