The statement asks us to explore different opinions on the validity of religious experiences; an important issue for Christians, or anyone of faith, because most people’s faith is built on either a personal experience of God or a belief in the capacity of God to communicate through such experiences, as in the Bible. Once you start to question the existence of religious experiences, it fundamentally leads you to question the existence of God, clearly something of importance to Christians.
Some Christians might reply to this quote by saying that religious experience is unquestionably real and tangible; they may point to Bible references as proof of their reality. For Christians, Mary had a profound religious experience when visited by Angel Gabriel. To call such an experience illusory would be close to blasphemy for some. Equally, Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus which led to him becoming one of Christianity’s most important early leaders was a deep religious conversion experience, similar to the modern day example of Nicky Cruz. Christians would find it hard to accept that such a conversion was based on an illusion. Stories such as Moses’ experience with the burning bush would also be taken as certain proof of the existence of religious experiences, based on the fact that such is written in the Bible and must therefore – so some Christians would believe – be entirely true.
It is difficult to challenge people who hold this view because to them their belief in the absolute truth of the Bible (or other Holy Book) is so essential to their beliefs about God that to suggest otherwise – perhaps by quoting example of scripture that are particularly unkind, such as views on women and homosexuals – would be considered unthinkable, and contradict their whole belief system.
Other Christians would say that Biblical stories are often simply stories that illustrate a point about the nature of God or religious experience. The point isn’t to be able to prove...