Is there enough Evidence of Religious Experience to Prove the Existence of God?
The question that of course comes to mind when answering this question is, “what is religious experience?”. I think that religious experience is a person’s experience of a presence or power beyond themselves. They tend to be ‘out of the ordinary’ and are very difficult to verify, which makes this argument harder to answer definitively.
There are many examples of religious experiences. A main type of religious experience is conversion. In the bible, it tells the story of Saul’s conversion. He was walking along Damascus Road, and suddenly a light from the heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He then says, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do”. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing.
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So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. This caused him to become the greatest Christian missionary. This story is similar to the case of C. S. Lewis. He was alone in his room and kept on feeling the approach of God whom he did not want to meet. One night he “gave in” and admitted that God was God, and prayed.
There are also contemporary religious experiences. Brother Yun , a Chinese Christian managed to escape from Zhengzhou Number One Maximum Security Prison. He was walking towards the iron gate outside his cell. Every step he took he prayed beneath his breath. At the exact moment he reached the gate, another servant of the Lord was returning to his cell. He managed to get through the gate without being seen. From that point on he managed to get past all the guards, until he reached the front gates. They were left ajar. He walked outside and a small yellow taxi pulled up. He said that he needed to go to his office as quickly as possible. They drove off.
Betty Malz received an out of body religious experience when in a coma in a hospital. She was walking up a beautiful green hill. She was barefoot and without pain. At first she wondered whether it was death. There was no path, but she seemed to know where to go. She then realised that she was not alone. Behind here was a masculine-looking figure in a robe (Jesus). They did not speak to each other but were walking in the same direction. They carried on walking. There was no sun, but light was everywhere.
Bernhard Langer, an international golfer received a religious experience in 1985. He heard Jesus Christ tell him that he must be reborn in order to enter the kingdom of God. Since that day his faith has played a huge part in his life. It puts his priorities in a different order. Before he became a Christian his priorities were all about him and doing well on the golf course. Now his first priority is pleasing God, second is his family and golf is only third. Prayer is a key to his life. He prayers every day, even between shots. This man has been converted from a golfer who thought only for himself, to a devout Christian.
Jason Robinson, an international rugby player, went to his good friends John and Anne, who he felt could listen without being judgemental. He was so low that he was almost suicidal. They asked him whether he wanted to ask Jesus into his life? He answered yes. He asked God for forgiveness. The three of them prayed together and he asked him to come into his heart. God could help him and he wanted his help. He was convinced it would lead him to a different way of life.
These are four very specific cases of religious experience. But now I am going to take on a rather broader approach.
Many people go to church all over the world. One can assume that at least a small proportion of these people will have had a religious experience, hence them now going to church, ‘converts’ as it were. This means that there are probably many religious experiences which we simply don’t hear of.
God reveals himself to those who are open to him, those with religious faith. Subsequently their faith becomes renewed and those who were not open to the idea of a God will become the none the wiser. It is very easy for so-called ‘non-believers’ to be cynical of these religious experiences, but the truth is, they cannot comprehend such an awesome thing, so they assume it must be false. The only way to really understand a religious experience is if you have one yourself. I think that God can exist, and cannot exist. He exists for people with religious faith, just as He does not exist for atheists. It is not a matter of having religious experiences to be accepted by God, but a heart full of love and worship.