Evidentially Compelling Religious Experiences and the Moral Status of Naturalism

European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 8 (3):123-144 (2016)
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Religious experiences come in a variety of types, leading to multiple taxonomies. One sort that has not received much attention as a distinct topic is what I will call ‘evidentially compelling religious experience’ (ECRE). The nature of an ECRE is such that if it actually occurs, its occurrence plausibly entails the falsity of metaphysical naturalism. Examples of ECREs might include visions / auditions / near-death experiences conveying information the hearer could not have known through natural means, later verified; unambiguously miraculous healings; fulfilled prophecy; supernatural rescues; inter-subjective religious experiences (e.g., multiple people simultaneously having the same vision of the Virgin Mary), etc. After presenting a representative set of published case studies of ECREs, I argue that for most settled metaphysical naturalists (though not all), the combination of a settled metaphysical naturalism with an awareness of the relative commonality of testimony to ECREs is either irrational or immoral. This is because that conjunction entails either an unjust and uncharitable judgement on a great many of those testifying to ECREs (namely that they are liars), or an irrational refusal to acknowledge this entailment.

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Travis Dumsday
Concordia University of Edmonton


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