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Psychology of Religious Experience

Psychology of Religious Experience

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Published by Daniel
A psychological investigation of the philosophical religious experience.
A psychological investigation of the philosophical religious experience.

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Published by: Daniel on Sep 21, 2010
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10/13/2010

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 Daniel J. PoolPhilosophy of ReligionDr. SimpsonSeptember 21, 2010The Psychology of Religious Experience;False or True Memories
 
Pool 2The religious experience is a staple of belief for many people across time and faiths. Ithas been argued by some, however, that these eyewitness reports of the metaphysical are not proof for the existence of anything greater, but rather more evidence against any metaphysicalexistence in general. To better understand religious experience and religion as a whole oneshould examine the observers of religious experiences as well as the implications of discrepancies in experiences.First, is it possible to prove the existence of supreme beings through religious experiencealone? If the proof for religion is having a unique experience with a metaphysical being and a pure faith belief in that experience then there is no way to objectively test the existence of a god
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.In fact Martin argues that the very fact that not everyone has had a religious experience and thatthose experiences cannot be tested is evidence that god(s) do not exist (Peterson, Hasker,Reichenbach, & Basinger, 2001, 52). Conversely others such as Westphal argue that anyexperience, believed to be one by the observer, is one depending on certain conditions (56).This begs the question then: what can we objectively test? The short answer available toscience now is the person. Whilst the experience of the divine (and ³what-have-yous´) isimmeasurable to human knowledge, a person is not. Thompson and Hugh said it best, ³Perceivedreality,
not 
actual reality, is the key to understanding behavior. How we perceive others andourselves is at the root of our action and interactions«´ (2002) or rather what one believes istrue to them, no matter what evidence one can supply, is their truth. So to root out why different people report different experiences one should investigate how people construct their ideas, andsubsequently their beliefs.
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Good work gentlemen, we can all go home happy that proof rests in the hands of god(s/what-have-yous).
 
Pool 3When a person has a religious experience they often report a feeling of oneness,decentering, or humbleness to an Other (Peterson, et al, 2002, 57). This Other is a transcendent being of ³not-self´ or universal belonging. Often an entity comes to the individual, such as SaintTeresa¶s experience of seeing or feeling Jesus near her (7), and imparts a change for the better upon them.While the vision of Jesus may be an illusion, trick, or lie²the change in behavior isobservable. Saint Teresa reports, ³The soul is now a new creature«´ (9) because of her changein behavior. Psychologically it is understood at this point that she has undergone an experience,whether it was genuine or not. What was her experience and how does it change how she acts?Memory is formed through the conceptualization of experience (Porter, Bellhouse,McDougall, Brinke, & Wilson, K. 2010). Because memory is constructed by the brain it ismalleable and susceptible to being formed incorrectly; our memory can be a lie. In severalstudies, researchers constructed situations in which participants either were involved in a stagedcrisis situation or saw images of one, such as the Loftus¶ misinformation paradigm, and thenwere asked to questions about the scene. More often than not they reported falsely.These false memories often persisted and even became greater than any ³planted´memory (Steffens, & Mecklenbräuker, 2007). Piaget reported that for ten years he vividlyremembered his nanny fighting off an attempt to kidnap him from his home, however at fifth-teen his nanny revealed the truth that the event never took place. For those ten years though hecould remember what the man looked like and how the two fought, yet it was just a story.This is the troubling part of memory; it is what creates our reality and personality and² more importantly²is not always trustworthy.

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