For these reasons Swinburne has completely failed to show that the many actual cases of apparently gratuitous natural evils do not significantly lower the probability of God's existence. According to the intuitions of many, a good P-inductive, no less than a good C-inductive, argument can be based on such evils. If the cumulative argument, when purged of its abuse of simplicity in determining the prior probability of , is sufficiently strong, the conjunction of its premisses with a premiss reporting all known instances of apparently gratuitous evil could still result in a good C-inductive argument or, less plausibly, a good P-inductive argument.13 If we are to be fully honest, I think we must admit that we do not have clear-cut intuitions about what to say about this enlarged and purified cumulative argument, and, as a result, have no basis for saying whether it suffices to neutralize either the strong defeating condition of (5) or even the weaker one of (5'). Thus, we are no better off than we were at the end of chapter 12. We are still mired in the mush.
Argument of God’s existence based on people’s religious experiences and revelations, are not to be considered evidence by any standard for anything, and of course of no relevance for anyone else.
To see how Swinburne justifies his strong demand, we must begin with his generic account of defeater iii that the apparent object of S's experience wasn't present or existent. 'It has to make it very improbable that was present if it is to outweigh the force of S's experience sufficiently for it to remain more probable than not that was not present' (p. 261).10 Because religious experiences have an apparent object that is qualitatively remote from the subject's past experiences and do not admit of the possibility of disconfirming experiences, Swinburne lowers his demand on the defeater so that it need show only that it is significantly more probable than not, rather than very probable, that God does not exist. 'But for these qualifications, I would have concluded that a religious experience apparently of God ought to be taken as veridical unless it can be shown on other grounds that very, very probably God does not exist' (p. 270).
There certainly is nothing intuitively obvious about this. Consider the generic case in which Swinburne requires the defeater to show that it is 'very improbable that was present'. It would seem to be sufficient for the defeater to show that relative to certain background evidence 1 the probability that was not present be equal to or greater than that of the probability that was present relative to the apparent experience of . And since the probability of 's being present relative to an apparent perception of it need be only more than one-half according to the PC, however slight that might be, the improbability that was present relative to 1 need be only less than one-half, and thus not very improbable. Similar considerations apply, only more so, to the case of religious experiences.11
Following this line of argument,it is worth considering whether the very special placing of the references toGod in Kennedy's address may not reveal something rather important and seriousabout religion in American life.
He holds that if theism is true, religious experiences cannot run afoul of (iv), which requires in this case that they be caused by God. God is the ultimate cause of everything, and moreover is omnipresent, not in the sense of being physically present everywhere, which would make him a cosmic fat man, but in being able to bring about effects at any place, including a perception of himself by those upon whom he bestows this grace. 'If there is a God, any experience which seems to be of God, will be genuine-will be of God' (p. 270). Thus, religious experiences pass the test imposed by (iv) with flying colours, assuming theism.
Common types of religious experiences Numinous: The sense of ‘awe and wonder’ a person may feel when they experience the presence of God in a certain place or building.
The placing of thereferences in this speech as well as in public life generally indicates thatreligion "has only a ceremonial significance"; it gets only a sentimentalnod that serves largely to placate the more unenlightened members of thecommunity before a discussion of the really serious business with which religionhas nothing whatever to do.
So if someone says they have had a religious experience, how can they prove that their experience is genuine, and also that it is better (or more genuine) than those of people in other faiths?
This is much too quick. Many religious experiences are caused in ignoble or devious ways, as for example by the ingestion of LSD or unconscious sexual desires.7 What are we to say about such experiences? Some would see them as forming the evidential base for a good C-inductive argument for the non-existence of God. For, if God exists, he is their ultimate cause. But, given the causal theory of perception, it would follow that they are veridical perceptions of him; however, it would be inconsistent with his goodness to bring about veridical experiences of himself in such ignoble and devious ways. A more reasonable way of dealing with them is to say that, although it is true that if God exists he must be at least a necessary cause of them, it does not follow that they are veridical perceptions of God, the reason being that they are not caused by God . God, moreover, could have some morally exonerating excuse for permitting to be unveridical apparent perceptions of himself, such as that they were caused by the subjects ingesting LSD or not doing everything in their power to rid themselves of sexual lust. This allows for the possibility that a religious experience may flunk the being-caused-in-the-right-way-by-God requirement, even if God exists.8
Swinburne considers another way in which the veridicality of religious experiences might be impugned-by appeal to the conflicting claims that are made on the basis of religious experiences within different religious traditions. Swinburne's strategy is to argue that the extent of the conflict has been exaggerated, and that for the most part these claims can be shown to be compatible, since God could choose to present himself under different guises to persons who are in different cultural circumstances. He even gets down to why it is reasonable that a Portuguese peasant would 'see' Mary as attired in the manner in which she is pictured on the walls of Portuguese churches rather than as she was in the old days in Palestine.
Defeater (ii) requires that normally claims based on religious experience are true. But the only way in which it could be shown that religious experiences fail to satisfy this requirement is 'If there was a good proof of the non-existence of God…. But the point here is that the onus of proof is on the atheist; if he cannot make his case the claim of religious experience stands.' The prima-facie probability it bestows on the claim to have perceived God is yet to be defeated.
Swinburne fails to see this possibility because his mistaken causal theory of perception-'S perceives (believing that he is so doing) if and only if an experience of its seeming (epistemically) to S that is present was caused by 's being present' (p. 247)-fails to include a caused-in-the-right-way requirement. The presence of a chair can cause my apparent perception of it without my perceiving it if, for example, it caused someone who was probing my brain with electrodes so as to deceive me to see it and as a result produce in me the experience of seeming to see a chair. The causal chain that goes from the presence of the chair to my subsequent seeming to perceive it is too kinky or devious. While Swinburne is mistaken in his claim that religious experiences, on the assumption of theism, cannot fail (iv)'s causal requirement, , no serious damage is done to his overall argument; for it is reasonable to say that there are many religious experiences that do not in fact flunk this requirement. There is no evidence that the great mystics were high on something or had minds filled with smut or the like. Of course, if God does not exist, then any apparent perception of him flunks the caused-in-the-right-way requirement. Therefore, if the prima-facie probability that this experience bestows on the existence of God is to be defeated, the onus again is on the atheist to show that it is significantly improbable that God exists.