PP111: Religious Experience and the Problem of Evil March 31 , ‘14
- Nature, universe exhibits a certain kind of order/patterns with structures … can only be
attributed to an intelligent designer.
- Traditional arguments for the existence of God (cosmological, ontological, teleological,
etc.) aim to give ‘indirect’proof of God’s existence.
- Religious experience is meant to be ‘direct’evidence of God’s existence.
Two kinds of Experiences
1. Mystical Experience (do not rely on the concept of god):
- Of the unity of all things;
- Of the unity of the self with non-self; etc…
2. Religious Experience:
- Of God
Justification for Religious Belief: Experience & Testimony
Can God be known by experience?
1. Do religious experiences reported by others give us reason to believe God exists? When
is their testimony reliable?
a) Are their reports sincere?
b) Are their experiences veridical?
2. Do our own religious experiences give us reason to believe God exists?
Are our own experiences veridical?
The Visions of Teresa (1515 – 1582)
“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.” (161)
“Religious ideas … are illusions”
- “What is characteristic 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 for security and comfort, may explain
belief; but they do not justify it.
- We all rely on the testimony for many of our beliefs.
- But we know that:
1. Not all reports can be trusted – some are insincere
2. Not all experiences can be trusted – some are not veridical
How can it be rational to rely on testimony?
- 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.
- Functioning perceptual organs in good perceptual conditions
2. The testifier must be a competent judge of what she perceives.
- Has conception of the object that is adequate for identifying it
Interrogating Testimony about religious experience
1. Do we know what conditions are good for optimal for experiencing God?
2. Do we have any conception of what God looks (or sounds) like?
Would we recognize God?
ADefense of Atheism: The Problem of Evil
1. If there were a God, then there would be no evil.
2. But, there is evil.
3. So, there is no God.
Theodicy: An attempt to rationally reconcile the existence (or apparent existence) of evil with the
existence of God. Constructing a Theodicy requires denying 1, 2 or both.
1. Natural Evils vs. Moral Evils
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’s power to be unable to do what is logically impossible (e.g.,
draw a 4 sided triangle).