Religion and Reason: Variety of Religious Experience #2

jplund

William James Idealitachristopher_hitchens5-620x412 Religious people often have difficulty communicating about their faith with people who, on the basis of reason, have already rejected religion.  Usually, both sides are to blame, less interested in understanding the other’s point of view than in winning a theological or philosophical debate.  Thus, the conversation deteriorates into assertions of unprovable “truths”. In the Varieties of Religious Experience, William James offers a totally different approach.  He looks at private, inward experiences, as reported by people in their letters, journals and autobiographies, with the analytic eye of a philosopher and scientist.  In doing this, he provides a ground that can be shared by both the skeptical and the faithful. For example, when he talks about God, James does so as an empiricist, without asserting more than he can prove.  After discussing extended quotations of first hand reports from various saints, he says the following: [pg. 271-3] The saintly character…

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