The Argument from Religious Experience

In 1778, American philosopher Thomas Paine wrote, ” To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.”

Attempting to prove the existence of God using religious experience as evidence may be problematic when debating a staunch atheist, though the logic is sound.

The argument from religious experience asserts that if a person has an experience (often supernatural in nature) which reveals divine reality, all things being equal, the experience is genuine and therefore proves divine existence. The key is that all things must be equal. This means the person having the extraordinary experience must have no ordinary cause such as intoxication, physiological abnormality, or any such condition or influence that might result in misconception or hallucination.

If there is no ordinary cause, the extraordinary is the simplest explanation. That is Occam’s Razor. The simpler of explanations tends to be the correct one. Also coming into play as is a quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Works Cited

  • Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes #2). 1890.
  • Paine, Thomas. The American Crisis. 1778.

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