Corporate Relisious Experiences

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‘Corporate religious experiences. such as the Toronto Blessing, tell us nothing about God' discuss

Corporate religious experiences are experiences seen by a body of people. They are not just experienced by one person, but by a collective group of people who all say they experienced some supernatural event similar to one another.

However to discover what a real corporate religious experience is, it is important to delve into the meaning of what a religious experience itself actually is. In itself religious experience has a variety of definitions, one of such is:

‘A religious experience is a non-empirical occurrence, sometimes perceived as supernatural. A religious experience can be described as a ‘mental event' which is undergone by an individual, and of which that person is aware. Such an experience can be spontaneous, or it ay be brought about as a result of intensive training and self discipline.'

The religious experience argument is a classic a posteriori argument, which seeks to establish of the objective existence of the Divine. The argument from the religious experience starts from the premises that all our knowledge of the world relies upon existence of God. As a result of this assumption, religious experiences should be given the same basic validity as other sorts of experiences. Therefore, because of this people claiming to have experiences of God's angels and miracles should be believed, as Richard Swinburne later discusses.

The are doubts however, as William James has claimed, in The Varieties of Religious Experience that some religious experiences are self-induced either by drugs or drunkenness, they are essentially private and individualistic, therefore unable to be truly revealed in a way that others may understand.

Richard Swinburne, Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University, claims that a believer's explanation of a religious experience is the most straight forward claim, his main argument is that if the person who makes the claim is trustworthy in other areas of life, and there is no suspicious circumstances, then that is a good reason for taking the person's religious experience seriously.

To take Swinburne's argument as valid, we must therefore consider what this leads to tell us about God. For example, if an individual claims that a particular experience, such as God telling someone that they are ill and must receive help, then the individual goes to receive help, then the individual goes to receive this help and upon discovers he or she has a brain tumour. This person would thus be believed that God had enlightened him upon this and therefore existed, however to others, they may just claim that the fact that a brain tumour was discovered could also prove that the person was not coherent enough to be able to know whether it really happened or was just a hallucination, symptom of the tumour. Swimburne however would still thus say that had the person proved trustworthy in the past then his experience should be taken as genuine.

Another argument however seems to contradict Swinburne's viewpoint, as many social science studies and explanations of religious awakenings point to religious experience's association with deprivation and suffering in both traditional and modern societies.

Following a disaster…people feel more vulnerable, confused and full of anxiety, and they turn to millennial beliefs in order to account for the otherwise meaningless events. The disaster is given meaning.. so that the deepest despair gives way to hope'

To focus on corporate religious experiences is to look at the Toronto Blessing, for example. As discussed earlier, corporate religious experiences are experiences, experienced by a body of people. The Toronto Blessing is no such exception.

Toronto Blessing is a term used to describe the phenomena that began in January 1994, at Toronto Airport Christina Vineyard Fellowship. (TACF) Participants in these conferences and meetings have reported...
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