My thoughts on Religious Experiences
A Religious experience can be split into two separate definitions, these are direct religious experiences and indirect religious experiences. A direct experience is when one encounters God in a direct way e.g. Saul meeting the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. An indirect experience is where a person’s mind simply focuses on God e.g. flying over the alps or seeing something beautiful may draw one’s mind close to God.
Personally I do not think religious experiences prove Gods existence, simply because anyone can say they have seen God or become close to God but this still doesn’t prove God actually exists. This idea would fit into a Freudian style of thinking as Sigmund Freud said that religion is ‘Obsessional Neurosis’ in his book ‘The Future of Illusion’. What Freud meant by this idea of neurosis was that past traumas in life that were not dealt with sufficiently and which stayed and repressed the mind as a consequence. He said these suppressed traumas are what appear as ‘obsessive neuroses’ in adult life. Freud maintained that humans are essentially weak and need to be constantly be comforted to feel protected. I believe people are attracted to religion because of its claim of protection and reward which makes our difficult lives more bearable. I believe a religious experience whether it is direct or indirect can be seen as a further development or stage of this ‘obsessional neurosis’. For example when one experiences a tragedy such as a parent dying they may turn to religion as it offers this refuge and may be so upset that this sudden turning to religion is a religious experience. However this doesn’t proves Gods existence it shows how peoples state of mind changes when they experience traumatic experiances.
American philosopher William James said that religious experiences were ‘religious phenomena’. What he meant by this is that religious experiences are natural to a person, just like other psychological...