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Religious Experiences

Presentation describing what is a religious experience, how they are categorised, examples and then finally asking should we trust other people's experiences?

Lindsey Kay

on 12 July 2010

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Transcript of Religious Experiences

Religious Experiences What is a Religious Experience? A religious experience is when a person believes that they have experienced God or religious figure.
People who believe in religious experiences believe that they can happen to anyone at any time no matter where they are. It could be at a religious site such as Lourdes, Jerusalem or Bethlehem or in an ordinary place.
Religious experiences come in many forms, from people believing God is talking to them, being aware of Gods presence or another religious experience or most known in the form of miracles.
They are occurrences that do not fit in with everyday life norms and activities.
Many people have attempted to categorise Religious Miracles, here are a few examples;
William James
The psychologist described four characteristics of a religious experience;
Transient: the experience is temporary and the individual soon returns to normal frame of mind.
Ineffable: the experience cannot be adequately put into words
Noetic: the individual feels that they have learned something from the experience
Passive: the experience happens largely without conscious control , although there are ways such as meditation that can make an experience more likely
Swinburne categorised five areas into which all religious experiences fall:
The religious believer see’s Gods hand at work
An unusual event that breaches natural law
Describable using normal language
Indescribable using normal language, usually a mystical experience
A non specific general feeling of God working in ones life
Common types of Religious Experiences are;
Numinous; This is a sense of ‘Awe and Wonder’ that can be felt in the presence of God. It can usually describe a feeling when the person have the realisation that God is different to us humans. A common way in which this is felt is when entering a church or cathedral or by looking at the world around you.
Miracles; This occurs when God acts in the world in a special way. Miracles are things that go against laws of nature. For example people are often healed from terminal illnesses.

Mystical Experiences; Some claim to have experienced God in such an intense way that they believed to be literally in the presence of God. It has also been claimed that people have become one with God.

EXAMPLES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES Anthony Bloom – an atheist doctor in Paris 1942
His account after a priest had been invited to speak to his youth organisation;
“When the lecture was over, I hurried home in order to check the truth of what he had been saying. I asked my mother whether she had a book of the Gospel... I started to read St Mark...Before I had reached the third chapter, I suddenly became aware that on the other side of my desk there was a strong presence. And the certainty was so strong that it was Christ standing there that it has never left me...The Gospel did not unfold for me as a story which one can believe or disbelieve. It began as an event that left all the problems of disbelief behind because it was a direct and personal experience”
C.S. Lewis, university don, Oxford 1942
“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen (College), night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady unrelenting approach of him whom i most earnestly desired not to meet. That which I so greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 i gave in and admitted that God was God, knelt, and prayed; perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England”
Mary Hirsch 45, ( account from 27 years ago when she was 18)
“When I was about 18 years old (27 years ago) I was very upset before going to sleep about a breakup with a boyfriend. Before I went to sleep I said to myself ``I wish I were dead!''. I dreamed that God came to me in voice only saying ``You want to be dead, I'll take you!''. I'm assuming that it was God, Jesus, or some other divine person as it was a deep male voice. At that moment I was floating in the ceiling of the corner of my bedroom looking down at me in the bed and watching God slowly take my body up ghostlike from the bed. I started crying from up in the ceiling and begged him not to take me. With no answer, He slowly put my body back into the body on the bed. I woke up crying but realizing how foolish I was to wish to be dead in the first place. I have never had a dream like this since or before and it really changed my life! “
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