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Arguments for God from religious experience have always been viewed as a secondary level of argument. It has always been believed that their subjective nature makes them weak arguments. The atheist is terrified of subjectivity. This work, which compiles empirical scientific studies showing that religious experience is not the result of emotional instability, but is actually psychologically good for one, is groundbreaking work that takes religious experience to a higher level.
The Trace of God is an exhibition (445 pages) that deals with both philosophical and social science research. The book analyzes and discusses a wide variety of empirical studies that up until this point were mainly known in religious psychology circles and overlooked by theology, apologetics, the philosophy of religion and the more general discipline of psychology. This work must be known in each of these interested groups, as through hundreds of studies over a period of 50 years it shows the positive and vital nature of the type of religious experience known as “mystical”. Although most studies are concerned with “mystical” experiences, linkage studies apply them to the “born again experience” as well as to the “material end of the Christian experience”.
The book begins with a discussion of why arguments for the existence of God need not “prove” that God exists, but merely provide a “guarantee of belief”. It is discussed why there can be no direct empirical evidence for God and why this is not necessary. It also contains criteria for a rational guarantee. Chapter two introduces two arguments based on religious experience and then shows how the various studies support them. This is not an attempt to provide direct empirical evidence for God, but rather to show that religious experiences of a certain kind can be viewed as “co-determined” or correlated with God. It is not a direct empirical view of God that is presented, but the “God Correlate” that indicates God, just as a fingerprint or thumbtack in the snow indicates the presence of a person or animal. Religious experiences of this kind are the “trace of God”.
These studies show that the outcome of such experiences changes life. This term is understood and used to indicate positive and dramatic long-term changes in the life of whoever is experiencing them. People are freed from attachment to alcohol and drugs, they are less prone to depression or mental illness, they are self-actualized, self-confident, have greater purpose, are generally better educated and more successful than those who have had such experiences Not. These studies show that religious experiences are not due to mental illness or emotional instability. The methodology of the studies (which includes all major types of study methodology in the social sciences) is extensively discussed.
One of the main aspects of the book is the discussion of Dr. Ralph Hood Jr. at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga developed the “Mysticism Scale” (also known as the “M Scale”). The meaning of this “M-Scale” (ie a test made up of 32 questions) is that it serves as a control for valid religious experience. The number of points in the test shows whether your experience is really “mystical” or just “wool collection”. Without control, we can’t know if you’ve had a real experience, and so we can’t measure its effects. If one can determine that one has had a real “mystical experience”, one can determine that the effects of that experience are positive and long-term. This establishes the rationally justified arguments for God.
It is also important to know whether the experience is valid, as those who attempt to discredit religious beliefs and claim to have produced such experiences by stimulating the brain do not use controls to determine whether the experience is valid or not Not. You have to assume that anything to do with talking about God is a religious experience and then claim to have brought it about by stimulating the brain. The M-scale compares theories of British philosopher WT Stace with current modern day mystics (research began in American locations in the 1970s and became international in the 80s). It is extremely far, statistically, that you could inadvertently come across the right combination of questions to reflect the validation of Stace’s theory. You have to agree with Stace’s theory on all 32 points. It’s even harder to imagine that they could lie. Iranian, Indian and Japanese farmers were interviewed in the international studies. Most of them didn’t read English. It’s absurd to think they could say what Stace’s theory was, much less what they had to lie about. Most of them wouldn’t know about WT Stace or his theories. The studies showed that modern mystics in Iran, India, Japan, Sweden and the UK are experiencing exactly what Stace expected. So that creates the reason for comparison. It gives us control over the experience.
The book also discusses the theories of Wayne Proudfoot, a philosopher who tried to refute mystical experiences through reductionism, to re-label and lose the phenomena. Studies on brain chemistry are analyzed as well as the placebo effect. The question is all a connection between naturalistic brain chemicals and the idea that the naturalistic neurological pathway is exactly the way God created it to communicate with it, and that stimulation of these chemicals only opens the receptors that receive God’s presence . The problem is solved by eight cable ties, which are presented at the end of the penultimate chapter. The final chapter deals with philosophical and theological problems related to language and belief.
The book offers a groundbreaking piece of fiber that strengthens the arguments for God from religious experience that have been missing since the days of Father Frederick C. Copleston and his debate with Bertrand Russell. Copleston did not have these studies to support his reasoning. This work has been growing for 50 years and it is time that it was known to the theological world. These studies, especially the M-scale, show that religious experiences are the same around the world. There may be other types, but those known as “mystical”, when we check to see if the names are different and use teachings from different beliefs to explain the situation, we look at the experience itself that they are all the same . This means that all of these people across the world in different faiths are experiencing a reality that is outside of their own mind. It also means that God works in all faiths. The author Joseph Hinman is a Christian and believes in the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, but also recognizes God’s predominant grace for all people.
Read Christian philosopher Randal Rauser’s interview about my book.
“A great contribution to the discussion of the rationality of belief in God”
William S. Babcock, Professor Emeritus of Church History, Southern Methodist University
Ralph Hood says, “A fine exploration of the power of arguments from human experience to the reality of God.” (Ralph Hood Jr. inventor of the M-scale and professor of the psychology of religion at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.)
Wordgazer, a prominent blogger on women’s issues, says:
“Why should I distrust my own experience of God’s presence?” Joe Hinman taught me to ask. After all, we do not distrust other things we experience. We don’t doubt that the chair we’re sitting in will hold us, unless we have good reason to believe that something may have gone wrong with our senses. We don’t have to accept the self-proclaimed expert in science as an expert in metaphysics. Nor do we have to accept the standard of “absolute evidence” in relation to scientific categories that are not at all appropriate for the phenomenon. We can have good, reasonable reasons – what Hinman calls a “rational reason” to believe. His newer website, The Religious A Priori, examines faith and rational justification from different angles.
And now Joe Hinman has summarized some of his best thoughts in a new book: The Trace of God: A Rational Guarantee for Faith.
The Trace of God is a scientific work, but written in a style that a layperson can follow. Its main point is that experiences like the one described above (referred to as “religious experiences” or “top experiences” *) are good evidence of the existence of God from a scientific point of view as well.
This is groundbreaking work. These studies have never been compiled in this context and analyzed and argued in this way. The god arguments from religious experience have always been viewed as weak, but no longer. This work takes them to a higher level, it brings fiber into their diet.
See Word Gazer’s review of my book on their blog
see Message Board Interview, the whole thread is the interview by me about my book on Evangelical Universalism Board.
see the interview of the Christian philosopher Randal Rauser about me in my book
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