Why Religious Experience Cannot Justify Religious Belief

David Kyle Johnson

Vol. 2, No. 2

Fall 2020

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2020.vol2.no2.03

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Pages: 26-46

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Abstract

Dialogues in Philosophy

David Kyle Johnson, Religious Experience, The Problem of Religious Diversity, Neurological Explanation for Religious Experience, The Unanimity Thesis, Perceptual Models of Religious Experience

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Theists often claim that neither the diversity of religious experience nor natural explanations for religious experience can threaten the ability of religious experience to justify religious belief. Contrarily, this paper argues that not only do they pose such a threat, but the diversity of religious experiences and natural explanations for them completely undermine their epistemic justificatory power. To establish this, the author first defines the supposed role of religious experience in justifying religious belief. Then the author shows how the diversity of religious experience raises an inductive problem that negates religious experience’s ability to justify religious belief. The author then shows that available natural explanations for religious experience do the same by simply providing better explanations of religious experiences (i.e., explanations that are more adequate than religious explanations of those experiences).

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