I was hoping you would allow me to finish my original comment before responding (I noted that I ran out of time in the middle of it).
I wasn't asking how a religious experience can be an argument. Instead, I was making the point that you state in your # 15 and #16 above (viz. that it is possible to mistake the nature of the experience).
i) This isn’t just a private conversation between you and me. This is a public forum. I write for the benefit of others, as well as you.
Even if some of my answers aren’t answers to your questions, they may be answers to questions which others may have.
I reserve the right to comment on whatever I want, whenever I want.
ii) I’d add that some of my distinctions, beyond #15-16, are relevant to your own questions.
In your first post, you pasted a definition of religious experience. It read:
“Let’s define an ‘experience’ as simply an event or occurrence that one consciously lives through (whether as a direct participant or as an observer) and about which one has feelings, opinions, and memories. Let’s define the term ‘religious experience’ quite broadly, that is, as any experience which one *takes to be religious*,” S.
This definition would obviously include Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, etc. As long as there is some kind of experience (i.e. an event or occurrence that one consciously lives through . . . and about which one has feelings, opinions, and memories) and a person "takes [that experience] to be religious," then a religious experience has occurred.
1,Yes, this initial definition is broad enough to cover both veridical and non-veridical religious experience, or Christian and non-Christian religious experience.
2.Remember, I don’t deny that a non-Christian can have a veridical religious experience.
What I deny is that a non-Christian can have a redemptive religious experience—unless the effect of that experience is to convert him to the Christian faith.
[This definition is, of course, different from the one you adopted above when defining a "veridical experience." Here you say, "For purposes of this discussion, I’m defining religious experience as an experience of God—a way of experiencing the existence and/or nature of God." I'm still working with your first definition.]
Yes, because you’re primarily interested in the question of veridicality, so to address that question, we need to move to a narrower definition.
This doesn’t obviate the broader definition. But the level of the definition is pegged to the level of the question.
Your protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, my initial response was responsive to the point you’re driving at. You are, in fact, going beyond the preliminary definition to pose a more discriminating question.
Now, my question was not about how to turn an experience into an argument for anyone else, but rather, how the religious believer takes that religious experience him/herself.
In a previous post, you wrote, "To put it another way, I’d distinguish between the reasons I have for what I believe, and the reasons I’d give an outsider." In the context the reasons you have for what you believe are religious experiences--you wrote, "For much of what we believe is a result of experience. We form our beliefs at a largely subliminal level."
So, much of what you believe is the result of your religious experience. My question is not how you can turn that into an argument, but rather, how you can contend that yours are indeed "religious" experiences and not psychological experiences when you discover that other people have religious experiences that you believe to be "false."
1.Except that you do want to promote the experience to the level of an argument. Only, in this case, you want the believer to have an argument for his own sake. How can he explain to himself that his religious experience is veridical?
Your demand still amounts to an argument, even though the argument is not intended to persuade anyone else.
2.But you’re also failing to consider the distinction I drew in #11. You are implicitly operating with an internalist constraint on knowledge, according to which the subject can only know God by experience if he can explain how his religious experience is veridical.
I deny your internalist constraint on knowledge.
In other words, imagine that you go to church this Sunday and therefore "place yourself in a religious environment." During that service, the pastor reads a text of Scripture and asks the congregation to engage in prayer about this text before he begins his (I'm assuming your church pastor has to be a "him" and not a "her") sermon. During that prayer, you have a "religious experience" (I don't know your particular understanding of the nature of religious experiences, but assume that whatever it is, it is an experience that is in accord with your theology of religious experience). This religious experience had the result of further convincing you that your Christian faith was valid.
1.As a matter of fact, I don’t delimit the possibility of a religious experience to a formally religious setting.
My immediate point, in context, is that you have unbelievers who justify their unbelief by appeal to their religious inexperience. Yet they go out of their way to avoid a religious environment. So their appeal is circular.
It’s not that you can only have a religious experience in church. But if you make a concerted effort to avoid the Bible, or the company of Christians, &c, and then complain about your lack of religious experience, there’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at work: Your absence of religious experience is not unrelated to absenting yourself from a religious environment.
There isn’t a one-to-one correlation. But there is a correlation.
2.I think it’s quite possible to have a religious experience outside of a formally religious setting.
For example, I think the argument from design is a form of the argument from religious experience. It’s possible for a Buddhist or Taoist or Communist or Hindu or Mormon or Mohammedan or Nazi or Baal-worshiper to experience God in nature. But that’s not a redemptive experience.
Likewise, it’s possible for an atheist to experience God in nature. But he refuses to identify his experience as a religious experience. He reinterprets and misinterprets his experience in naturalistic terms.
So, you have had this religious experience. In talking with a Muslim, however, you find that he went to his mosque, read a text of Scripture, prayed over it, and also had a "religious experience"--remember that I am using your original definition so that any event or occurrence about which one has thoughts and takes to be religious is a religious experience. Like your experience, this experience convinces the Muslim of the validity of the Islamic faith.
Yes, I agree with you that according to the original definition (a la Davis), both incidents could be classified as examples of religious experience. I haven’t retracted the original definition.
Yet you want to go beyond that to press the question of veridicality. And I’m happy to address that question as well.
But that’s a narrower question. The original definition was deliberately undiscriminating. It was framed in such a way as to be neutral on the question of veridicality.
So, to answer your question, we do need to shift to a narrower definition.
My problem is when religious experience is defined in narrowly mystical terms.
My question is not how the two of you will argue about whose experience was "genuine" and whose was not, but rather, how YOU will justify to yourself that YOUR experience was genuine and the Muslim's was false.
Actually, you’ve folded two questions into one.
1.The first question goes back to the issue of internalism. Is it possible for the subject to have a veridical religious experience unless he can demonstrate the veridicality of his experience?
Once again, I deny your internalist constraint. We have many veridical experiences, religious or otherwise, which we may be in no position to prove.
Knowing x, and knowing how I know x, are two different things as far as I’ve concerned.
2.As to how I’d show that a Muslim’s religious experience is non-veridical, that depends, in part, on the specificity of the experience.
i) Not every religious experience is a sectarian religious experience. It may be a more generic religious experience, like the apprehension of God’s existence from our encounter with the natural world.
ii) Regarding your particular example, it’s quite possible to show that his experience of the Koran does not and cannot validate the Koran, for the object of his experience can be (and has been) falsified on other grounds.
As I mentioned in my previous post, you have many options. You can simply deny that the Muslim had the experience. You could say their experience was the result of a demon. [I don't think that you would say the experience really was of God in this case, though, since it validated the Islamic faith.]
In principle, these are all viable options, and in some cases they may be applicable. But I don’t need to exercise any of these options to sustain my position.
Another option, however, would be to say, "It seems that people can have experiences that they take to be religious that are really only psychological experiences. So, you read the Bible, and the Holy Spirit convinces you of the truth of it via a religious experience. A Muslim reads the Quran and is convinced of the truth of it via another religious experience. You could say that the Muslim's religious experience is psychological and yours is religious, but could you not also conclude that there are psychological experiences that people take to be religious and that you cannot be certain on the basis of the religious experience alone that yours is not one of those psychological experiences.
i) You’re now confounding knowledge with certainty. Knowing something, and being certain about what I know, are two different things.
I may know something because I read about it in a reliable source. I remember what I know, but I no longer remember the source.
And so I may begin to doubt whether I know what I believe because I can’t recall how I came to learn about it.
ii) For me to be certain, I may have to go outside my experience. But an external check is not a prerequisite for the veridicality of my experience.
In short, if "much of what [you] believe is a result of experience," how do you know that the experiences that you "take to be religious" are not merely psychological experiences instead of true, religious experiences?
As before, we need to distinguish between the “can I know/do I know?” question and the “how can I know?” question.
To answer the question of *how* I know my experience is (or is not) veridical, I will need to go beyond the bare experience.
Perhaps, you have a particular "religious" experience with the Bible because of how that book is viewed by society and your community (e.g. it is sworn on in courts because it is thought to have some binding power over people, people revere it, it is the center of religious ceremonies, etc). How do you rule this out as a possible explanation of your experience and take that experience, instead, to ground "much of what [you] believe"?
It seems to me, that to answer this question, you must go beyond experience to arguments. If your experience is justified with arguments, however, then the true ground of your beliefs are not the experiences per se, but the arguments underlying those experiences.
This piggybacks on your persistent, methodological error. You fail to distinguish between the grounding of knowledge and the grounding of certitude.
Yes, to answer your question, as you’ve chosen to frame it, we must go from experience to a supporting argument. But that’s a second-order question. A belief *about* what I know (or don’t know) as a result of experience.
If this is the case, then you, like exapologist, could be said to base your beliefs on arguments. If these arguments become no longer convincing to you, then it seems your beliefs (i.e. your faith) would falter.
Excepting that it isn’t the case for all the reasons I’ve been giving in this post and the last.
You, on the other hand, say that "much of what [you] believe is a result of experience." It appears, however, that these experiences must have an argument that grounds them. So, how is your story different than Exapologist's?