Validation of Experiences

I have to wonder how many times we judge others by our own experiences.

I am speaking, of course, of the religious experience. If we have a religious experience (insert you own definition here) in one place, under one doctrine, or one person, or even with one bible, then is it possible that we then judge the experiences of others by our situation.

Examples – the KJVO myth. Some people who hold to this doctrine often times denies the salvation of another if they were saved under the reading of an NIV.

Or charismatics and pentecostals and others.

Just some passing thoughts here, but if we have a religious experience, why is it always assumed that it was the external factors which produced the results – bible, doctrine, ‘move’ – and not us?

The same thing with Atheists. Because they have never had one, of have had one and then justified it, then they assume that all others are equally wrong.

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16 Replies to “Validation of Experiences”

  1. An atheist doesn’t reject “religious experiences” because he hasn’t had one, but because he understands that they are a pschological phenomenon, which have no corresponding effector outside of the mind. The days that introspection was considered a valid methodology to acquire knowledge of the outside world are long gone. There is no more reason to believe that “religious experiences” have anything to do with a deity than thoughts, dreams, hallucinations, illusions and other psychological events. To understand “religious experiences” one really has to understand psychology. The brain is truly an amazing part of our body.

    1. Bill, I think that you have proven my point. You are using your own knowledge as a validation of another’s. Further, you are seeing your knowledge as the only correct explanation of that experience. Religious people do the same thing.

      1. Nope, I’m not using “my knowledge”, I’m using knowledge acquired through examination of the world (physical, psychological, sociological, etc…). Scientists can demonstrate what they (together as a scholarly community who have developed stringent methodologies that avoid contradictory subjective impressions) know – religious people cannot. They can only say that they know something without providing even a reason or argument for why they supposedly know something. If that’s the way acquiring knowledge works then anything goes. Perhaps I should write in my next journal paper that I believe that my theory is correct because “I experienced something that demonstrated the correctness of my theory. Oh, sorry, I can’t provide the evidence, but you’ve just got to take my word for it.” I wonder what the reviewers would think?

        Mitchell, I’m not a scientific skeptic – I follow the best model based on the available data. That has nothing to do with skepticism. I do not pre-judge experiences. We scientists examine these experiences and work out the best theory for the data.

        1. Bill, I have to wade out into the cold to get internet, but I do want to keep this conversation going. Please give me until tomorrow to start answering you with some sort of coherency.

          1. I’ll be away on vacation myself until January so we’ll have to postpone our conversation. Have a nice Christmas!


        2. Bill, I’ve still got to disagree with you as to your clean distinction between hard scientific fact and fuzzy religious feeling. Although I agree that in theory scientific inquiry ought to be carried out according to “stringent methodologies,” I would propose that often it is not. And as to the claim that religious people cannot demonstrate what they know, I would also have to disagree with you as well. I think that, for example, Simon Greenleaf, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowel, and others have done an excellent job arguing from acceptable historical norms that the resurrection and life of Jesus are historically verifiable. So I don’t understand where your assertion that religious people just assert “without providing even a reason or argument for why they supposedly know something.” Now, it would be one thing if you were to say that you disagree with the reasons provided, but to pretend that Christianity has spread through the world simply through claims about feelings is an unfair caricature.

          To say that you do not pre-judge experiences also seems to ring hollow, considering that you have categorically stated that “they are a pschological phenomenon, which have no corresponding effector outside of the mind.”

  2. And Bill–isn’t it at odds with the entire concept of scientific skepticism to categorically state that other people’s experiences of perceiving the supernatural are produced by the brain? In fact, what true skepticism requires is that we not pre-judge experiences (and to be fair, all collection of data, even so-called scientific data, is an experience inside our minds, even if it corresponds to outside reality). Don’t forget, accusations of hallucination, etc. are an a two-way illogical tool that can cut both ways, such as when some devoutly religious folk mistaken accused Galileo of hallucinating when seeing evidence through his telescope that not all heavenly bodies orbited earth.

    Polycarp–nice post. Sadly, our tendency to instantly judge all by our limited experience not only impacts our feelings about others’ salvation, but even about little doctrinal issues, which we so often assume to be correctly judged by whatever group God used to bring us to salvation.

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