Religious Experience and the Burden of Proof

Herman Philipse

in God in the Age of Science?

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199697533
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738470 | DOI:
Religious Experience and the Burden of Proof

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An analysis of three problems for Richard Swinburne’s Bayesian cumulative case strategy in natural theology shows why he needs to shift the burden of proof to the unbeliever. Allegedly, this shift is accomplished by the argument from religious experience, which is based upon the Principle of Credulity and the Principle of Testimony. However, the Principle of Credulity does not apply to religious experiences, and genuine perceptual of-God experiences are impossible. Furthermore, if monotheism were true, most religious experiences (of other gods than God) would be deceptive, so that religious experience in general would be highly unreliable. Swinburne does not succeed to neutralize other defeaters of the argument from religious experience either, so that one cannot shift the burden of proof to unbelievers. It is concluded that Swinburne’s cumulative case for the existence of God fails, and that it is unlikely that anyone else will succeed in arguing convincingly that God exists.

Keywords: Cumulative case strategy; Problem of completeness; Problem of numerical determination; Likelihoods; Prior probability; Burden of proof; The balance of probability; Bayes’ theorem; Argument from religious experience; Private experiences; Public experiences; Principle of Credulity; Principle of Testimony; God; Invisible person; Epistemic parity; Of-God experiences; God’s handiwork; Supernatural objects; Sense-datum theory; Hearing voices; Swamp of gullibilism; Defeaters; Religious diversity; William James; Radical transcendence; J. L. Mackie

Chapter.  16747 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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