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33. Do religious experiences prove God’s existence?

INTRODUCTION

This session seeks to make students aware of some of the more unusual types of religious experience and to evaluate whether such experiences can be considered evidence of God.

ACTIVITY

Explain that the Toronto Blessing is a worldwide movement within the Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches that began in 1994 in Toronto Airport Church. The unusual activity that took place there is said to reflect the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s love. The following video shows different experiences that people have when in contact with the Holy Spirit. Show students the clip on the Toronto Blessing:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=_P5B5Brz_lc 

Pose the following questions for students to respond to:

  • Do you think these experiences are proof of God’s existence?
  • What might we learn about the nature of God from the various experiences that people have in this video?
  • Why is it that only some people experience God and others appear never to?
  • Do you think that a large group of people experiencing God like this has more or less of an impact than an individual who has a religious experience?

ACTIVITY

Now that students may have learnt about some of the more unusual forms of religious experience, ask them to think of other ways in which they know people have claimed to have experienced God.

Ask students to:

  • define the term ‘miracle’
  • give some examples of what have been called miracles.

Introduce students to philosopher David Hume’s definition of a miracle: ‘Miracles are violations of the laws of nature’.

Ask whether they agree or disagree with this definition.

ACTIVITY

Show students the clip below of the magician Dynamo walking on water. The clip also has parts of the film Bruce Almighty that link in some way to the content. Explain that one of Jesus’ miracles was walking on water:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WyoenjZAZw 

After watching this clip explain that this is a form of magical trickery. Ask students to reflect on and respond to the following questions:

  • Could God be considered a magician?
  • Why would some believers take issue with referring to God as a magician?
  • Do you think Jesus actually performed miracles?
  • Do you think miracles actually happen?

 CONCLUSION

In small groups ask students to role play a scenario between people who agree and disagree that religious experiences prove God’s existence.

Ask students to think of the all the arguments they can to represent the following views:

  • Those that agree religious experiences are proof of God’s existence
  • Those that disagree religious experiences are proof of God’s existence.

SECONDARY SESSIONS: LIST OF TOPICS
1.  Happiness Part 1: status anxiety
2.  Happiness Part 2: religion and happiness
3.  Happiness Part 3: what is happiness?
4.  Morality Part 1: what is morality?
5.  Morality Part 2: should we live by ‘moral laws’?
6.  Morality Part 3: where does our sense of morality come from?
7.  Are You Religious?
8.  What Is a Religion and what is a Cult?
9.  What does it Mean to be Religious Today?
10. Religion in Numbers Part 1: how many people on Earth?
11. Religion in Numbers Part 2: how many people are ‘religious’?
12. Religion in Numbers Part 3: how did believers got to where they are?
13. Are All Religions Equal?
14. Transactional Analysis: learning how to feel equal
15. Bloom’s Taxonomy
16. Harry Potter and God
17. Without Fear or Favour Part 1
18. Without Fear or Favour Part 2
19. It’s Not Fair
20. Mind, Memory and Justice
21. Karma, Memory, Freedom and Justice
22. The Religion of Ordinary Life Part 1: Religion Without God
23. The Religion of Ordinary Life Part 2: God and Morality
24. The Religion of Ordinary Life Part 3: Is Life Beautiful?
25. Can Atheists learn anything from Religion?
26. What do Buddhists Believe about God?
27. Is Seeing Believing?
28. Are We Being Hypnotised?
29. Sex and Relationships
30. Truth, Proof and Evidence
31. How should we deal with the range of different opinions in today’s world?
32. Is Religion a Force for Evil or Good?
33. Do Religious Experiences Prove God?
34. What Is Evil?
35. God and Evil
36. Can we verify Religious Experiences?
37. How Spiritual are You?
38. What is Philosphy?
39. The Power of Words
40. Art and Beauty

A printable (pdf) version of this session can be found here

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