Gods Gumshoe  S.D., R.S., W.I.

Spiritual Detective, Religious Scientist, Wisdom Investigator



NAME: God’s Gumshoe

Paper arguing the Validity of The Religious Experience

 

“The experience of God-consciousness remains the same from generation to generation, but with each advancing epoch in human knowledge the philosophic concept and the theological definitions of God must change. God-knowingness, religious consciousness, is a universe reality, but no matter how valid (real) religious experience is, it must be willing to subject itself to intelligent criticism and reasonable philosophic interpretation; it must not seek to be a thing apart in the totality of human experience.”

 

“God’s Relation to the Individual.” In “The Urantia Book,” The Urantia Foundation: Chicago.  (1955): pp 69

 

 

 

“True Religion, often called Spirituality, must ever be its own critic and judge; it can never be observed, much less understood, from the outside. Your only assurance of a personal God consists in your own insight as to your belief in, and experience with, things spiritual. To all of your fellows who have had a similar experience, no argument about the personality or reality of God is necessary, while to all other men who are not thus sure of God no possible argument could ever be truly convincing.” P.1107 - §6

 

 

For the purposes of this paper, one must be their own translator. For instance, the word symbol “God” translates here to “SOURCE” (First Cause of Science….Prime Mover of Philosophy, Creator, Upholder ) And the word “Religious” Experience translates to Super-Consciousness, Spiritual, or Higher Mind, Experience.

 

For thousands and thousands of years, thousands and thousands of people have reported experiencing some Ultimate Reality or presence of a Supreme Personal Being that many call God (Source); is it reasonable to assume that they are all wrong, confounded, confused, or mentally ill? 

 

Professor Kurtz seems to think so.  In his treatise, “The Transcendental Temptation,” (TTT), he criticizes religious experiences using the paradox or Problem of Evil, and as being too subjective, not verifiable, and strongly suggests that these experiences are symptoms of mental illness.  He writes, “These experiences resemble psychotic states.  The schizophrenic often is out of cognitive touch with reality.”  And that, “Schizophrenics are often enmeshed in hallucinations and fantasies.” (99  TTT) 

 

William Wainwright (1981, ch. 2) has argued that, “Various psychological naturalistic explanations of religious and mystical experiences have been offered, including pathological conditions, such as hyper suggestibility, severe deprivation, severe sexual frustration, intense fear of death, infantile regression, pronounced maladjustment, and mental illness, as well as non-pathological conditions, including the inordinate influence of a religious psychological “set”  (Davis 1989, ch.8: Wulff 20.)

However, he writes, “Naturalistic proposals of these kinds exaggerate the scope and influence of the cited factors, sometimes choosing to highlight the bizarre and eye-catching at the expense of the more common occurrences.  Also, some of the proposals, at least, are perfectly compatible with the validity of experiences of God.  For example, a person’s having a religious psychological set can just as well be a condition for enjoying and being capable of recognizing an experience of God as it can be a cause of a delusion.” (159  OH of PHIL of REL)

 

Of the thousands of people who report experiences of a religious nature, we need to ask are these people mental ill?  Some may be. But not all of them.  It is reasonable to assume that some do have authentic religious experiences of God.  Are these people charlatans?  Some may be.  But not all of them.  Professor Gary Gutting tells us, “There is every reason to believe that at least a very large number of such reports are candid, that the experiences reported did in fact take place.(reading G Gutting)” Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that some do have authentic religious experiences of God.  If even one of these people have had an authentic religious experience then God exists.  It only takes one.

 

In support of this argument from religious experience, Richard Swinburne concludes that the principle of credulity warrants the reasonable conclusion that God exists.  The principle of credulity states that if it seems to a subject that x is present, then probably x is present. Usually, says Swinburne, it is reasonable to believe that the world is probably as we experience it to be. Unless we have some specific reason to question a religious experience, then we ought to accept that it is at least prima facie evidence for the existence of God. (Reading R and Rb pg 27)

But, says atheist Michael Martin who criticizes Swinburne’s use of the principle of credulity, if experiences are generally to be treated as authentic then this allows an argument from the absence of religious experience to be constructed.  Someone who experiences the absence of God can argue, using the negative principle of credulity, that the world is probably as this experience represents it as being: which is godless. Arguments from religious experiences to the existence of God can thus be met with arguments from atheist experiences to the non-existence of God.

Swinburne responds to this objection by arguing that this negative principle of credulity is false.   This negative principle, he suggests, would only be a good one in cases where it is reasonable to believe that if x were present then the subject would experience x. There is no reason, however, to suppose that if God existed then the atheist would experience him, and so the negative principle of credulity does not apply to atheists experiences of the absence of God.

Richard M. Gale, tells us however, that there is a fatal step in the principle of credulity argument because it applies only to perceptual-type experiences, and religious experiences, on conceptual grounds, fail to qualify as perceptual. He charges that  the principle of credulity (PC)  is not properly restricted to perceptual-type experiences. These objections are stated thusly, “The prima-facie probability that the PC bestows upon perceptually based beliefs is subject to various sorts of possible defeating conditions—conditions that lower the probability that the experience is veridical and that its apparent object therefore exists. A defeating condition is really a flunked test. It is essential that there be possible defeaters, for otherwise it would be meaningless to speak of prima-facie justification. Swinburne lists four generic defeating conditions: (i) the subject or conditions under which the apparent perception were made are of a sort that have proved to be unreliable; (ii) there is inductive evidence that it is not possible for the subject to have perceived what he or she claimed to perceive; (iii) background evidence shows that very probably the apparent object was not present; and (iv) there is evidence that the apparent object probably was not part of the cause of the perception.” (Swinburne's Argument from Religious Experience (1994) Richard Gale The following article was originally published in Reason and the Christian Religion, ed. by Alan Padgett (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).

 

While it is the purpose here to critically evaluate this argument, we are told  that the religious experience we are to address is “sincerely described,” and therefore the above “defeaters” do not apply.



“In conclusion,” writes Gale, “religious experiences not only do not have any defeaters analogous to those for sense experience, they have no defeaters at all. For this reason alone, they fail the epistemological requirement for being perceptual-type experiences. And when this failure is combined with their failure to pass the metaphysical requirement, there is more than ample justification for refusing to extend the PC to them. We have thereby met Swinburne's challenge to produce a relevant disanalogy between sense and religious experience that would justify applying the PC to the former but not to the latter.”

It would seem then, that the veridicality of religious experiences are not rationally unquestionable using the principle of credulity or Face value argument and “need further corroboration,” as Prof. Kurtz claims.  Here, Evan Fales, would agree, “If religious experiences are to justify religious belief, such experiences must be cross-checked to be genuinely from God. Most religious experiences cannot be cross-checked.

He goes on to explain, “So, what is cross-checking, why is it needed, and how does it work? Let 'cross-checking' denote all those procedures and strategies we use to settle questions about the causes of something.”   (Do Mystics See God?)


 

From our readings Prof. Gary Gutting helps us out here. In responding to C.B. Martin’s virtually identical claim that more checking procedures are needed he writes, “ What is puzzling here is Martin’s assumption that the need for further checking immediately excludes accepting the veridicality of religious experiences.” He asserts the interesting idea that by including the veridicality of religious experience we would be able to determine three checkable situations: first, the experience is repeatable, which would answer Kurtz’s “Subjectivistic methodology” objections (TTT43); secondly, others will be found who have also had similar experiences, which answers Kurtz’s “Intersubjective Corroboration”, this principle refers to public evidence (TTT48); and thirdly, those who have had these experiences are aided in their endeavors to lead morally better lives, which answers Kurtz’s “Pragmatic consequences” concerns, (Experimentalism; Every explanatory theory has within it some implied predictions (directly of indirectly); otherwise it cannot be said to be true.”) (TTT 53-54).  (Readings Gary Gutting)

 

In the same vain, John Hick has offered a solution to this familiar paradox.  He states that he assumes the existence of God and then writes, “We have already noted that a verifiable prediction may be conditional. ‘There is a table in the next room, entails conditional predictions of the form; if someone goes into the next room he will see, etc.  But no one is compelled to go into the next room.  Now it may be that the predictions concerning human experience which are entailed by the proposition that God exists are conditional predictions and that no one is compelled to fulfill those conditions.” The verification of theism is a conditional response to the fact that when you once start out to find God, that is the conclusive proof that God has already found you and, “can only be experienced by those who have already entered into this awareness of God by the religious apperception which we call faith. (Theology and Verification; Hick in  Readings in the Philosophy of Religion; An Analytic Approach. ) 

The teachers, masters, mystics and prophets have been saying this for thousands of years.  If you want to verify that religious experience is proof of the existence of God, then try it. 


“,Ask, and it shall be given you;
seek, and you shall find;
knock, and it shall be opened to you.
For whoever asks, receives;
and he who seeks, finds;
and to him who knocks, the door is opened.

Matthew 7:7:8 - Jesus of Nazareth

 

Wayne Dwyer puts it this way, “it’s  not,… “seeing is believing,” …but “believing is seeing.”  Unless you believe,  that this experience is possible, you shall not understand, is true in a sense not only of the Christian, Muslim, Hindu,  or other religious believer, but of every human beings who also undertake this investigation into the validity of The Religious Experience.

 

Finally, Prof. Kurtz writes, “Turning to the problem of evil, a rationalization process sets in.  The existence of evil is only apparent, we are assured.”  But, he asks,  how can one reconcile belief in an all-wise, all-good, and all-powerful God with the destructiveness of nature, the seemingly unjust and arbitrary suffering of people, and social evils like Dachau, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki? (TTT308)  Prof. Kurtz  rightly addresses this, “For the theist to attempt to resolve the problem of evil by denying its existence is a copout, given the amount of misery and sorrow discernible.”(309)

 

The ultimate mystery in theism isthe problem of evil.  If there is a God who is omnipotent, omniscient and completely good, why is there evil? This is the most widely considered objection to theism in both Western and Eastern philosophy The history of religion is replete with attempts to answer this question. Most of these theodicies have more or less failed to give a satisfying answer to these divine-human incongruities.  As space does not allow us to deal with the differences between moral evil and natural evil, lets us deal with the two distinct phases of the arguments, namely The Logical Problem of Evil, and The Evidential Problem of Evil.

 

In our readings, (Peterson, et al) points us to J. L. Mackie’s claim that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of God; this is the “logical problem of evil.” Mackie’s propositions that generate the logical inconsistency are as follows:

  1. God is omnipotent.
  2. God is wholly good
  3. Evil exists

 

Mackie writes in his “Evil and Omnipotence” (1955) that this contradiction shows, “not that religious beliefs lack rational support, but that they are positively irrational, that the several parts of the essential theological doctrine are inconsistent with one another.” (200)

 

The classic response to this argument is the theodicy of the “free will defense” of Alvin Plantinga’s (1974), whose defense was to prove that propositions (1) thru (3) were consistent by providing a (4th) statement that is consistent with (1) and (2) and when joined with them, has (3) as a logical consequence.  His (4th) proposition was thus: “God is omnipotent and it was not within his power to create a world containing moral good but no moral evil.” (131 Peterson et el.)  And from this, in combination with (1) and (2), it does indeed follow that  (3) Evil exists.

 

The critical element here is that God is unable to actualize a world with moral good but no moral evil, thus putting limits on God’s omnipotent power.  He does this by arguing The Free Will Defense, which states, “That God cannot determine the actions of free persons” and goes on the define free will as not compatible with determinism but that a person is free with respect to an action A at a time t, only if no causal laws and antecedent conditions determine either that he performs A at t or that he refrains from so doing”(5)  With this the “Free Will Defense” stands.  The key idea being that moral good is possible only for creatures possessing free will choice and that it is they who are responsible for the evil in the world and not God.  (132) Peterson) This is not a theodicy, which would vindicate God by showing that God would have good reasons for allowing evil to occur.  As a defense, however, this argument does show that a particular version of the problem of evil does not succeed and Mackie’s logical problem of evil fails.

 

Because of the general perceived failure of this approach, the focus has shifted to evidential arguments from evil.William Rowe’s classical statement of the evidential problem of evil is more challenging in that it deals with apparently pointless, or what appears to us to be meaningless, evil:

“1. There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.  (Factual premise)

2. An omnipotent, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse. (Theological premise)

3. There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being. (Conclusion)”(135 Peterson)

The argument is certainly valid but can we accept the premises?

 

Premise #1, the factual premise, is probably the softest of the premises and can be challenged on the grounds that there probably are in fact outweighing goods for all the evils that exist but we are completely unable to identify them in each particular case – only God can do that.  This is suggested in the Bible passage (Isaiah 55:9), "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts"

 

Stephen Wykstra (1984) has presented an argument termed the skeptical solution for the problem of evil, which basically states that when it comes to apparently pointless evil, appearances are deceiving. There is a purpose for all the apparently pointless evil in the world, a purpose that prevents such evil from being pointless, which either has not occurred to us or which we cannot grasp.  This line of defense is the positive claim that God has a reason for permitting apparently pointless evils, a reason, which deprives such evils of pointlessness and morally justifies their existence.  

 

Wykstra criticized Rowe on the basis of the condition of reasonable epistemic limitations, which states that it is reasonable to believe X on the basis of Y only if it is reasonable to believe that if X is true it is likely that Y is true. For example, it is reasonable to believe that there is not a chair in the room if we do not see a chair in the room, because it is reasonable to believe that if there were  a chair in the room, we would likely see it. On the other hand, it is unreasonable to believe that there is not a microorganism  in the room on the basis of our not seeing one, for it is unreasonable to believe that it follows from our inability to see a microorganism in the room that there isn't one. Wykstra contends that Rowe fails this test because given God's omniscience it is quite likely that the goods that justify the existence of apparently pointless evils are beyond our awareness; it is therefore not reasonable to infer the existence of actually pointless evils from apparently pointless evils.

John Hick has taken a novel approach to the second premise, the theological premise, with a  very important type of theodicy.  This  involves the idea that spiritual maturity and human evolution arises out of effort, struggle, conflict, faith, determination, loyalty, and progress and that the evils of the world can be warranted if one views the world as designed by God, not as a hedonistic paradise, but as an environment in which people, through their free will choices can grow and develop the very moral qualities that the perfecting human personality needs for communion with God and growth in God consciousness.

 

Hick writes, “Courage and fortitude would have no point in an environment in which there is, by definition, no danger or difficulty.”(John Hick, Philosophy of Religion, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963, pp. 45-46.) 

To develop this further, we may add:


“The uncertainties of life and the vicissitudes of existence do not in any manner contradict the concept of the universal sovereignty of God. All evolutionary creature life is beset by certain inevitabilities. Consider the following:

 

Is courage--strength of character--desirable? Then must man be reared in an environment which necessitates grappling with hardships and reacting to disappointments.

 

Is altruism--service of one's fellows--desirable? Then must life experience provide for encountering situations of social inequality.

 

Is hope--the grandeur of trust--desirable? Then human existence must constantly be confronted with insecurities and recurrent uncertainties.

 

Is faith--the supreme assertion of human thought--desirable? Then must the mind of man find itself in that troublesome predicament where it ever knows less than it can believe.

 

Is the love of truth and the willingness to go wherever it leads, desirable? Then must man grow up in a world where error is present and falsehood always possible.

 

Is idealism--the approaching concept of the divine--desirable? Then must man struggle in an environment of relative goodness and beauty, surroundings simulative of the irrepressible reach for better things.

 

Is loyalty--devotion to highest duty--desirable? Then must man carry on amid the possibilities of betrayal and desertion. The valor of devotion to duty consists in the implied danger of default.

 

Is unselfishness--the spirit of self-forgetfulness--desirable? Then must mortal man live face to face with the incessant clamoring of an inescapable self for recognition and honor. Man could not dynamically choose the divine life if there were no self-life to forsake. Man could never lay saving hold on righteousness if there were no potential evil to exalt and differentiate the good by contrast.

 

Is pleasure--the satisfaction of happiness--desirable? Then must man live in a world where the alternative of pain and the likelihood of suffering are ever-present experiential possibilities.”  The Urantia Book, pp.51

 

This cosmic optimism of Hicks points out however, that each person must decide this for themselves.  He concludes with, “And so the fact of evil constitutes the biggest obstacle there is to all major forms of religious belief. Any religious interpretation of the universe has to recognize the extreme toughness and non-human-centredness of any creative process that is taking place, and has to set this within a very large view, involving many lives in many worlds.” 2

 

 

 

Two ministers where talking about God and this problem of evil, when one said, “ I have always wanted to ask God why he permits so much pain and suffering, sorrow and anguish, sickness and disease in this world.”  The other minister asked, “So, you’re a man of prayer, why don’t you ask him that?” “Because,” replied the first minister, “I’m afraid he will ask the same question of me.”

 

Mankind can never discover divinity except through the avenue of religious experience. The  acceptance of the truth of God (Source) enables man to escape from the circumscribed confines of material limitations and affords him a rational hope of achieving safe conduct from the material realm, whereon is death, to the “spiritual realm,” which Quantum Physics is just now beginning to discover and unravel, wherein is life eternal.

From The Urantia Book:

P.1116 - §6 The purpose of True Religion is not to satisfy curiosity about God but rather to afford intellectual constancy and philosophic security, to stabilize and enrich human living by blending the mortal with the divine, the partial with the perfect, man and God. It is through religious experience that man's concepts of ideality are endowed with reality.

 

P.1116 - §7 Never can there be either scientific or logical proofs of divinity. Reason alone can never validate the values and goodness’s of religious experience. But it will always remain true: Whosoever wants to know these Cosmic Truths shall comprehend the validity of spiritual values. This is the nearest approach that can be made on the mortal level to offering proofs of the reality of religious experience. Such faith affords the only escape from the mechanical clutch of the material world and from the error distortion of the incompleteness of the intellectual world;  it is the only discovered solution to the impasse in mortal thinking regarding the continuing survival of the individual personality.  It is the only passport to completion of reality and to eternity of life in a universal creation of love, law, unity, and progressive Deity attainment.

 

Works Cited

1.    “The Urantia Book,” The Urantia Foundation: Chicago.  (1955)


2.    Paul Kurtz:  The Transcendental Temptation: A Critique of Religion and the Paranormal.

Prometheus Books, 1986

3.    John Hick: On Doing Philosophy of Religion. http://www.johnhick.org.uk/article3.html

4.    Wainwright, William J. 1981. Mysticism:

A Study of Its Nature, Cognitive Value, and Moral Implications. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.


5.    Richard Swinburne: The Existence of God, Oxford University Press (Revised Edition, 1991), pp254-271.

6.    Michael Martin: Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, Temple University Press (1990), pp169-174.

7.    J. L. Mackie: “Evil and Omnipotence,” Mind 64 (1955): 200.

8.     Alvin Plantinga: The Nature of Necessity (Oxford” Clarendon Press, 1974), p.170-1

9.    “The Urantia Book,” The Urantia Foundation: Chicago.  (1955)

 

 

 

EXPERIMENT TO TEST THE HYPOTHESIS THAT THE RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE IS A TESTABLE AND PROVABLE EXPERIENCE FOR ANYONE WHO SINCERELY WANT TO KNOW IF THIS IS REAL.


For the purposes of this paper, one must be their own translator. For instance, the word symbol “God” translates here to “SOURCE” (First Cause of Science….Prime Mover of Philosophy, Creator, Upholder) And the word “Religious” Experience translates to Super-Consciousness, Spiritual, or Higher Mind, Experience


Purpose: to answer the questions below:

For thousands and thousands of years, thousands and thousands of people have reported experiencing some Ultimate Reality or presence associated with what is called a Religious Experience.  Many associate this with what many call God (Source); is it reasonable to assume that they are all wrong, confounded, confused, or mentally ill?  Or is this a real Experience that any Human who wishes to, can experience for them self.


Materials:

Each individual will bring to the experiment their own tools of research.  This may be relaxing music, comfortable chair, blood pressure testing device, Notebooks or other recording device. Etc.  No other materials will be necessary.


Methods:

Each individual will participate in this experiment completely on their own schedule.  They will take a 20 minute session of quiet reflection (contemplation, meditation, whatever names best describes quiet reflection) on whatever subject they wish, and will do this every day for 21 days.  Each subject will ASK  for knowledge of the Big “T” Truth of the Universe, (or whatever that means to you.)  and quietly reflect on any thoughts that may come up. During their normal daily activities, they will observe anything that “shows up” in the form of coincidences (What Dr. Carl Jung calls Synchronicity.)


Control Treatment:

There will be no control treatments, except the request to keep our discussion civil and respectful.  No bad language.  Each participant will record their thoughts and opinions about this experience any way they wish.  They need NOT tell anyone, nor will they be asked to report on their findings unless they feel they would like to.  Unless otherwise suggested we will carry out our discussions on this subject on Twitter, on these boards 


#atheist  #atheistrollcall   #atheism  #religion


Data Interpretation:

Each participant will keep whatever data collection devices or methods they wish.  This is a causal investigation into the reality of Religious Experience and anything that is shared would be greatly appreciated, I’m sure.

.


References:

·               Experiments in Personal Religion,Excerpts from a study course by Henry Nelson Wieman, http://urantiabook.org/sources/index_eipr.html

·               Religious Experience, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Webb, Mark, "Religious Experience", (Winter 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2011/entries/religious-experience/>.

·               Phenomenology of Religion, Wynn, Mark, "Phenomenology of Religion", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2008/entries/phenomenology-religion/>.


·               Current Issues in Psychology of Religion: Proceedings of the Third Symposium on the Psychology of Religion in Europe

http://books.google.ca/books?id=moO7QCiyj34C&pg=PA157&lpg=PA157&dq=protocol+for+experiment+on+religious+experience&source=bl&ots=VxHd5OjZ34&sig=jZJvmdm-NdSEeliIGyu80MMqDHQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=s9xXT56RDYWWiALc08CECw&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=protocol%20for%20experiment%20on%20religious%20experience&f=false


·               Mind & Brain / Memory, Emotions, & Decisions “The God Experiments : Five researchers take science where it's never gone before. by John Horgan,  From the Discover Magazine, December 2006 issue; published online November 20, 2006. http://discovermagazine.com/2006/dec/god-experiments

 

·               The Argument from Religious Experience, The Philosophy of Religion, http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/theistic-proofs/the-argument-from-religious-experience/

·                

·               Current Issues in Psychology of Religion: Proceedings of the Third Symposium on the Psychology of Religion in Europe

http://books.google.ca/books?id=moO7QCiyj34C&pg=PA157&lpg=PA157&dq=protocol+for+experiment+on+religious+experience&source=bl&ots=VxHd5OjZ34&sig=jZJvmdm-NdSEeliIGyu80MMqDHQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=s9xXT56RDYWWiALc08CECw&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=protocol%20for%20experiment%20on%20religious%20experience&f=false


·               Mind & Brain / Memory, Emotions, & Decisions “The God Experiments : Five researchers take science where it's never gone before. by John Horgan,  From the Discover Magazine, December 2006 issue; published online November 20, 2006. http://discovermagazine.com/2006/dec/god-experiments

 

·               The Argument from Religious Experience, The Philosophy of Religion, http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/theistic-proofs/the-argument-from-religious-experience/

Case # 608. 

Is the "Religious' or "Spiritual Experience" Real or imaginary? 


Here are the protocols for a personal experiment that anyone can do....  Followed by some research materials, and a paper arguing this point.






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