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Cross-cultural perspective

Religious experience is used in Christian apologetics in two ways—in the argument from religious experiences to God as their cause and in the claim that it is (in the absence of contrary indications) as reasonable to trust religious as it is to trust nonreligious experience in forming beliefs about the total environment. (The first use is considered here; for the second, see below Contemporary discussions.)

The argument maintains that special episodes, such as seeing visions of Christ or Mary or hearing the voice of God, as well as the more pervasive experience of “living in God’s presence” or of “absolute dependence upon a higher power,” constituteevidence of God as their source. Although such experiences may be accepted as having occurred, their cause, as critics have noted, might be purely natural. To establish that the experiences are real, as experiences, is not to establish that they are caused by an infiniteomnipotent, omniscient, divinebeing. As Thomas Hobbes succinctly put it, when someone says that God has spoken to him in a dream, this “is no more than to say he dreamed that God spake to him