It is not without irony that philosophers in the twentieth century have developed an argument for the existence of God from religious experience. Religious experience as such emerged as a philosophical concern in the nineteenth century, when it became apparent that theology had been dealt a severe blow by the skeptical philosophers of the Enlightenment, especially Hume and Kant. In an attempt to save religion Schleiermacher, in particular, distinguished it from philosophical and theological reflection and declared it to be essentially a feeling, a unique subjective experience. Thus, religion was withdrawn from a sphere in which it is bound always to appear problematic and relocated closer to its immediate sources in life, where it is quite natural. But this move, although appreciated by Otto, Eliade, and others of the phenomenological school of religious studies, has been somewhat frustrated by the tendency of modern philosophers to ask, does religious experience somehow prove the existence of God?1 In the present essay I shall show how the typical philosophical preoccupation with demonstrable knowledge, when it comes to religious matters - in this case, the matter of finding a proof for the existence of God based on religious experience - sets up a no-win situation for religion, a situation in which it can only appear false. For it takes religion to be something it is not - viz., as having cognitive content in a scientific sense - thereby making demands on it that it cannot possibly live up to. Indeed, I shall suggest that religious utterances do have cognitive content; nevertheless, they have a quite different kind than scientific sentences, due to the fact that they occur in a context of faith, a fundamentally different, but nevertheless bona fide, epistemological situation than science (faith may be opposed to science, but it is not opposed to knowledge). The basic error of the philosophical effort to evaluate religious claims - that is, to determine whether they are valid or not; there are, of course other senses in which religious experience can be evaluated - is that it removes them from their context of faith. My final position - a statement of which can only appear somewhat cryptic at this stage - is that a philosophical study of religious experience should be less concerned with whether we should accept the claims made on the basis of religious experience than why, in the context of faith, we often do.

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