To debate whether religious experiences can be used as a proof for God’s existence we must first decide what constitutes the term. A religious experience is unique and occurs when an individual has a personal encounter with the divine; the occurrence is non-empirical and is often perceived to be supernatural. Such experiences can be brought about by different means: they are either spontaneous, such as the conversation of St Paul in the Acts of Apostles as well as being a result of intense religious training and discipline, such as the practices of Sufi orders of Islam as well as various Christian sects and cults.
Testimonies often show that recipients feel a sense of being in the presence of the Divine power but yet remotely separated from it. This is perhaps best articulated by Otto who coins the phrase numinous in describing such an experience. Religious experiences often “draw people into” having a deeper connection with the Divine and can have a profound impact on one’s life.
Critics often discredit religious experiences as a means of universally proving God’s existence by suggesting that such experiences are limited to the recipient and no one else; hence as long as one has not experience God, they cannot believe in God nor can they trust the accounts of those who claimed they have. This argument has been successfully rebutted by Swinburne along with other scholars put forward the Principle of Credulity, arguing that unless we have evidence to prove against recipients, we cannot say that they are untrue accounts and therefore must accept it.He states that “In the absence of special considerations the experiences of others are as they report them. ” One can compare religious experiences to dog whistles; only dogs can hear dog whistles however this does not mean the dog whistle does not produce a noise. One can go further to comparing encounters with God to encounters with ordinary people. For example, if your friend told you they had dinner with their spouse last night you are likely to believe them; thus it is only rational to trust your friend’s word if they told you they encountered the divine during their sleep.
The Principle of Credulity adds strengths to the argument as it successfully counters one of the main skepticism of religious experience thereby forcing us to have a serious philosophical debate on this matter. God revealing himself to human thereby connecting with believers, it is logical for him to want to seek out with believers The profound effect of religious experience proves that there was an experience in the first place which in terms prove God’s existence. (Nikki Cruse) Experiences are spiritual and unique hence irrationality should not be used as an argument against religious experience but rather a feature of it.