Critically Asses, with Reference to William James, the Arguments from Religious Experience.

1699 WordsMar 17, 20167 Pages
In the book ‘the varieties of religious experience’, James concluded that religious experience testifies that “we can experience union with something larger than ourselves and in that union find our greatest peace”. He defined such experiences as “experiences of the divine” and believed that religious experience was at the heart of religion. For James, religious teachings, practices and attitudes are second hand religion, which later develop as individuals reflect on their common experience. It is the actual experiences that directly point to God. However this theory does little to prove religious experiences simply because many of his claims do not stand up to critical analysis. James looked at a variety of religious experiences,…show more content…
Secondly, James believed that the religious experiences from the different faiths were similar. They were experiences of the same ultimate reality which is then interpreted into the ‘second hand’ religious structure of that person. A Christian might interpret an experience as the presence of the Holy Spirit, whereas a Hindu might interpret it differently. James also argued that despite the wide variety of religious experiences there is a common core to all of them, they will normally include similar elements, like the sense of being in the presence of a greater power or the recipient has relatively little control over the experience. Also includes an insight into “usually unseen dimensions of existence which are of intrinsic value and fundamental importance”. For some they may consist of a direct experience of the divine or may be a gradual realisation that there is more to life than the world around us and it often leads to a greater understanding of God. James claimed that this common core pointed to a single objective source of all religious experiences. In response, many critics claim that it is difficult to even define or interpret what a genuine religious experience is let alone decide if they have a common core. Many scholars claim a common core is simply not true and the sheer variety of religious experiences suggest they have a human rather than a divine origin. Critics further point out, that it is
Open Document