7. An Argument from Religious Experience: Origins and Revelations
University of Wales Trinity Saint David
In this paper I will draw a distinction between two different types of religious experience. Firstly, those experiences that it could be said are part of our everyday framework of beliefs, as fundamental as our beliefs in the external world or the existence of other minds. Then there are those religious experiences that are extraordinary; those experiences that are, in part, defined as religious experiences by the manner in which they are distinct from our everyday experiences. It is this second group of religious experiences that will be the focus. The extraordinary nature of these beliefs often, and quite reasonably, lead people to look for the causes of these experiences, often resulting in competing causal explanations of either a divine or biochemical nature. However, by drawing comparisons with other profound experiences in the field of ethics and scientific discovery, I will argue that focusing solely on causal explanations is to fail to grasp much of what is important about these experiences. I will argue that what is truly significant about religious experiences is not what causes them, but what they reveal.