First of all what is a religion. According to Immanuel Kant Religion is the recognition of all duties as divine commands, not as sanctions, i.e. arbitrary and contingent ordinances of a foreign will, but as essential laws of any free will as such “. Another popular definition is by Karl Marx Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. I can go on and on, there are countless definitions of religion. My personal definition of religion is that it is a state of mind in which an individual feels a need to be subject to a superior being, and therefore makes these beliefs as a way of his or her everyday life. They are several types of religion Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hindu, Buddhism, etc. But the major types of religion are Christianity and Islam. Every religion is believed to have people who have had a spiritual or religious experience. All these religions have some popular figures that have had an encounter with a supernatural being and have told the story of this encounter which has turned their life’s around for the better. They believe that this experience is scared, For example they are other popular examples of these experiences, in islam “the Great Prophet Muhammad was said to be in a cave on Jabal al-Nour, when he received his first revelation from Allah (Qur’an 96)”. “Arjuna was in a chariot on a battlefield, when Krishna revealed his divinity to him”. “Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, was bathing in a river when he was taken into the presence of God, and shown that there was one divine reality behind the cosmos (Guru Granth Sahib p.1).” This examples show that religious experiences are very scared in religion, and play a very important role in a religious individual’s everyday life.
There are different ways to look at religious experiences; we can look at its universality, Diversity and its importance to religion.
Universality: Its is a universal phenomenon, which is anyone at any point in time could experience, for example in the bible when Moses was out tending to his father-in-law’s sheep, when he suddenly saw a burning bush from which God spoke to him (Exodus 3:1-4), he had his experience while tending to animals, which shows it could happen at any point in time in our everyday lives. From research and studies it’s been proved that spiritual or religious experiences has always been in our society.
Diversity: There are different types of religious experiences; just the same way there are different types of people and different types of religion, but at the same time they are also some similarities which makes religious experiences very unique and rare in our society.
Importance: To religion, religious experience is has so many importance, it is sometimes a life changing experience for example in the bible when Saul was on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christians, Jesus appeared to him in form of a bright light which blinded him for 3 days (Acts (9:1-11). After the experience he changed his name to Paul and joined the Christian community. Apart from being a life changer , religious experiences also alters a person’s mentality, the way he or she views life, fellow human beings and the environment.
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During my research I saw that there could be two versions of religious experiences namely the weak version and the strong version; in 1896 William James in his “The Will to Believe” describes the versions “as the strong version contends that religious experiences are evidence for the existence of God or other supernatural beings for everyone, whereas the weak version holds that they are only evidence for such things for the experiencer.”
According to my class note there are different kinds of religious experience which are namely regenerative, charismatic, and mystical.
Regenerative religious: “is one in which the experiencer undergoes a life transformation – a conversion. Elsewhere this kind of experience is expressed as “experiencing religion,” “experiencing salvation,” or being “delivered from evil.” Through such experiences, individuals often find their lives to be changed, filled with meaning and newness, and full of love, joy, and hope. Along with conversion and salvation, another facet of the regenerative experience is moral transformation. In this case, prior to the experience, the individual may feel a sense of sin, guilt, or the inability to do what he or she knows to be morally appropriate. Upon having the regenerative religious experience, she senses that sin and guilt have been removed and a new vision of goodness is seen and sought after; a new or renewed emphasis on moral duties ensues in one’s life.” Such example of such an experience could be found in the bible when Moses was out tending to his father-in-law’s sheep, when he suddenly saw a burning bush from which God spoke to him (Exodus 3:1-4). This experience of the burning bush (conversation we God) changed his life and made him the man we all know him as.
Charismatic experience: “This is a type of experience in which special abilities, gifts, or blessings are manifested. Prophecy, divinely inspired revelation or interpretation. Although prophecy is perhaps most commonly associated with Judaism and Christianity, it is found throughout the religions of the world, both ancient and modern. In its narrower sense, the term prophet (Greek: prophutus, “interpreter,” “expounder [of divine will]”) refers to an inspired person who believes that he has been sent by his god with a message to tell. In a broader sense, the word can refer to anybody who utters the will of a deity, often ascertained through visions, dreams, or the casting of lots; the will of the deity also may be spoken in a liturgical setting. The nature of prophecy is twofold: either inspired (by visions or revelatory auditions) or acquired (by learning certain techniques). In many cases both aspects are present. The goal of learning certain prophetic techniques is to reach an ecstatic state in which revelations can be received. That state might be reached through the use of music, dancing, drums, violent bodily movement, and self-laceration. The ecstatic prophet is regarded as being filled with the divine spirit, and in this state the deity speaks through him. Ecstatic oracles, therefore, are generally delivered by the prophet in the first-person singular pronoun and are spoken in a short, rhythmic style.”
Mystical experience: “which, as described by James, includes four distinct characteristics:
1) Ineffability: the experience cannot be adequately described, if at all.
2) Noetic quality: the experiencer believes that she has learned something important from the experience.
3) Transiency: the experience is temporary and the experiencer soon returns to a “normal” state of mind.
4) Passivity: the experience occurs without conscious decision or control and it cannot be brought to happen at will.
Some people claim to have experienced God in such an intense way, that they have literally been in the presence of God. Some people also believe they have become one with God at certain times. People who claim to have such experiences are often called Mystics. It is common for Mystics to use a variety of spiritual techniques, such as meditation, to come into the presence of God in this special way. Mystical experiences take different forms, but a common theme among many of them is identity or union with God in Western religion, or with Absolute Reality – Brahman or nirvana or the dao – in Eastern religion. A description of a mystical experience within the Advaita VedÄnta school of Hinduism is given by Shankara”.
In my research I found more kinds of religious experience, first.
Numinous: “The German thinker Rudolf Otto (1869-1937) argues that there is one common factor to all religious experience, independent of the cultural background. In his book The Idea of the Holy (1923) he identifies this factor as the numinous.” According to him the numinous has two aspects namely “mysterium tremendum” he explains this as having the tendency to put fear into the host, and the second is “mysterium fascinas” this has the opposite, which is the tendency to fascinate and attract. The numinous experience is said to describe the feeling that God is very different and superior to us. Rudolf Otto sees the numinous as the only kind religious experience. He states: “There is no religion in which it [the numinous] does not live as the real innermost core and without it no religion would be worthy of the name” (Otto: 1972)
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Miracles: “This is usually said to happen when God acts in a special way in the world, which go against the laws of nature”. In the bible Jesus the son of God exhibited lots of miracle; the bible says “miracles could happen through any medium.” And the bible also says that “God works in mysterious ways”. So therefore miracles as far as religion is consigned are very significant especially in Christianity.
Ecstasy: this is the kind of experience where by the experiencer’s spirit lives the body, to go and communicate with the higher beings. This kind of religious experience is very similar to that which a shaman experiences.
Enthusiasm: This the kind of experience whereby a scared power or being enters into the body or mind of a person and uses the body to manifest supernatural features such as miracles, etc and also uses the person to communicate its message to the world. The person who is used is called a “medium”. This kind of religious experience reminds me of the term we used in class “Avatara” the similarity is that the being enters in to a human body.
Now let’s look at how the science worldviews and translates religious experiences, according to in class video shown by my instructor science has explains religious experience as an epilepsy of the temporal lobe which causes the host to enter a trance and could make him or her believe that they just had an encounter with a supernatural being. It also showed that electronic devices could also cause an individual with a sensitive brain to hallucinate making them see and believe in things that are not actually there. According to the neurotheologist Andrew B. Newberg, “neurological processes which are driven by the repetitive, rhythmic stimulation which is typical of human ritual, and which contributes to the delivery of transcendental feelings of connection to a universal unity. However, that physical stimulation alone is not sufficient to generate transcendental unitive experiences. For this to occur they say there must be a blending of the rhythmic stimulation with ideas. Once this occurs “â€¦ritual turns a meaningful idea into a visceral experience.” Moreover they say that humans are compelled to act out myths by the biological operations of the brain due to what they call the “inbuilt tendency of the brain to turn thoughts into actions”. The scientists have been able to also show that religion and its beliefs are natural, that man always feels the need to believe in something, a higher and superior being. So therefore science explains religious experiences in another way and gives us all another point of view.
In conclusion Religion experience from my point of view and experience is that they are real, they are actually cases where a being has manifested itself to a human being and also there cases where people have lied about these experiences, which has also put doubt the minds of some people that religious experiences do not exist, but because of my belief’s as a practicing Christian i believe that God could communicate with human beings thru different mediums.
The Holy Bible (Authorized King James Version)
Comparative religion slides
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