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The Epistemology of Religious Experience Paperback – November 25, 1994
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"This is a meticulous, thoughtful, and progressive analysis and defense of the central question: Does religious experience provide evidence for religious belief?" Michael Pomedli, Review of Metaphysics
" . . .this is a book which breaks new ground in the field, as well as putting some familiar points in a new context. It is to be warmly welcomed." --Mark Wynn, International Philosophical Quarterly
Arguing against the notion that religious experience is ineffable, while advocating the view that it can provide evidence of God's existence, this text contends that social science and nonreligious explanations of religious belief and experience do not cancel out the force of the experience.
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Using the analytic approach of epistemology--the branch of philosophy that asks, "How do we know anything?"--the author explores the question, "Does religious experience provide evidence for religious belief?" This raises the irresistably fascinating question: does religious experience prove the existence of God? The cross-cultural material is a major plus. At the outset the author presents a typology of Eastern and Western religious experiences with some highfalutin' terms--Nirvanic, Kevalic, Moksha--but he immediately illustrates the types with substantive examples from various sacred Scriptures. Although the narrative occasionally bogs down in formal logical propositions, the simple, punchy sentences--"if this is true, then is X false?"--mostly make the questions clearer and more compelling. At times I actually felt like I was reading a good detective story.
This volume may be a bit too intimidating for freshpersons because of its length and heavy use of logical propositions, but I wouldn't hestitate to assign it in an upper-level course. I found this to be surprisingly accessible, clearly written, and fun to read! But then I'm a theology buff and I like books about the perceived clash between science & religion.
The ethnocentric bias of the book is frankly startling considering its recent publication. Most of the great religious traditions of Asia (the ones the author knows of, that is) are slighted and derided for not conforming to his European mode of logic (which is of course assumed to be "universal"). The book is touted as addressing Eastern religious cultural traditions, but penalizing Buddhist monks for not having read Aristotle & Anselm and such, claiming that their religious experiences in meditation are just so much irrational poppycock, does not really make it as cross-cultural comparison. William James in "Varieties of Religious Experience" had much less data to work with but did a much better job a century ago.