WEEK 4 - ARGUMENTS FROM RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE
WEEK 4 - ARGUMENTS FROM RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE
When you include all the world's religions the percentage of the world’s population that is atheist or agnostic is certainly smaller than the percentage that believes in God.
“This minority may be smaller than it seems. It may be true in one sense that many people profess not to believe in God, but…given the right circumstances, a much wider group will betray a deep, latent, almost built-in belief in God. What are the first words out of an atheist’s mouth when they go through a horrifying experience or narrowly escape death? Isn’t it something like “O my God!”? What does almost every person do when someone they love is suffering from some terrible illness? They pray. To whom? To God.”
People under pressure often believe in God – the Falklands chaplain I met at school testifies to this
Just wishful thinking or something inherent in humanity? What about when I ask children from a secular school to pray? They all seem to know what to do! What does that tell us?
BELIEF THROUGH HISTORY
“Anthropological research has indicated that among the farthest and most remote primitive peoples today, there is a universal belief in God. And in the earliest histories and legends of people all around the world the original concept was of one God, who was the creator. An original high God seems once to have been in their consciousness even in those societies which today are polytheistic.” Paul Little writing in “Know why you believe”
Quite a number of philosophers down the centuries have believed in God
Rene Descartes was a “rationalist”, John Locke an “empiricist”, George Berkeley an “idealist” but they all agreed that God existed.
IT IS NOT TRUE THAT BELIEF IN GOD IS A SIGN OF A LACK OF INTELLIGENCE!!!
Williams writes:“There are bright minds on both sides. You can read the debate between atheist Kai Nielsen and Christian J P Moreland; with contributions from the likes of atheist Anthony Flew and theist Dallas Willard (“Does God exist? The Debate between Theists and Atheists (Prometheus Books, 1993). You can read the debate between the Christian philosopher J J Haldane and atheist J J C Smart (J J C Smart and J J Haldane “Atheism and Theism” (Blackwells 1996))
We see the atheism of scientists like Richard Dawkns and Peter Atkins, and the Christian beliefs or R J Berry and John Polkinghorne.
Belief in God can’t be dismissed as belonging only to the ill-educated. Of course I’d have to admit that disbelief in God has nothing to do with lack of intelligence. Belief or disbelief in God depends more upon how you use what intelligence you have than on how much intelligence you have. You don’t need a degree or a PhD to believe in God, but plenty of highly qualified people do believe.”
Two Oxford scholars, Gilbert West and Lord Lyttleton, were determined to destroy the basis of Christianity. West was to demonstrate the fallacy of the resurrection and Lyttleton was to prove that Saul of Tarsus (St Paul) had never converted to Christianity. Both men came to the opposite conclusion and became followers of Jesus. Lord Lyttleton wrote “The conversion and apostleship of Saint Paul alone, duly considered, was of itself a demonstration sufficient to prove Christianity to be Divine Revelation.” Josh McDowell, “Christianity, A Ready Defence” p.454
English journalist Frank Morrison, an expert in putting together information to form a picture of events, had a similar experience. Morrison set out to prove that the story of Christ’s resurrection was nothing but a myth, but he ended up believing it. He went on to write a famous book on his findings called “Who moved the stone?”
Morrison writes “The opportunity came to study the life of Christ as I had long wanted to study it, to investigate the origins of its literature, to sift some of the evidence at first had, and to form my own judgement….I will only say that it affected a revolution in my thought. Things emerged from the old-world story which previously I should have thought impossible.”
THE PHENOMENON OF RELIGIOUS AND SUPERNATURAL EXPERIENCE
Many people experience some sort of transcendent religious event in their lives
The Religious Experience Research Centre at Oxford has found that “ a large number of people even today possess a deep awareness of a benevolent non-physical power which appears to be partly or wholly beyond, and far greater than, the individual self.”
C S Lewis in “The Problem of Pain” writes about our experience of the “Numinous” and the “Moral sense of compulsion” as pointers towards God.
The famous Christian thinker and writer C S Lewis
“In the gospels Jesus says “Ask and it will be given to you,; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you, “ (Matthew 7.7 and Luke 11.9). The Bible also reports Jesus as saying , “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” (Revelation 3.20). The experience of feeling God “knocking” on the door of one’s life as one considers Jesus in the pages of the Bible or the words of a preacher, and opening that door to positive results, therefore constitutes an experiential verification of the Christian world-view, and hence of the existence of God.”
The experience of Saul is a powerful one
“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied, “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9.3-6).
Is it just wish-fulfillment?
Listen to St Paul “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11.23-27)
Are Believers deluded?Why not ask the question are Atheists deluded?
My own experience of the spiritual side of life can be found here
I have plenty more illustrates of spiritual experiences as well as this!
Williams writes:“Psychologist Paul Vitez has investigated the psychology of atheism. After listing several psychological factors (such as personal convenience) which may contribute to a rejection of belief in God, Vitez argues that “in the Freudian framework, atheism is an illusion caused by the Oedipal desire to kill the father and replace him with oneself.” Noting that many prominent atheists had poor opinions of their fathers, Vitz proposes a “Theory of Defective Father” whereby a defective father may contribute to a person’s rejection of God the “heavenly Father”.
Defective fathers may be “weak, cowardly and unworthy of respect, “physically, sexually or psychologically abusive” or “absent through death or by abandoning or leaving the family.” If an earthly father is absent, or perceived as weak, or untrustworthy, these concepts tend to carry over into our view of God.
For example, Freud lacked respect for his father who failed to stand up for himself against anti-Semitic abuse. Karl Marx did not respect his father, who converted to Christianity out of a desire to make life easier for himself and was the first in his family not to become a rabbi. When Feuerbach was thirteen, his father abandoned the family to live with another woman. One of America’s best known atheists today is Madalyn Murray O’Hear. For some as yet unknown reason, she reportedly attempted to murder her father with a ten-inch butcher’s knife. She failed but screamed, “I’ll see you dead. I’ll get you yet. I’ll walk on your grave!
Vitz writes that “Many children interpret the death of their father as a kind of betrayal or act of desertion. In this respect it is remarkable that the pattern of a dead father is so common in the lives of many prominent atheists.” Bertrand Russell’s father died when Russell was four years old. Nietzche was the same age when his father died. Camus lost his father as a one year old. Satre lost his father before he was born.” Paul C Vitz “The Psychology of Atheism” in Truth Journal
WHAT SORT OF GOD WOULD HUMANS INVENT?
Would a God that people chose to invent be a Holy God and would the sayings of Jesus about wealth and putting others first belong to such a divinity?
Pascal wrote “There is enough light for those whose only desire is to see, and enough darkness for those of the opposite disposition.”