Buber argued that an encounter with God gives us a special kind of knowledge of God. He argued that we could have two types of relationships, I-it relationships and I-thou relationships. Our knowledge of god is an I-it relationship however experiencing god is an I-thou relationship. This means that by experiencing god we can have a deep and direct relationship with him that gives us further knowledge about him. There are also scholars who argue against RE and who argue that RE are not genuine and cannot be used as proof for god’s existence, neither can it give us any further knowledge of him.
However, It can give us further knowledge of ourselves. There are four key challenges to RE. The first challenge to RE is the psychological explanation; the idea that RE can be explained by psychology. Feuerbach argued that God is not real only a human projection made of our own aspirations and desires. Freud argues that God is a neurosis caused by insecurity and our desire for a father figure to protect us. Both of these arguments against RE argue that RE give us a greater insight into our own minds. Dawkins argued in his book the God Delusion that Re are just expressions of a persons psychological needs.
He provided alternative explanations for RE, he used the famous example of the devil bird. He argued that RE are harmful and show how dangerous it is when people become deluded. He argued it was ridiculous to base ones life on freak misunderstandings. Another explanation is what may be interpreted, as a Re may actually be a mental illness, like schizophrenia, bipolar or epilepsy. St Paul experienced flashes of light in his RE and then backed out. It is thought that he may have been an epileptic and could have been having an epileptic fit, which fit these symptoms.
The second challenge to RE is the physiological explanation; these are physical explanations for RE, the idea that the body can effect the brain. Lack of food sleep and water may cause hallucinations these can account for RE. This therefore shows that the body has an impact of how we see things; this may give us a deeper understanding into ourselves. This explain St Paul’s conversion experience as he hadn’t eaten or drunk after the experience which may have caused him to be come confused about what he saw. The third challenge is the difficulty of interpretation.
RE tend to be described in the terms of people prior faiths. If a Hindu and a catholic had the same experience the catholic may argue that the experience had come from the Virgin Mary. However, the Hindu would be unlikely to give this explanation. Mackie argued for this challenge, he said it was simply negligent to simply trust what people say. Even though the person may be trustworthy they could have misinterpreted the RE. This challenge gives us a deeper understanding into the human mind as well rather than a deeper knowledge of God.
However this challenge is not really relevant the conversion RE as these are where people are converting away from their prior faith rather than following it. A Christian pastor, David Wilkerson, converted Nicki Cruz; Cruz felt that he was experiencing the Christian God, as that was what he had been told. However it could have been a God of another faith or something else entirely. The forth and final challenge is that RE are logically impossible. Our human senses are finite and limited so we can only experience phenomena in this world.
It is impossible to experience nomena that is out of this world. However it is not unreasonable to believe that God would want to interact with his creation. Ayer argued in his book ‘Language, truth and Logic’ that RE cannot be described or verified so using them, as evidence is pointless. He argued “the argument from Religious experience is altogether fallacious” and that it didn’t give any further knowledge in God. Edwin Starbuck put forward another challenge for conversion religious experience.
He drew parallels between conversion RE and the natural process of finding ourselves in adolescence. He argued that most conversion RE happened between the ages of 15 and 24, which is the age of finding oneself. This shows that they do give a deeper knowledge of ourselves. Nicki Cruz was converted around this time demonstrating Starbuck’s point. For religious believers, RE are the most powerful proofs for God’s existence; they show God supporting people in their everyday lives. They give believers further knowledge of God.
Conversion religious experiences are perhaps the most powerful of these as they show how God acts in the world, even in people’s lives who do not believe in them. Conversion RE demonstrates God’s omniscient and omnibenevolent features. They also show Jesus’ teachings’ of love and forgiveness. Nicki Cruz was converted from a life of crime to Christianity, after his conversion he set up charities and changed his life for the better. Nicki Cruz is the director of teen challenge a charity supporting troubled youth. He has set up Nicki Cruz Ministries and travels the US as an evangelist.
His conversion gave him the power to forgive his mother and father for abusing him as a child. He went on to convert them and his brother from satanic worship to Christianity. This shows how RE enriches and helps people to become better people. Therefore RE can give us further knowledge into God and ourselves. However RE is an inductive argument so it can only produce probabilities not certainties. It is difficult to say if these experiences are real as they are personal and subjective. They cannot give us any further knowledge into God only into ourselves.
Personally I agree with Peter Donovan in his book ‘Interpreting Religious Experience’ that there are good arguments for and against RE. I believe that the different types of RE and their personal and subjective nature mean that they do not give a deeper knowledge of God. However I believe that the do have a powerful influence on peoples lives and so are the most powerful form of religion. However, I believe that as every persons individuality lead to the personal nature of RE. I believe this means that RE can give us a deeper understanding and knowledge of ourselves.