The Miracle of Theism: Arguments for and against the Existence of God

By J. L. Mackie | Go to book overview

10
Religious Experience and Natural Histories of Religion

(a) The Varieties of Religious Experience

SINCE the early nineteenth century, and particularly through Kant's influence, the traditional 'proofs' of theistic doctrines have been widely rejected or abandoned--though, among Christian thinkers, such abandonment is less characteristic of Catholics than of Protestants. Also, we have seen how the problem of evil poses a very awkward question for anyone who wants to assert, literally, the full traditional set of theistic doctrines. A widespread response to these difficulties has been a shift of emphasis away from proofs and even from doctrines of a metaphysical sort, and a growing reliance instead upon religious experience.

This reliance, however, can take either of two very different forms. First, it may be held that religious experience itself is all that really matters. Believers, and, significantly, people at the moment of conversion, of transition from unbelief to belief, have experiences which are, to them, intrinsically valuable and all-important, which shape and colour their whole lives. It is of this, it may be said, that religion fundamentally consists: any formulated doctrines, biblical or metaphysical, whether they are the peculiar teachings of a particular faith or sect or a very general theism or supernaturalism, are simply beside the point. Although they may seem, to this or that group of believers, to be vital, the experiences would be essentially unchanged even if the associated doctrines were different, and whether those doctrines are true or false the experiences remain valid in their own right. But, alternatively, it may be held that the religious experience, as well as being valuable in itself, is also evidence, or even proof, of the objective truth of some associated beliefs. That is, there may be an argument from religious experience to something further. But there are

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The Miracle of Theism: Arguments for and against the Existence of God
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Miracles and Testimony 13
  • 2 - Descartes and the Idea of God 30
  • 3 - Ontological Arguments 41
  • 4 - Berkeley's God and Immaterial Realism 64
  • 5 - Cosmological Arguments 81
  • 6 - Moral Arguments for the Existence of a God 102
  • 7 - The Argument from Consciousness 119
  • 8 - Arguments for Design 133
  • 9 - The Problem of Evil 150
  • 10 - Religious Experience and Natural Histories of Religion 177
  • 11 - Belief Without Reason 199
  • 12 - Religion Without Belief? 217
  • 13 - Replacements for God 230
  • 14 - Conclusions and Implications 240
  • Index 263
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