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  #1  
Old Jun 25, '12, 10:17 pm
Jmd96 Jmd96 is offline
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Default Religious Experience - Subjective or Objective?

Is religious experience good grounds for basing belief in a particular religion?

I've had what could be interpreted as God speaking to me within the Christian religious tradition. But how can that form the basis of my Christian belief if people in other religions base their belief on religious experiences in those traditions? It would seem to prove that religious experience is a completely subjective phenomenon, rather than one that can be objectively trusted.

I ask this because I've come to doubt my Christian beliefs on the basis of religious pluralism throughout the world and the fact that I was Christian mostly because it's how I was raised. If my religious views are founded on assumptions and not evidence or something objectively trustworthy, then I have some serious re-thinking to do.

God bless,
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  #2  
Old Jun 25, '12, 10:44 pm
Della Della is offline
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Default Re: Religious Experience - Subjective or Objective?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jmd96 View Post
Is religious experience good grounds for basing belief in a particular religion?
That depends on what you mean by the term. If you mean feelings, I'd say no because feelings can deceive us. If you mean a road to Damascus, struck blind and laying in the road experience, then perhaps yes. God gives us experiences of himself to lead us to the truth, but they aren't truth in and of themselves--at least most of the time.

Quote:
I've had what could be interpreted as God speaking to me within the Christian religious tradition. But how can that form the basis of my Christian belief if people in other religions base their belief on religious experiences in those traditions? It would seem to prove that religious experience is a completely subjective phenomenon, rather than one that can be objectively trusted.
God is not bound by anything and can speak to anyone, anywhere at any time. His truth is true no matter who receives it, but all such experiences are meant to direct us to him who is the truth. It's not the religion that dictates such experiences, but rather God desiring to lead that person to seek for him. And Scripture tells us that God is the rewarder of those who seek him. He wishes everyone be part of his Church. All who truly desire him and seek for him can know him because all who are doing so are following what Christ told us to do, even if they don't understand that. Jesus' death redeemed the whole world, not just those who believe in him. Salvation, though, is only in Christ as taught by the Church:

Possible salvation of non-Christians: #s 846-848.

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337
848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."338

Quote:
I ask this because I've come to doubt my Christian beliefs on the basis of religious pluralism throughout the world and the fact that I was Christian mostly because it's how I was raised. If my religious views are founded on assumptions and not evidence or something objectively trustworthy, then I have some serious re-thinking to do.

God bless,
The Catholic faith is not based on anyone's assumptions but on cold, hard historical facts--the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ. As St. Paul put it: "If Christ be not raised from the dead our faith is in vain." We don't believe just because our parents taught us. We believe because it is the truth. Jesus Christ was God's final revelation to man. Jesus founded his Church and commissioned it to take the Gospel into all the world--a mission it has been doing since 33 AD and continues to do on every continent. Jesus promised his Church would never fail and that it would be led into all truth by the Holy Spirit. These are the reasons we believe.
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  #3  
Old Jun 26, '12, 12:16 am
oyaji oyaji is offline
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Default Re: Religious Experience - Subjective or Objective?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jmd96 View Post
If my religious views are founded on assumptions and not evidence or something objectively trustworthy, then I have some serious re-thinking to do.
The Christian Faith is a faith based on historical facts that can be objectively investigated. Each time I begin to have doubts (and I have...many times), I go back and look at the evidence. And the evidence for Christianity is plenty indeed!
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  #4  
Old Jun 26, '12, 12:40 am
IanGE IanGE is offline
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Default Re: Religious Experience - Subjective or Objective?

For my very first symposium as a mature (aged 58!!!) RK student at University, we were asked to consider the question "Is there a God?". When asked, I said, "I know there is a God: He sits on the arm of my chair and speaks to me." My tutor said, "that's subjective, Ian, can't accept it." I replied, "you can ask thousands of Born Again Christians and they will give you the same answer." But it was still not acceptable; i stll wonder at what point does collective subjectivity become objective?
BTW the academically approved answer? A poll conducted in the 1970s by the New Scientist to determine World religion statistics. Christianity topped the poll followed by Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists etc etc. Some 9% pagans (our tutor reminded us that they believed in the god of trees, of water, so they too believed in a god). Finally about 5% Atheists. So therefore 95% of the world's population believed in god, so objectivity won out! But I cannot help bursting out with MY (subjective!) experiences of God, not setting myself up as super-Spiritual but always adding, "you too can have such personal experiences of God." Just ask (and listen!).
PS I took History as my minor and the dictum was "there are no facts, just evidence". And there followed all sorts of academic rules as to what was acceptable as evidence. I believe that, academically, the Bible is dodgy evidence. So my major and minor subjects conflicted with one another!

Last edited by IanGE; Jun 26, '12 at 12:46 am. Reason: Typo
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  #5  
Old Jun 26, '12, 9:15 am
Della Della is offline
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Default Re: Religious Experience - Subjective or Objective?

Quote:
Originally Posted by IanGE View Post
For my very first symposium as a mature (aged 58!!!) RK student at University, we were asked to consider the question "Is there a God?". When asked, I said, "I know there is a God: He sits on the arm of my chair and speaks to me." My tutor said, "that's subjective, Ian, can't accept it." I replied, "you can ask thousands of Born Again Christians and they will give you the same answer." But it was still not acceptable; i stll wonder at what point does collective subjectivity become objective?
BTW the academically approved answer? A poll conducted in the 1970s by the New Scientist to determine World religion statistics. Christianity topped the poll followed by Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists etc etc. Some 9% pagans (our tutor reminded us that they believed in the god of trees, of water, so they too believed in a god). Finally about 5% Atheists. So therefore 95% of the world's population believed in god, so objectivity won out! But I cannot help bursting out with MY (subjective!) experiences of God, not setting myself up as super-Spiritual but always adding, "you too can have such personal experiences of God." Just ask (and listen!).
PS I took History as my minor and the dictum was "there are no facts, just evidence". And there followed all sorts of academic rules as to what was acceptable as evidence. I believe that, academically, the Bible is dodgy evidence. So my major and minor subjects conflicted with one another!
Yes, I think some of the elite think objectivity is their personal domain, which it clearly isn't.

And Christianity is not a "religion of the book" in that we don't rely on the Bible to "prove" Christianity. Rather, we rely on solid history of which the Bible is only a part.
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The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. -- Pope Benedict XVI

Tiber Swim Team, Class of '87.

Inklings!

"Sanctum erit, facere bonum" Della's blog: http://dellakmg.blogspot.com/
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  #6  
Old Jun 26, '12, 11:19 am
ASimon ASimon is offline
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Default Re: Religious Experience - Subjective or Objective?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jmd96 View Post
Is religious experience good grounds for basing belief in a particular religion?

I've had what could be interpreted as God speaking to me within the Christian religious tradition. But how can that form the basis of my Christian belief if people in other religions base their belief on religious experiences in those traditions? It would seem to prove that religious experience is a completely subjective phenomenon, rather than one that can be objectively trusted.

I ask this because I've come to doubt my Christian beliefs on the basis of religious pluralism throughout the world and the fact that I was Christian mostly because it's how I was raised. If my religious views are founded on assumptions and not evidence or something objectively trustworthy, then I have some serious re-thinking to do.

God bless,
You've identified a problem raised by many skeptics in the past - "How can my experiences in the context of Religion A be evidence for Religion A's truth, when people who follow Religions B thru Z - to say nothing of those who don't follow any religion - have had similar experiences?"

Needless to say, I think you have good reason to have doubts on this basis. The objective, historical basis for Christianity's truth is of little help here - it's sketchy, at best, and perhaps more importantly, other religions have their own historical foundations that are claimed to be just as authentic.

Religious experiences are subjective. But they can be spoken about objectively - that is, without hyperbole, or self-delusion, or intellectual dishonesty.
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  #7  
Old Jun 26, '12, 3:51 pm
Jmd96 Jmd96 is offline
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Default Re: Religious Experience - Subjective or Objective?

Quote:
For my very first symposium as a mature (aged 58!!!) RK student at University, we were asked to consider the question "Is there a God?". When asked, I said, "I know there is a God: He sits on the arm of my chair and speaks to me." My tutor said, "that's subjective, Ian, can't accept it." I replied, "you can ask thousands of Born Again Christians and they will give you the same answer." But it was still not acceptable; i stll wonder at what point does collective subjectivity become objective?
BTW the academically approved answer? A poll conducted in the 1970s by the New Scientist to determine World religion statistics. Christianity topped the poll followed by Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists etc etc. Some 9% pagans (our tutor reminded us that they believed in the god of trees, of water, so they too believed in a god). Finally about 5% Atheists. So therefore 95% of the world's population believed in god, so objectivity won out! But I cannot help bursting out with MY (subjective!) experiences of God, not setting myself up as super-Spiritual but always adding, "you too can have such personal experiences of God." Just ask (and listen!).
PS I took History as my minor and the dictum was "there are no facts, just evidence". And there followed all sorts of academic rules as to what was acceptable as evidence. I believe that, academically, the Bible is dodgy evidence. So my major and minor subjects conflicted with one another!
But this is exactly my issue-- religious experiences could only be evidence for, at most, the existence of God, not the divinity of Christ, whether or not Mohammed was a prophet. etc.

On my search for the true religion, I see most religious conversions being based upon this kind of religious experience, rather than a thorough investigation of the historical evidence for Jesus or what have you. Am I to conclude that all these people are simply dead wrong in using this?

It would make sense-- because historical evidence can be interpreted in a variety of ways, whereas a "witness of the Holy Spirit" would create immediate, undeniable knowledge of truth. Of course, I can't see how this would be, given my initial problem, that variety of contradictory religions claiming to be authenticated by religious experience.

God bless,
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  #8  
Old Jun 26, '12, 7:35 pm
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ThinkingSapien ThinkingSapien is offline
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Default Re: Religious Experience - Subjective or Objective?

Quote:
Originally Posted by IanGE View Post

But it was still not acceptable; i stll wonder at what point does collective subjectivity become objective?:rolle:
Popularity does not imply objective.
Showing that many people feel the same way about something is not how it is shown to be objective.
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  #9  
Old Jun 27, '12, 12:23 am
IanGE IanGE is offline
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Default Re: Religious Experience - Subjective or Objective?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jmd96 View Post
But this is exactly my issue-- religious experiences could only be evidence for, at most, the existence of God, not the divinity of Christ, whether or not Mohammed was a prophet. etc.

On my search for the true religion, I see most religious conversions being based upon this kind of religious experience, rather than a thorough investigation of the historical evidence for Jesus or what have you. Am I to conclude that all these people are simply dead wrong in using this?
It would make sense-- because historical evidence can be interpreted in a variety of ways, whereas a "witness of the Holy Spirit" would create immediate, undeniable knowledge of truth. Of course, I can't see how this would be, given my initial problem, that variety of contradictory religions claiming to be authenticated by religious experience.

God bless,
Well said, Jmd. The last sentence in Mark's Gospel reads: "Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere and the Lord worked with them and confirmed His word by the signs that accompanied it." Even witnesses are converted, notably the thousands who heard the disciples speaking in tongues. Yes, historical evidence can be interpreted in a variety of ways and, sadly, so can the Word of God in the Bible. But the New Testament is the only evidence of Jesus' mission on earth. And Historians don't accept it! The closest evidence acceptable to academia is Josephus, whose work only refers to "a man called Christ whom the Christians believe in" (sorry, I speak off the cuff - haven't a copy of Josephus to hand).
Not sure if Eusebius' History of the Christian Church" is acceptable but where Holy Spirit activity abounds in the "unacceptable" Acts of the Apostles there is hardly any mention by Eusebius.
PS Not sure either whether contradictory religions are rooted in religious experience. Other Christian religions are based upon contradictory interpretations of the Bible but they all accept Christ as Lord and Master (except perhaps the JWs, who are not Christians but Jehovah's witnesses). It is notable that the Born Again experience came last to the Catholic Church. John Wesley was zapped on Pentecost 1624 (?); the Welsh revival began early in the 20th century and spread to other "Protestant" churches. Charismatic Renewal came to Catholics ain the 1950s. That too is history to think about.

Last edited by IanGE; Jun 27, '12 at 12:30 am. Reason: Typo
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  #10  
Old Jun 27, '12, 8:37 am
Della Della is offline
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Default Re: Religious Experience - Subjective or Objective?

There is a mountain of evidence in the Early Church Fathers and in the conversion of pagan Rome that changed the whole world. Modern historians like to rewrite/ignore whatever history doesn't line up with their unbelief--that's what's really going on. Anyone with any brains at all can see how Christianity civilized Western cultures without having to coerce people into it or make war upon them. The basic premises of the faith could not have done that if there were no truth to them. Christ rose from the dead. That's not a mere article of faith, but an historical fact borne out by more than the NT.
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