Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
The Gullibility of Religious Experience?
My discussions of the Argument from Religious Experience here have led to any number of challenges, many of which center around the notion that if we were to accept religious experience as a way to discern reality, why not also accept UFOs, Bigfoot sightings, and the like? In other words, the charge is that if we accept REs, we are somehow made gullible regarding other, non-desirable situations. Caroline Franks Davis, in her tour de force work on the argument from religious experience, The Evidential Force of Religious Experience, confronts this charge head on:
[T]he challenges to certain types of experience (e.g. dreams) and to experience of certain types of entities and phenomena (e.g. elves, ‘auras’) are so widely successful and so well-known that claims based on such experiences have come to be regarded by adults initially with suspicion rather than with credulity. (101, cited below).
The point is that in cases like those she lists, and others like UFOs, Bigfoot, etc., the challenges to such observations are indeed successful (i.e. an airplane light interpreted as a UFO) and well-known that we have an a priori reason to treat them with suspicion. However, it remains to be shown whether there are such successful and well-known rebuttals for the case of religious experience. Indeed, the majority of Caroline Franks Davis’ work is dedicated to showing that this is, in fact, not the case. Moreover, her argument in this section is more complex, and should not be reduced merely to this quote (which I have only done for the sake of this post!).
What are your thoughts? Do you think this is a successful rebuttal? How might we distinguish between credible cases and non-credible cases?
Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)
Caroline Franks Davis, The Evidential Force of Religious Experience (New York, NY: Oxford, 1989).