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Is Personal Experience Evidence for a God?

Updated on August 9, 2015

Christianity

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Apologetics and Rational Faith

There are scores of apologists in the world. There are apologists for Islam, for Christianity, for almost all major religions world-wide. These apologists specialize in defending their religion of choice, or can even participate in "negative apologetics", meaning that they identify claims made by other religions and attempt to refute them. No matter how well-versed or familiar you are with philosophical, ethical, moral or evidence-based arguments for the existence of this God or that God, the fact of the matter remains that few people convert to a belief based on philosophy or argumentation. Most people convert to a religion because they are emotionally convinced of its truth - they had a personal experience that was sufficient enough to convince (or confirm) that the belief system that they were already familiar with was, in fact, accurate and was worth of belief. Personal experiences are powerful and intense phenomenon - but are they reliable evidence that can justify specific religious belief? Can personal experiences be considered evidence at all? If so, what category of evidence do they fall under? What are the problems inherent with using personal experience as evidence?

Buddhism

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The Problems with Personal Experience:

- Personal experience, on its own, is potential the logical fallacy of anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal evidence is insufficient when used in an attempt to convince others, and it's typically employed by those who lack compelling evidence or compelling evidence making the case.

- It's purely subjective. It goes without saying that personal experience is, well, personal. It cannot be confirmed or falsified by anyone else, and as such cannot be considered convincing to anyone other than the person who experienced it.

- It's source is undetermined. While believers of many religions are quick to point to a personal experience that they've had and attribute it to the God that they already believe in, there is no justifiable or logical way to confirm the source is, in fact, that one that is claimed. No God shows up in the room with a driver's license to confirm that it is, in fact, the one that helped you locate your car keys, enabling you to make it to work on time. The person having the experience gets to choose from thin air whoever they wish to credit - and there's simply no way to confirm or deny this base claim.

- Personal experiences are, by definition, subject to confirmation bias. I know of no examples in which someone raised in a predominantly Christian culture has an experience out of the blue that they somehow determined came from Allah. Likewise, I know of know Muslim who has a personal experience with Yahweh and converts to Judaism. Most often, the experience is credited to the predominant religion already present in an individual's culture.

- Speaking of culture, personal experiences are not simply limited to one religion over another. Personal experiences are claimed in every religious belief from Native American tribal religions to Christians to Muslims to Buddhists. They occur all over the world, and are strikingly similar in their detail. If only one God exists, as many major religions claim, and only one God could therefore be responsible for perpetrating these experience, how would a believer in a particular religion explain personal experiences claimed by those in opposing and contradictory religions?

The Foundation of Three Significant Religions

A markerJerusalem -
Jerusalem, Israel
get directions

The sacred sites of three of the major world religions

Personal Experience and Conversion

Personal experience and anecdotal evidence bears no purpose except to the person who experienced them. They cannot be useful tools in converting others to a specific belief, although they can be useful when conversing with others of the same faith, confirming pre-existing ideas and biases among a group of like-minded believers. We see Christians constantly praising God for helping them find the car keys to a rousing chorus of "amens" from an appreciative and impressed crowd, completely ignorant to the fact that while God, a claimed omnipotent and all-powerful deity, was helping you find your car keys to keep you from being late to school (or church), hundred of people were dying of starvation or in a typhoon on the opposite side of the world.

Since personal experiences cannot possibly be duplicated, confirmed or falsified, they simply cannot be utilized to convince those outside of your faith tradition that your specific faith is true - especially to the exclusion of all others. Yet believers become defensiveness when their personal experiences are questioned. Does this signify a deeper understanding that these experiences simply cannot be quantified or confirmed, or do believers simply double-down with what they consider the best evidence possible, as these experiences happened directly to them, not realizing how silly they may sound to someone of differing (or no) beliefs whatsoever?

Islam

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Personal Experience in Conversation

I'm astounded at the number of times I've entered into a conversation with a theist of multiple types and had the conversation boil down to the fact that they've had a personal experience with a deity, thus justifying their faith in that deity to the exclusion of all others. The conversation can be about the reliability and verifiability of scripture. It can be about historical evidence for the person of Jesus Christ. It can be about the history of the early church or the influence of the church on medieval theocracy - but ultimately, the majority of these conversations boil down to faith and personal experiences. 99% of the time, if you can get a theist to remove the shackles of dogmatic apologetic arguments that are meant to be convincing (but aren't), the reason that they believe in their particular religion is because they've had an experience of a purely personal nature that confirms what they either believed to be true or questioned. Yet when these experiences are questioned - even in the Socratic sense - they immediately go on the defensive, as if they are being personal accosted by questions.

Ultimately, although I doubt the veracity of personal experiences offered as proof or evidence for a specific deity, I want to know how the believer reached their specific conclusions. Everyone has experiences within their lives that are not easily explained. A lack of an explanation, however, does not mean that we are free to simply make one up. If I stub my toe in the morning and I take it as a sign from Buddha that I am not supposed to go into work that day, and I should instead stay home and read a book, am I free to draw that conclusion? Absolutely. Am I justified in insisting that conclusion is accurate and should be believed? Absolutely not.

It boggles my mind how often little time is spent by the believer trying to understand their experience. If something unexplained happens to me, the first thing I want to know is why. I want to test different options to see if the experience can be duplicated. If I'm near another person when it occurs, I want to know if they saw or experienced it as well, or how their perception differs from mine. I want to know what all the possibilities are before I simply decide on one - if I decide on one at all. I am perfectly fine with saying "that was weird, I don't know what that was, but since I've investigated and reached no logically justifiable conclusion, I will chalk it up to unknown right now until I have more information". Believers, it seems, are simply not comfortable with this option, if they even consider it at all. It seems they are all-too-eager to jump to the God explanation, regardless of whether or not it's logical or rational. How do Christians know, for example, that Allah didn't help them find the car keys because he's the one, true God? Why do Muslims never seem to come to the conclusion that the New Testament was right about Jesus all along, because he clearly helped them out of a traffic jam? The subjective and bias-driven nature of these experiences seems to negate their effectiveness, removing their ability to act as evidence in the first place.

Personal Experience: The Test

The next time you find yourself in a conversation that ultimately devolves into a discussion on the efficacy of personal experience as it relates to evidence, there is a simple test that can be administered. Remember that believers of all stripes are often very defensive of what they consider to be personal evidence for the existence of their God - and you want to be as delicate, considerate and polite as possible to avoid the accusations of mocking - at least if you're interested in continuing the conversation. Ask questions, for example:

- how did your determine where your experience came from? They may reveal conformation bias here, so be wary of special pleading and other fallacious arguments. If they ask you to prove that their experience wasn't from their God, remind them that that is shifting the goal-posts, and since you were not there and didn't experience it, disproving their claim is not possible, and if they're going to use their experience as evidence, the burden of proof rests on them.

- How do you explain similar personal experiences that are claimed by people of different sects, denomination or religious traditions than their own? Often believers seem unaware that people from other religions experience similar phenomenon, crediting it to a far different God than the one believed by the person you're speaking with.

- Have they considered other alternatives? Often, the answer will be a resounding no. But remind them that strange occurrences happen to everyone, and without examining other possibilities, there is little reason to assume that the conclusions that they have drawn are, in fact, correct. Many times believers, absent any alternative explanation, will insist that the conclusions that they've drawn from their experience are the most likely to be true. Asking a follow up question on how that most likely scenario is quantified most certainly won't change their mind, but it may get the ball rolling on the thought process that led up to the drawing of their conclusions in the first place.

Hinduism

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Weigh In

Is Personal Experience Justifiable as Evidence for a Specific God?

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Conclusion

Ultimately when a believer brings up personal experience as evidence (or likely in place of evidence) you may simply have to agree to disagree. You can attempt to explain why personal experience is unconvincing to you personally, and you may bring up some of the reasons outlined in this hub. But what a believer chooses to posit based on personal experiences they may have had has little do with a skeptic or a believer of a different, opposing faith. The problem only comes when believers attempt to use personal evidence as evidence in the way that it is designed to convince or convert others to their faith. Can personal experience be considered evidence? Yes, in a sense. It is evidence for the believer themselves, although it is admittedly weak in the scope of evidence types. But as a tool for conversion or for convincing others, it simply cannot be utilized.

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    • peeples profile image

      Peeples 2 years ago from South Carolina

      I feel the best argument against personal experience being proof is "It's purely subjective." If we were to go by personal experience, I could easily say my personal experience proves there is no god.

      Also with the belief that only some people are given the opportunity to receive such proof through personal experience would have to leave me wondering what made them so special, or why wouldn't said god just show everyone the same proof? Wouldn't that clear the air for everyone, and stop all the doubt? So my thoughts, personal experience means nothing unless it can actually be shown and given to all. Enjoyed the hub!

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Demonstrate that it has a philosophically subjective approach, and then demonstrate that is the source of its fallibility. Blind, blanket claims aren't going to work on me. The scientific approach allows for new information to change old standards. It grows with new information. Nothing you're talking about even comes close to the scientific method. Not with fallibility, not with objectivity, not with repeated testing or the ability to test all all, for that matter. You've presented nothing that can even remotely provide the verification of proof that you're claiming, and I'm not going to go down the rabbit hole of side conversations with you. I've done it before, and I'm not going to subject myself or my readers to it again, thank you.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Jmcf

      We need to identify where the scientific

      methods fails. What is the source of it's fallibility? It follows logically that it's fault is it's philosophically subjective approach.

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Because the scientific method is the best tool we have to test the world around us. It produces results. No other methods come close. And I never said science was subjective, while the methods you seem to be suggesting are nothing but subjective. If you can't stop putting words in my mouth and projecting onto me things I dont feel, your comments will not be approved.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Jmcf

      ok we all agree that science is fallible and subjective. Then why the animosity to other means of testing the validity of phenomena?

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      I never said that science was infallible, nor did I day anything about the pope. Perhaps the reason I didn't resound to your straw man was because there's no reason to respond to fallacies

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Jmcf

      I note no response to the "infallibility of science". This relates directly to the alleged objectivity of testing experiences. Neither science or the pope is infallible.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 2 years ago from Tasmania

      @Lawrence, that is very profound and down-to-earth writing. I especially like that sentence: "That's something I don't see Jesus doing. He fought with those who valued the argument over the friends."

      I spent 2 years in East Africa in the mid-1970s, and had very warm and valuable friendships with people of various religious points of view....RCs, Jesuit, Anglican, etc. It was way-of-life and what it (they) supported in our day-to-day happenings that was of the most benefit, to me anyway.

      I had virtually no interaction with the more extreme sects, like JWs, Mormons, Church of Christ, etc. It was like if you did not believe and accept everything they stood for, and dressed/behaved just as they did, then you were not really welcomed as members of that flock. There was the ulterior motive that sooner or later you would become converted.

      On the other hand, I felt very welcomed in the Jesuit community, although I have no affiliation to it. It's like what we do with life rather than the argument. They accepted me "just as I am."

      Maybe Mahatma Ghandi's words echo well here: Love your Jesus but not much time for your christians.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      I'd agree with you that some beliefs are dangerous. Some are dangerous to the individual (like the person who believes God heals so they don't need a doctor!) and some are a danger to society.

      What I am seeking to say is when someone is using personal experience the way you describe they are showing that God is real to them! They may (often are and doing it mistakenly as it isn't going to work) try to use it to show God exists as he does to them.

      To try and explain it away, even with the best intentions is mostly counterproductive and leaves them feeling marginalized at best, candidates for the 'funny farm' "it's all in your head" at worst which makes them ideal candidates for the extremists!

      We can still have our opinions about why someone has changed and if its for the better we can encourage them with the changes (without religious jargon) that way we keep those lines of communication open and we're there if ever that friend needs our help.

      I used to be one of those "gung ho" (some would say I still am) evangelism types but I've learned that you can win an argument but lose the friend!

      That's something I don't see Jesus doing. He fought with those who valued the argument over the friends.

      I've heard it said that's why we've got one mouth but two ears!

      Sorry if I've offended but in seeking dialogue what's important?

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      I understood what you were saying, I just don't think that particular point was valid or in line with what I was trying to convey in my hub. People get defensive about a lot of things and get offended by a lot of things. That doesn't mean you should necessarily tip toe around everyone and not confront ideas that are potentially harmful or dangerous because someone may be offended. Some beliefs are downright dangerous, and beliefs in and of themselves do not deserve or require respect. I respect people with beliefs, but not the beliefs themselves. Beliefs cannot take offense, and if someone's certainty is so weak that merely questioning or scrutiny causes offense, it demonstrates the weakness of their position, not mine.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      I don't think you understood what I was trying to say in the first part of my reply. I was trying to say that the person doesn't percieve they are being listened to!

      You asked why they get defensive on the issue?

      I'm not trying to say something doesn't have a natural explanation, I'm saying it isn't always wise to point out that possible explanation!

      As for your poibt about whether 'Allah' gives strength that belies a bit of a misunderstanding on how the religions work.

      Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism all work slightly differently.

      Judaism teaches a set of rules to show man can't live up to them and needs the grace of God.

      Buddhism seeks to get man to strive for perfection (nirvana)

      Islam teaches that man is weak and needs a set of rules to achieve the goal.

      Christianity takes what Judaism says and goes that step farther to say that when we come to faith God's Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives and gives us the strength to break the habits.

      I grant it can seem arbitrary but the question was why they get defensive, not if it was real!

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      How can you say it isn't martial when you haven't exhausted all natural explanations and just decided it was a god, let alone a specific one?

      If someone gets sober after years of struggling with substance dependency and says that they couldn't have done it without Allah, ate you going to convert to islam? It sounds like you're falling into the trap of special pleading here. I could have an experience today, decide it was the tooth fairy or aliens or Santa Claus, but I highly doubt you would accept it as true, let alone evidence of anything. You're taking something and arbitrarily deciding it was your God repainted for it for no reason other than you want it to be true and you're using the fallacy of the argument from ignorance. You don't know another explanation, therefore it must be god. It's subjective and arbitrary and could apply to any god or any mythology whatsoever.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Fair enough, but I think people get 'defensive' because when other try and explain it naturally it can feel as if these people aren't listening!

      I'm not talking here of the average person who tries to kick a habit but those who've 'been through the mill'. Rehab multiple times, drying out from alcohol, sometimes prison and nothing has worked but then they 'find God' (actually 'God' was never lost but that's something else). So to have others try and explain something away when you've told them that nothing else worked is as if they just aren't listening!

      Studies done in the USA and Britain have shown that people with faith are upto 30% more likely to survive major surgery and recover quicker (upto 30% quicker) than those without, so to try and explain these things naturally (outside a clinical study) is to fly in the face of what science does tell us that there are some things science can't and will probably never be able to explain.

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      But people change their lives all the time for any number of reasons. Someone can say that they couldn't do it without Allah, or Buddha, or their own hither power or through the strength of their support system or even themselves. Crediting a deity is the claim, nor the evidence for that claim.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Found this article interesting to say the least. I agree with you that my 'personal experience' will (and should) never convince another.

      But what of the person you've known for years, they've always had 'issues' but recently they seem to have a strength that wasn't there before. You've asked them about it and they've genuinely said "You know I couldn't do this myself, I asked God and the Holy Spirit gives me the strength". You know they've tried to break the issue be it smoking, drinking (and yes I enjoy a good beer :) ) but this time they break it!

      Personally I have known many Muslims who turned to Christ not because of Christians but because of dreams and visions they had where Jesus came to them, to them that would be proof enough!

      I'd agree that " telling the story" isn't 'proof' but never doubt the power of a changed life!

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Everybody tests faith and experience differently. There is no standard. It is anything but objective, and there is no method that is universal or practical. Comparing it to scientific testing is therefore absurd, and I'm fairly certain you know that, which is why you're moving the goal posts, changing the language between hallucinations for aliens and scientific and proof for supposedly divine experiences and scrambling to try and make your case here. I'm sorry but it still doesn't work.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Put it this way: is science infallible? No it's not. The basic principle of testing can be applied to human experience. Testing faith is a common expression.

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Now you're adding more adjectives solely because your point failed. You're moving the goalposts. Sorry, doesn't work on me.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      An isolated person suffering hallucinations about aliens is not the same as everyone's capacity to meditate and pray. Stephen Hawking agrees that science is not infallible and it's "realities" are often temporary only.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Weekday you mean is is pseudo scientific, which isn't scientific at all. You seem to have an interesting grasp on what scientific is. You have to have testable, demonstrable, repeatable and falsifiable methods for it to be scientific, and prayer/meditation falls into none of those categories. There is no difference between someone claiming to be abducted by aliens and someone claiming to hear the voice of God in their head, then deciding randomly which God it was and insisting that not only their experience but the conclusions they drew from it are absolutely correct and count as evidence. They have failed the burden of proof, and so have you. Good day, sir.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      JMCF

      I know what your trying to say, however there is a degree of science about it as a certain amount is testable by each individual. An hallucination by an individual who claims to have been "abducted by aliens" has no threshold at all of testability.

      If we want to be coldly scientific about it, we can phrase it this way: by concentrated meditation/prayer an individual can test a certain amount of his resonance to the EMS (Electro magnetic spectrum). Hindus and Buddhists believe that all energy is god.

      While this doesn't reach a fully scientific level it is partially scientific in that tests can be applied. This could well mean that in the future further theorems and other tests of a higher scientific level will occur. There are many links about such scientific attempts and research.

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Can be tested by everyone with individual subjective results powered by confirmation bias. That's hardly evidence. We don't have individual truths. Something is either true or not.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      JMF

      its a bit off topic but such cases may have a "reality" just for that one person and can't be tested by others. Meditation and prayer can be tested by everyone

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Oz, are the people who claim to have been abducted by aliens providing evidence that aliens exist? Or is your analysis that personal experience is proof simply special pleading in cases of religion?

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      JCL

      I agree that perception is relative.

      By the way what are you doing in Tassie? We are practically neighbours!

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Jonny, people from all different religious traditions all over the world claim to have personal experiences. They all manage to attribute them to the deity that they either already believe in our that they're culturally familiar with. Tribal people claim experiences with their tribal, nature gods, not Jesus. But for a Christian, a personal experience is evidence of Jesus or the good if the bible. For a Muslim, it's Allah. Since these claims are mutually exclusive in the majority of cases, they cannot all be correct. To say one is while others are not (in favor of the believers belief system, of course) is nothing but special pleading.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 2 years ago from Tasmania

      Surely the perception of personal experience is variable. It cannot be consistent across the board, identically described by every person.

      If two or more persons are in the same place at the same time, and each gives a description of the experience, then we might presume that they had very similar, if not the same experience.

      Yet each will have a perception of the experience dependent upon "colouring" of their perception. Other experiences, their upbringing, their pre-determined attitude towards the actual event, their belief system -- will all have a bearing upon their description. Quite apart from their ability of clearly expressing themselves and being understood.

      For a larger group of people, from different locations, from different directions, different points of view, their descriptions of an event will be even more varied - even to the point of totally opposite understanding.

      A mountain view from all points of the compass will present very different silhouettes. Yet it's the same mountain in reality. It is something we can all assess with our sense organs and largely agree about it. From opposite sides we might believe it to be two different mountains, if we lacked a basic intelligence.

      When we assess the question "existence of God," there is no one common understanding, because there is no sense organ that can determine the nature of Infinity. We could suppose, for example, that the natural world around us is "evidence of God." Yet the natural world is all, ALL to do with the Finite. It might be a reflection of the Infinite. We can surmise..... but there is no way we can come to a common, fully accepted understanding.

      So, I totally agree with you Julie.... Personal experience can in no way be regarded as evidence of the existence of God. Period!

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Personal experience is not only entirely subjective, but deciding it's source is completely arbitrary. How can that be evidence of something outside of the individual.?

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Personal experience can provide evidence for God because all proofs are based ultimately on personal experience of some kind. Therefore we can't use personal experience as a criticism just because it relates to God.

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      You're going completely off topic now, oz. No one said anything about the infallibility of anyone. Last warning.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      JMcF/JCL

      the idea of infallibilty in the pope or in science is an error. Stephen Hawking agrees with Godels Incompleteness Theorem which proves with math that science can not answer everything.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      It depends on the theist, really. As individuals, I have several productive and even open minded conversations. I've also had some very unproductive and closed minded ones - several of which you've seen :-)

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 2 years ago from Tasmania

      Very interesting points you have made, Julie. Food for thought too, thank you.

      How often have you got the impression of an "open mind" residing in a theist?

      Keep up the good work.

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      And you're wrong. Positing a sixth sense that as of yet cannot be demonstrated, tested or verified in human beings as somehow proof that personal experiences are from a god doesn't work. Tell me how, scientifically, a personal experience is proof of anything but an experience. How do you justify the grand leap from "i had an experience I can't explain" to "this experience is from God"? How is a sixth sense prof of a god anyway, and not potentially proof of a type of sensory experience that so far is not quantified? You have to make huge leaps in order to bridge that gap which are neither logical or scientific, so no - that doesn't fly. If you can't stay on topic, oz, your comments will not be approved. My hubs will not become a gone for your polemics, and you were told explicitly once before that you were not welcome on my hubs. That will be enforced if you cannot manage to behave yourself.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      JMcF

      i am categorically stating that personal experience is evidence of God as it can be repeated by rational experimentation in a scientific manner using an additional sense of perception as stated above..

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Scientists use a lot more than their senses to define reality in the world. This hub is simple. It is on personal experience, and whether or not they count as proof for God. This polemic has continued long enough. I'm now going to insist that you either stick to the topic at hand, or you go comment on a hub where hire comments are relevant.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Scientists use their senses and mind to examine the universe. They are now using previously invisible electro magnetic radiation( EMR) to "see" things. They are still using less than one percent of the EMR. I am using this as an analogy only to steer our thoughts into the realm of possible explanations as to why we as people can "attune" ourselves by meditation/prayer to experience and then to test experimentally the existence of our soul and god. It's an experiment that can be tested and repeated in a laboratory not just a temple/church.

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      That's a lot different than claiming that there might be a sixth sense, oz. Even if there is, that is not the topic of this hub. Personal experience is not evidence of a god and neither is a sixth sense, so I fail to see your point. An experience is evidence of an experience. Positing a cause, whether it be a sixth sense or a god, without sufficient evidence or justification is just shoddy.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Many scientific theories can't be tested as yet (string theory). If minds are open then further experiments take place over time. The truth is science has confirmed we have other forms of perception and residual sense organs. Certain people can see ultrviolet for example. Our inner human electrical system has to obey the same laws of resonance as other phenomena. This opens up startling possibilities as the electro magnetic spectrum is gigantic in scale.

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Yes, but an appeal to ignorance does not justify making claims that, at this time, cannot be proven, tested or verified. The time to believe something is after its been demonstrated true. Not before.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      JMcF

      extrapolate: science is conducting experiments on another mode of perception.

      The pineal gland has for milleniums and now today also been sense as an ancient residue of another perceptual organ.

      We don't know all there is to know about the human body or consciousness.

      Great scientists such as Nikola Tesla regarded prayer as another form of sympathetic resonance (a scientific principle)

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      A tiny blurb about an experience done on rats that messy one day be used on people? Hardly convincing of a sixth sense in humans.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

    • m abdullah javed profile image

      muhammad abdullah javed 2 years ago

      Thanks J McFarland.... You made some good points that arrest our attention soon after getting into the personal experience details.... But one should know what should be the benchmark to judge how far the personal experience and the realisation is true? What if one tries to attain a stage of realisation but doesn't get the required push to undertake the process of personal experience? Should we conclude that the eyes heart and brain are a "Divine Mechanism" to reach to the state of truth and reality? I think your profound write delves with these details and at some point it invites us to ponder over the same. Interesting. Voted up.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      JMcFarland: That is why I try not to engage with theists. They simply can't understand how someone could have a different view of God and religion. The nice well-meaning ones will try to get you to understand why you absolutely must believe as they do; the bigoted ones will insult you and tell you that are in league with the devil.

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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Hi Kylyssa, and thanks for sharing your story. I view personal experience the same way you do, and agree that confirmation bias allows people to see what they want to see without questioning whether or not its reasonable or true.

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      Kylyssa Shay 2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      When I was homeless, I found a hundred dollars in an empty cigarette pack. It was a life-changing event. Nearly every person I've told the story to tells me it was the hand of God. They claim it as evidence Yahweh exists.

      I don't see it that way at all. I started looking at the contents of cigarette packs because a homeless man I met told me people sometimes lose money by leaving it in them. They go to a club, not wanting to bring a wallet they'll dance right out of their pocket and just slip some bills into their pack of smokes and their ID into a pocket. It also might help them set a budget by keeping their plastic at home. Anyway, it was a fairly common thing to do and sometimes they'd either forget the money was in there when the cigarettes were gone and chuck the whole thing or just lose it somehow.

      So I started picking up trash around bars and clubs. The guy was right and I found a cigarette pack with a few crumpled dollars in it within a few days. Over a few months I found more, mostly with just a few dollars in them. Then I found one with a hundred dollars in it, likely lost earlier in the evening than usual. I didn't think, God left this here for me; I thought, some poor fool lost his cash last night and another poor fool will be eating today.

      I instantly understood that finding the money was the result of someone having lost it and me finding it because I was looking.

      I think some believers have faith like a hammer and even events with pretty obvious explanations seem like the nails of God to them. Whatever the case, they'll keep pounding away at anything they perceive as evidence of God, even if it's just evidence of people going out and taking some ciggies and cash along while acting a bit carelessly.

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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Catherine, I've noticed, however, that believers often have no problems arguing with the personal experiences of an atheist. I can't count the number of times that believers have told me that since i am now am atheist, i was never a true believer at all, or that my experiences with Christians made me hate god, which is the reason for my atheism. The problem as i see it is that people of faith demand respect that they are unwilling to return, which make open dialogue difficult. It seems that even taking am investigating approach to personal experience is often perceived as calling the believer a liar outright - they have the mentality that not automatically accepting the experience or the conclusions drawn from it is disrespectful, when in reality it is anything but.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Excellent points. I never argue with anyone about their personal experience. As you say, it is your experience. I can't say you didn't have it whether it is feeling god, seeing ghosts, getting messages from the dead, etc.) I could say that they are misinterpreting the experience, but why bother? They don't want to hear it.

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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      There is no evidence supporting another sense in humans, and without being demonstrable, quantifiable or testable, claims of another sense are irrelevant.

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      Oztinato 2 years ago from Australia

      Personal experience may take place via an "extra sense". Scientifically this could be similar to certain animals who percieve other areas of the electromagnetic spectrum. In humans it appears this extra sense is far subtler in another way.

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      Julie McFarland 2 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Thanks for stopping by and for the encouragement, Wendi!

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      Summer LeBlanc 2 years ago from H-Town

      Well written article- I don't know how to answer your question. I did vote this interesting. I am a recovering Catholic and I've pretty much given up any hope on a god.. a Goddess maybe. But, that does attribute to my personal experience so I guess personal experience is justifiable as evidence for no god?

      Thanks for making me think!

      -Wendi