Critically Assess with Reference to William James, the Argument from Religious Experience.

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Critically assess with reference to William James, the argument from religious experience. The argument from religious experience seems to state that we can experience God and therefore God must exist, for surely what we experience must be real. William James, American psychologist and philosopher, worked to expand on and validate this topic. James defined religious experience as ‘The feelings, acts and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatsoever they may consider divine.’ He then identified the four types of mystical experiences: ineffable, noetic, transient, passive. An ineffable experience is one that cannot easily be articulated. It is too big a thing for words and therefore not necessarily understood by those who have not experienced it. Noetic means intellect. It is an experience that is not purely based on emotion, but one that provides an insight into religious truths which have universal or eternal significance. For example, on Damascus Road, Saint Paul’s religious experience transformed his moral outlook. It would appear that all religious experiences demonstrate a revelation of truth, but one could argue that this does not indicate they are true. As Freud would argue that religious experiences are a way of externalising deep, repressed personal truths. In such a view, religious experiences are unverifiable and cannot be thought to prove the existence of God, as they are merely manifestations of the human subconsciousness. A transient experience short, and cannot be sustained for a long duration of time. They are a ‘gift from God’ and leave one powerless. Whilst this remains true perhaps for the Toronto Blessing and Saint Teresa of Avila’s religious experience, it seems to neglect the most common religious experience of all: the feeling of God’s presence in one’s
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