Religious Experiences as Evidence for God

GoforBroke4:

“Show me evidence for God, please, GoForBroke, and I will gladly believe in him. “

Hmmm, okay, so if God is by defintion supernatural, why do you only accept scientific or naturalistic evidence of God?

Or are you willing to accept other forms of evidence/logic?

If so, there’s a philosophy major I am subscribed to called Telemantros, who may be able to give you the logic/evidence you’re looking for. I really do suggest you take a look at his videos: starting with “Religious Experiences: Introduction (Part 1 of 5)” The whole series is about 10 videos long, and explains a LOT better why religious experience should be counted as reliable form of evidence a lot better than any of my videos. (please disregard his videos where he ventures into abiogenesis and evolution because it’s obvious that’s not his are of expertise)

Evid3nc3:

Okay. I watched Telemantros’s arguments.

Here is one of the most important places the argument falls apart (though I can name one other hole, if you like):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-iSYDf_Wsk#t=3m39s

Telemantros claims that “if they object to religious experience, they do so arbitrarily”. Meaning, if we accept sense experience (e.g. sight) but reject religious experience, we do so arbitrarily. Meaning, we are picking on religion.

Because, if you can see natural things (like bears), why can’t you feel supernatural things (like God)?

Here is why we accept the former and reject the latter: the former is *independently verifiable*. The latter is not.

SIGHT

Let me solidify this with an example. Let us assume that you claim to have *seen* a bear. Now, under normal conditions, I would have absolutely no reason to reject your claim. Why? Because I’ve seen bears too. I’ve seen them at zoos, I’ve seen them in pictures, and anyone else with access to these things (which is the majority of people) can verify that they have seen them too. So bears are an established entity.

But let’s say I have some reason to reject that you really saw YOUR bear. Well, then I could require a photograph. Even this could have been photoshopped, though. Or it could have been another bear at another time. So we can never truly prove that you saw the bear. But, with a photograph, you at least have strong evidence that I should provisionally consent that you saw a bear unless I have strong reasons to believe otherwise.

RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE

Now, let’s return to religious experience. Let us assume that you claim to have *felt* God. We immediately have problems because I’ve never had an experience where I think I “felt” God. And what is worse for having me personally as an audience is that I personally had experiences where I *thought* I had felt God but later rejected that claim. Further, a large percentage of the world population has never had the same experience you have and also don’t have any reason to believe it.

You can’t take a photograph. You have no way of measuring, quantifying, or recording the experience. Your claim, in comparison to the bear, is very weak. All you have is your emotions. But you have no way of justifying that these emotions came from a supernatural being.

DIFFERENCE

So these are entirely different experiences.

Bears can be justified through the thousands of experiences of them that we all have had. The existence of bears is *independently verifiable* by all human beings on earth. If anyone doesn’t believe, you can quickly show them a photograph or even take them to a zoo if you have to.

Religious experience has none of these properties. It isn’t independently verifiable. Therefore our rejection of it isn’t arbitrary.

GoforBroke4:

“a large percentage of the world population has never had the same experience you have and also don’t have any reason to believe it.”

There’s not a valid reason to reject an experience. Surely because some percentage of the population has never experienced does not make an experience you have invalid.

“you can’t photograph it or quantify it”

The religious experience can be photographed and quantified using a functional MRI machine.

Also, I think Telemantros elaborates in another video why he believes you would have to reject sensory experience if you reject religious experience in another video.

Evid3nc3:

You can quantify the emotions using an MRI but you can’t quantify *God* using an MRI. My point is, the person was claiming to have experienced *God*, not brain activity.

In the case of bears, I am claiming to have experienced seeing a bear and the existence of the bear *itself* can be quantified in the form of a photograph of *it* (rather than a photograph of the *brain activity* I had when *I* was seeing it).

Upon being presented with that photograph, another person can *immediately* have the experience of seeing my bear *themselves*. They don’t just have to look at an MRI of *me* having the experience.

In other words, using an MRI as evidence of God would be like using an MRI showing brain activity in my occipital lobes as evidence that I had seen a bear. All you would know from that situation is that the neurons in my occipital lobes were firing (which could happen for thousands of reasons that have nothing to do with bears), not that I’d seen a bear. The same is true for MRI evidence of God.

7 comments on “Religious Experiences as Evidence for God

  1. Jonathan says:

    Also, experiences of bears converge on a single type of experience. For instance, if someone tells me they see a bear in Yosemite, I could make a pretty good guess that they saw a black bear, since that’s the type of bear that lives there. However, there is no real convergence between experiences of God; these experiences tend to be highly personal.

    That implies that when a person claims to have had an experience with God, not only is there no independent verification of the experience, it’s not possible for anyone else to know the content of that experience. I think we’d all agree that the person had an experience of some kind. However, since our senses are so prone to error, there’s no reason to think that this person fully understands the true nature of it.

  2. Eugene says:

    Another important distinction I think is if we are both at the zoo and both look at the bear enclosure we will both see a bear and we will both see the same bear 100% of the time, as would anyone else. On the other hand we could both be at the same church at the same time and we could have wildly varying religious experiences, as would anyone else. One of these things is not like the other!

  3. Rodrigo says:

    My father had a real experience with God, I say this because I witnessed the evidence.

    My father would not even was going in the church, but he always believed in God, one day he heard a voice telling him to go specifically in a church that my uncle was going , he not wanted go to the church, but the voice persisted, so he go .

    Arriving at the church, he hid behind all the people of the church, but he was seen by the pastor, and the pastor said, one day you asked if you wanted to walk with him, he said yes to you.

    My Dad remembered a dream he had one months ago, where a crowd followed a man, he asked if he could follow him, and the man said ”join us”

    Chris, how is it possible that this happened by chance?
    Please answer me I saw all your videos.

    sorry for my writing errors, I’m a Brazilian, I do not know how to write the English language very well.

    • evid3nc3 says:

      Here are my immediate thoughts. Following someone is a common theme in human culture and specifically in Christianity. I don’t know how many hundreds of times I heard a pastor reference “following Christ” as a Christian in sermons and in general speech. So it is not at all an uncommon thing for a Pastor to reference nor for a believer to have a dreams/visions about.

      Also, the Pastor would likely have a regular congregation and easily been able to recognize strangers. This makes your Dad an easy target for the pastor to feel compelled to say something to.

      Next, I want you to recognize the mismatches and missing details between the Pastor’s cold reading and your Dad’s actual experience. Your lack of attention to mismatched details are a large reason why cold reading is so persuasive to people who want to believe. When you want to believe, you ignore things that don’t match and amplify things that do. It is called confirmation bias.

      Here are some mismatches that immediately stand out to me:
      1) The pastor said Jesus was the primary figure; in your Dad’s dream a man was the primary figure
      2) The pastor made no reference to a dream
      3) The pastor referenced none of the details of the dream

      You filled in the details in your mind as if the pastor had guessed everything. In reality, the pastor actually said something very vague and common. This is how cold reading works.

      • Rodrigo says:

        Okay, but in the dream of my father, the man was actually jesus, because my father asked the people that followed him if he was the Jesus of the Bible, and they said yes.
        I forgot to give more details about the dream, I’m sorry, but the proof that it is pure luck of the pastor is improbably.

        I really identified me with your story, but I still believe in God.

        I’m in a ministry of Bethel Baptist Church in Brazil and I still live with my parents, they are certainly Christians, so I have to go to church.

        I’m in chemistry’s college, and how more I think about God, more I have doubts.

        I believe this is part of God’s plan in my life, but I want the truth.

        Thanks for attention Mr. chris.

        • I recommend investigating this stuff a little bit more. You don’t need to worry yourself over coming to a conclusion, especially right now. I’m not going to recommend anything to you either, and I’m a theist. All you need to do now is go with the flow and be objective.

          However, based on experience, it seems that the first dive into science, philosophy, and history will turn you into an atheist. Some of us keep going, however, and wind up being some brand of theist again.

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