One of the main questions explored in religious philosophy is whether or not the religious experience can be considered as a reliable source of the knowledge of God and if it can be viewed as an evidence of the existence of God (Yandell 2004). Besides, different philosophers considered different happenings as evidence of God’s existence. This issue is also explored in cognitive science and modern research demonstrates reasons that the belief in the divine is natural for humans due to the cognitive structure of their minds (Clark & Barrett 2011).
For example, Paley’s argument of God’s existence is based on the complexity of the world around as an evidence of the presence of an intelligent design behind the existence of the universe. Basically, if something as complex and amazing as our world exists, then someone must have created it.
The arguments of this kind first occurred in Ancient Greece. They were based on the observation of nature is search for answers to the religious questions such as the reality of God. Arguments based on the observation of nature are called teleological. Aquinas approached the issues of God’s existence and epistemology in his Five Ways to proof God’s existence. One of these ways was based on the fact that all the things in the world that are in motion were put into motion by some initial power of divine origin. According to Aquinas, the existence of God was self-evident, yet for people it requited a demonstration as a proof.
He saw the continuous chain of causes and consequences as such demonstration. Aquinas stated that the chain of causes has a beginning, the very first cause, without which there would be no other causes and consequences. Paley’s argument also includes the example of never ending consequence of causes that is supposed to prove that everything had a start at some point, and this start was of divine origin.
The thinkers opposing these philosophers developed their own responses to the God’s existence arguments. According to their opinion, no logical reasoning is a valid proof of God’s existence and such philosophers as Aquinas and Paley just point out one of the possible opinions. They emphasize that stating that this is the only correct opinion is illogical.
For example, Hume’s response to God’s existence arguments based on logic reasoning mentioned that such arguments are based on analogies with phenomena that are familiar to humans such as the creation of complex objects, but comparing something we know to something we do not know and conclude that both of these processes develop according to the same scheme is unreasonable.
Epistemology in religious philosophy is viewed as the knowledge of God or the possibility of it. For example, Augustine taught that the reason of our knowing things and thinking was God. Basically, God was the knowledge, the cause and the consequence. The other thinkers state that even if God exists it is impossible to prove, so the knowledge of God is impossible as God cannot be comprehended.
Religious experience is explored from various perspectives. In religious philosophy various experts study the phenomenon of religious experience arguing whether what the individuals seem to experience really is God or it is something else. Phenomenological view on religious experience is never categorical; the points of view are individual and are very stated in a limited way. Phenomenology does not employ sentences such as “He saw the Lord, holy and righteous”, they prefer to say “he at least seemed to see the Lord that appeared holy and righteous” (Yandell 2004).
Clark, K. J. & Barrett, J. L. (2011). Reidian Religious Epistemology and the Cognitive Science of Religion. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 79(3), 639-675.
Jordan, A., Lockyer, N. & Tate, E. (2002). Philosophy of Religion. Oxford, United Kingdom: Nelson Thrones.
Yandell, K. E. (2004). The Epistemology of Religious Experience. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.