PP111 Religious Experience and the Problem of Evil
• Traditional arguments for the existence of God (cosmological, ontological,
teleological, etc.) aim to give ‘indirect’ proof of God’s existence.
o As a result therefore god
• Religious Experience is meant to be ‘direct’ evidence of God’s existence
o Someone’s own encounter with God experience with god
Two Kinds of Experiences
1. Mythical experience:
a. Of the unity of all things;
b. Of the unity of the self with nonself; etc…
• Can take on many forms. Unity of the self and the unself.
• Do not require a theoretic experience
1. Religious Experience:
a) Of God
• Many seen in single belief religions (belief in one god)
• Theorist will just disagree about the factual base of the justification
Justification for Religious Belief: (Experience & Testimony)
• Can God be known by experience?
1. Do religious experiences reported by other give us reason to believe God exists?
When is their testimony reliable?
a. Are their reports sincere?
b. Are their experiences veridical?
i. Are they the experiences true, can be verified and point to an
objectively attainable reality.
2. Do our own religious experiences give us reason to believe God exists?
a. Are our own experiences veridical?
i. Can our experiences be verified and proven that it is true
The Visions of Teresa
• “Of all impossibilities, the most impossible is that these true visions should be the
work of the imagination… they far transcend what we can comprehend on earth.”
o a vision of something outside your realm
“Religious ideas… are illusions”
• “What is characteristic of illusions is that they are derived from human wishes.”
• “An illusion is not the same thing as an error.” (162)
• Religious experiences, if derived from wishes fro security and comfort, may
explain belief; but they do not justify it.
• We regularly rely on testimony for many of our beliefs.
o Rely on authorities and experts
• But we know that:
o 1) Not all reports can be trusted some are insincere.
o 2> Not all experiences can be trusted some are not veridical
• How can it be rational to rely on testimony? o Because we have the ability to verify their reports for ourselves.
• But in the case of religious experiences we usually cannot check the reports of
others: We typically have nothing but their word.
What Does Reliable Testimony Require?
1. The testifier must be a reliable perceiver.
a. Functioning perceptual organs in good perceptual conditions
2. The testifier must be competent judge of what she perceives.
a. Has a conception of the object that is adequate for identifying it
Interrogating Testimony About Religious Experience
1. Do we know what conditions are good or optimal for experiencing God?
2. Do we have any conception of what God looks (or sounds) like?
A Defense of Atheism: The Problem of Evil
• Premiss (1): If there were a God, then there would be no evil/
• Premiss (2): But, there is evil.
• Conclusion (3): So, there is no God.
o Argument is valid but not sound because the premises may not hold true
There may not be evil
Theodicy: An attempt to rationally reconcile the existence (or
apparent existence) of evil with the existence of God.
o Constructing a Theodicy requires denying (1) or (2) or both
1. Natural Evils vs. Moral Evils
a. Natural events that cause danger to humans
b. Moral: things that are done by human choice or actions
2. Definition of ‘god’: all powerful, all knowing, all good, creator of everything
(God is never weak, ignorant, or malicious)
3. It is no limitation on God